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My family and my self-esteem


Gwen

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Hello, my fellow crazies. I'm back from a two-week visit to the US. It was nice to see my family. I love all of them, some more than others, but I once again reminded why I prefer living on another continent. My grandmother especially and my mother to a certain extent are both critical, exacting, and judgmental when it comes to my clothes, hair, and looks in general. I just never seem look good enough for them.

Months ago I got in touch with my brother's fiance/now wife to ask what I should wear to the wedding. The wedding was going to be outdoors on a Saturday June afternoon in Sedona, AZ. She recommended something not too dressy like a "cute sundress." That's exactly what I bought to wear to the wedding. But I tried it on for my mom after I arrived and she said she thought it was too casual for the wedding (even though it was exactly what the bride recommended) and she loaned me something of her own to wear. There were plenty of girls at the wedding who were wearing "cute sundresses" like the one I was planning on wearing. Oh well, I thought. I hardly ever get to see my mom and it made her happy.

I guess you could say I'm somewhat of a pushover.

Then for the rehearsal dinner and wedding, my mom recommended I curl my hair (which I never do) because it's a pain in the ass and makes me look like a country western singer. But again, it made my mom happy.

However, my mom has never been a fan of curly hair so I'm thinking that my grandmother must have pressured her into getting me to do it. "You gotta make Gwen curl her hair!" My grandmother is from the generation of women who never left the house unless they had on full makeup and their hair had been set on hot rollers, teased out, and lacquered into helmet. She believes every woman's hair should be curly.

I went to stay with her for a few days during my visit, and each time I dressed, put on make up, and did my hair, I was met with some well-meaning, but annoying criticism of my appearance. My hair was too plain, my clothes were "not quite right." The Swede would say I was wearing too much make up and I'd tell him that staying with my grandmother is like preparing for a beauty contest. I was preparing to be "judged."

Back in the summer of '05 I went to visit my family. I had just broken up with my ex and had gone through a very when depressing and traumatic time because of it. When I'm really depressed, I tend to not eat and I was about 20-30 pounds lighter than I was the last time they saw me. I got comments like, "you've lost a lot of weight and look fantastic." Actually, I thought I looked haggard and I felt crappy. Since I moved to Sweden, I've put on what I call 30 pounds of "happy fat."

I know my mom and everyone were being extremely kind by not mentioning how much weight I'd put on, but they did leave little hints like, "you really need to get it under control before you turn thirty five." and "just cut all your portions in half and that weight will come off in no time at all." Gee, thanks.

I've almost made up my mind to not go and visit them in the US until someone comes and visits me. I've been living and working abroad now for four years and no one has ever come over here to visit me, not once. It's just too much of an inconvenience for them, I suppose.

Sorry for sounding like a whiny bitch, but this shit really does bother me.

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Hi Gwen,

It's nice of you to want to make your Mom "happy", but if that is happening at the expense of your own wellbeing, then maybe it would be better to stand up to her? Otherwise she - and your grandmother - are just going to go on and on dishing out the same old crap. Maybe if you made it clear to them that you're a grown woman who is more than capable of making up her own mind about what to wear, what to weigh and how much - or how little - make-up to apply, they would back off and keep quiet?

I think it's great you've decided you aren't going to go back to the US until someone from your family makes the effort to visit you!!

Good luck!

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Thanks for the support, everyone. I guess I can't really blame my mom and grandmother for being a bit superficial since they both live in the superficiality capital of the world (Los Angeles). No offense meant. I grew up there too. They hardly ever get to see me and I suppose when they do, they just want to "mother" me, even though I'm nearly 33.

My grandmother even tried to guilt me into coming back to the US, asked me in that very manipulative tragic way of hers if there was "anything she could do to get me to come back to the US." My job, friends, and basically my whole life is here in Sweden, and therefore I said I had no immediate plans to come back. She then told my mother that I said I was "never ever" coming back, which really hurt my mom but which was not at all what I said. My grandmother either misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented what I said. I explained that I live in Europe because I have a job, boyfriend, friends, access to free medical care, etc., here. However, I still think of the US as home. I still vote in the elections. If I got a good job offer in the US, then I'd definitely come home and bring the Swede along with me. I'd probably have to marry him so he could get a green card but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. ;)

For now, however, I feel like I have to live this far away because it absolutely kills me that I cannot and have never been able to live up to their expectations. I've always felt like I must be a constant source of embarrassment because whenever they see me, they try to "improve" me so I don't reflect poorly on them.

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I think it's time to smile sweetly and say "But I like my hair straight and I'm a grown woman, so please don't tell me how to wear it like I'm a child."

And staying away is good. We have a CB member who lives in Tokyo, and her tdoc said that it was a good place for her to be.....because her toxic family is in the US.

Your "family" is the group of people (friends, lover, workmates) who make you feel good and smart and attractive and loved. If your biological family makes you feel like crap, it's pretty obvious who cares about you---and who you ought to live with.

When they contact you again, tell them that air fare is expensive. If they want to see you, they have to come to Sweden. I guarantee that you will never see any of them again. And why should you, if all they do is insult your taste and your choices?

Let the dogs bark: your caravan is moving on.

olga

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I am, at 30, just learning how to put up boundaries with my family. Of course they bitched and pouted at first, but I stood my ground and now they have accepted them. It's hard to do with your mother. But, I have found that most of the time, moms are just doing what they've always done. Giving unsolicited advice, trying to be helpful. Gotta learn how to interact as adults. It's not easy for them. Let her know how you feel, put your boundaries in place, and see what happens. She may surprise you.

Hope you enjoyed the wedding. I'm dying to visit Sweden.

Croix

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am, at 30, just learning how to put up boundaries with my family. Of course they bitched and pouted at first, but I stood my ground and now they have accepted them. It's hard to do with your mother. But, I have found that most of the time, moms are just doing what they've always done. Giving unsolicited advice, trying to be helpful. Gotta learn how to interact as adults. It's not easy for them. Let her know how you feel, put your boundaries in place, and see what happens. She may surprise you.

Hope you enjoyed the wedding. I'm dying to visit Sweden.

I'm only about 5 years Croix's junior and have the same issues (however, I'm currently being held hostage by a neurological infection and have to LIVE with them!). Mothers will be mothers; I just have to teach mine that I'm fully capable of taking out my own trash from my room and that she need not pull it out and comment on what she can see through the semi-transparent bag.... e.g., "you drank THAT much soda this week?!".

Hell, I get "motherly" if I sense impending MI in a friend, and I'm a guy!

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I've almost made up my mind to not go and visit them in the US until someone comes and visits me.

Sounds reasonable to me. I traveled to Wisconsin to visit my mom when my boys were 2 and 3. She hasn't come out to see us yet and my boys are now 18 (going on 19) and 20 ;)

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For now, however, I feel like I have to live this far away because it absolutely kills me that I cannot and have never been able to live up to their expectations. I've always felt like I must be a constant source of embarrassment because whenever they see me, they try to "improve" me so I don't reflect poorly on them.

Ah, Gwen, we must be sisters. I think we have the same mom. I'm fifty-fucking-five and my mother still tries to tell me how to wear my hair and what I should wear. I really feel for you; it's hard to know you're not what your mother was hoping for in a daughter. It's hard to realize that she doesn't want you to be the best and happiest person you can be, but instead wants you to conform to her idea of what she thinks a daughter should be.

The nice part is having learned to deflect most of her comments. The not so nice part is that it's not going to change and that every once in awhile one of those barbs gets through and hurts you to your core.

Therapy really helped with the family issues and setting boundaries. I highly recommend it. It was hard at first, but then actually got to be fun. You get bonus points of fun when you don't respond in the expected manner and get to watch their mouths flap open and closed like fish out of water.

"You're not going to cut your hair that short again, are you? I liked it better longer."

"Thanks for the input but I really like it this way."

"I really wish you'd do some exercise to flatten your tummy." (Yes, I kid you not)

"You get two more wishes, 'cause that one's not going to happen."

I am still envious of people whose parents love them as individuals instead of as a reflection or extension of themselves.

Yes, probably best to have a continent AND an ocean between you. Sweden sounds lovely.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Wow, this could be my mom, too. Congrats on leaving the country! My time on the other side of the planet was blissful, as visits were damn near impossible. Momzilla did make it out to the Czech Republic and bitched and moaned the whole time. Thankfully she skipped Thailand--that would have put her a tailspin! Mud, smell of hot sweat everywhere, subpar toilets, prostitutes... maybe I wish she would have come...

Now I'm back and sadly only 750 miles away. I go through the same appearance crap. Mostly with my weight. I'm 5'2" and have recently put on 10 lbs bringing the grand total to 110. Shocking!! Now I'm fat. The bitch actually squeezed it ;) Full makeup is a must, with constant nagging that I should wear pink lipstick (which makes me look like I have the flu). A big travesty was trading in my standard long Jessica Simpson do for a shaggy bob. I could almost hear the jaws hitting the floor. At least I got to make her cry :) That was even better than the nose stud!!

The big one that y'all here at crazyboards will appreciate went down like this. One of mom's spoiled dogs got into my luggage. After mauling a shoe and pricey bag, it settled on my bottle of Lamictal. Then brings it to the living room where everyone is gathered and starts to chew. I also threw my Wellbutrin and Ambien for the trip in there. She'd only licked the pills. But my mom saw it, and grabbed it in time. But started freaking out!!! The bottle was chewed open so a nice array of pills fell out. As I was grabbing the pills and counting them, mom looks at the label and is like "WHAT THE FUUUUUCK IS ALL THIS!!" - "WHY ARE YOU ON WELLBUTRIN, WHAT THE FUCK ISSS LAMICTAL?" She flies to the computer and comes to the conclusion that I must have epilepsy (Lamictal for epilepsy site) which I do not. "AND THESE ARE SLEEEEPING PILLS?!?!" - "YOU LET MY DOG EAT EPILEPSY PILLS!!" Umm, she broke in to my luggage.

So after some stiff cocktails were handed out by my Dad who still has not idea wht the bfd is, I have to explain what each pill is for and why I take it to way more people than I cared to. Then the barrage of advice. "Pills are not the answer, people take Ambien and get in cars and kill people, get more sun, what exactly IS Lamictal again, ya lost me on that?" Then my bro's confession that he feels he should ask about an antidepressant.

Of course my mother wants to know why she didn't know about this stuff and I start bawling and tell her that she's just mean, and she's probably why I was screwed up and she needs those pills more than me. And I threw in "I drink too much, too, but fuck the whole family are lifetime alcholics so I never stood a chance!" That pushed it to far.

I was quickly transfered to my brother's house for the rest of the visit.

I've been back only once to see my grandparents, and I saw my Dad seperately. And my bro's been doing great on his Paxil since that debacle.

I'm long over the trauma, but thought you that understand would enjoy the laugh! :) Definitely like something out of a Chevy Chase

flick.

And Gwen, enjoy Sweden--it's gorgeous there!

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I'm so glad you threw in that line about having a laugh about it, because I howled.

Not, Oh my god, are you okay? What are all these medications?

But, You let my dog lick epilepsy pills?!

What are families for, if not a good laugh?

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I'm long over the trauma, but thought you that understand would enjoy the laugh!
Gotta say, this didn't make me laugh - more like have sympathy for you!! At least you're over it. Ya sure about that? ;)

It's hard to take criticism when you are so critical on yourself (that's me btw, not you. The royal "you" or something). The thing is, sometimes they're right. Part of me wants to know what people think because I am concerned abotu shit like that, although it is hard to hear. I just dyed my hair brown and Monday morning a coworker went out of his way to tell me that it looked better before. Gee, thanks. Or the guy from my other job who said "Wow, black is not your color" when I wore black pants and a black shirt. Or the guy who literally said "Look at that belly! You used to be hot - don't you want to get back there?" Insensitive. But at least I know that maybe my hair looks better a little lighter and maybe the light hair and black clothes washed me out. Or else I am just the ugliest troll you will ever see and I should wear a paper bag over my head. That's how I usually feel. I also know that I honestly do not look my best now and I'm trying to do what I can to improve that. Or at least I'm thinking about improving it. By dying my hair at least.

Back to the family stuff. I realized a loooong time ago that if I try to conform to what my family thinks I will be VERY unhappy. Furthermore, going to the opposit extreme and not doing anything my fam says doesn't work either. It was mainly a responsible WASP vs dirty hippie. So I try to take all things into consideration. Luckily my family has been pretty cool about learning about BP and what are the symptoms or related actions. What they do not like is my being a liberal (I'm called a communist by my Bill O'Reilly loving dad), my tattoos (my mom had a HUGE fit when she saw my first one - literally throwing things and saying I'm out of the will), my slovenly apartment (my mom is convinced if I clean I will be healed.) I really try to balance and take all sides into consideration (well most of the time) and then do my thing. It's definitely getting easier over the years.

Because I have 3 older sisters and we all know my mom is ubercritical, we have all been working on her for awhile. It's like talking to a damn wall sometimes because she is convinced she is doing the right thing and just being helpful. But yes, calling them on it is supposed to be the way to go - "Gee mom, did you mean to make me feel (ugly, fat, stupid, lazy, inferior in some way)?" "No I'm trying to be helpful!" "Well you are being very critical and it makes me feel horrible about myself. I may not exactly what you want me to be but I'm doing the best I can" Of course there could be the whole "Well, that's your problem in how you perceive me" which is a good defense for the person being critical because we ARE crazy after all, so god knows we have no sense. A good thing about the "crazy" title is that if you totally freak out a few times, maybe they'll get the picture. A little bit of fear isn't that bad. It also helps to joke about it. It may be easier for me because my sisters are in the same boat. The problem is that being around the critical person can make one critical. I am WAY critical and really am trying to stop that. But I can't help but dislike guys who wear jean shorts or don't tweeze their eyebrows or women who wear super high heels to the grocery store or who overaccessorize.

Funny stories? My mom went to take care of my sister's 2 kids for a week. She decided that my sister's kitchen was completely unorganized and she of course knew exactly how to organize a kitchen, so she moved everything around! My sister came back and was REALLY pissed. My mom was trying to be helpful but just has a screwed up way of showing it. And of course she gets on this power trip because of her own insecurities. She knows everything and she can't be wrong because if she is wrong she won't be "the mom" and will have no place in the world. Or something.

Babble babble babble...

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Glad I could make someone howl!! That's a story that I can just throw out there to everyone. And supergwen, I'm over it for sure. I've always worked so hard to please my mom and conform to the cookie cutter type good looks that was the only thing she ever tried to cultivate in me. For a long time, is totally damaged me as a person. That I could be known to my friends as smart and witty and reliable but only "pretty" to her. In retrospect, I think maybe the image of me having a mental illness damaged that and made me worthless to her. I have minimal contact, because even with my damaged self esteem, I know that whole thing was ridiculous. And enough time has passed. Ya know, the great healer of all wounds.

I'm sorry to see so many other people's families pull this shit, too. I thought I was unique in that sense.

Maybe we all should come up with a contest to see who can find the exact location on earth that is the greatest distance from our moms? Then have a retreat there, no makeup allowed. That would be fun. Maybe GlaxoSmithKline or one of the others could be a sponsor? hmmm...

Keep howlin' everyone ;)

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