At what point do a mother and daughter decide that they can come together as one friend to another? For some women it's after they have married. For others, it's the birth of their first child. And for still others, it's during a physical or emotional crisis. For me, it was the diagnosis of my mother's ovarian cancer. From the moment I heard she had cancer until her death, I felt as if I was in graduate school, cramming the night before finals for a course called Everything You've Always Wanted to Know about Your Mother and Forgot to Ask. But following her death, there were still so many unanswered questions.
How does this workshop work?
The purpose of this workshop is to help you address important issues with your mother while you still have the chance. Each of the steps in the workshop covers a new topic, starting with those that will be easier to approach, and ending with those that will probably be more difficult. At the end of each step, you'll find suggested questions to ask your mother. You are encouraged to keep track of your progress in a journal.
Being willing to know your mother at a deeper level is an act of courage. She will no longer be just your mother, the woman who is there to meet your every need
If you're close to your mother, use this workshop as a way to focus on areas of your relationship that you may not have explored yet. If you are distanced from your mother, or close but not friends, start by simply thinking of your mother as a new friend. At first, it may feel uncomfortable. But carry that thought around in your head for a while and your energy will shift. You'll begin to think of your mother differently. Your expectations will change. It will become easier to give her the love, respect and caring you afford your dearest women friends, even when she's behaving badly or you're having a rough day.
Rewriting your mother's job description
The first subject of this workshop is self-image and beauty. Most women I've talked with over the years said their mothers do not discuss their most intimate feelings about their body image with them. The conversation is kept at a superficial level directed toward the daughter: "You look nice today," That's a nice outfit on you," or, "Where did you get those earrings?" But these comments are often filled with lots of unspoken gestures and innuendos. I'm not saying not to talk about superficial things. Talking about clothes and makeup is a fun part of being a woman. What I am saying is to go deeper. Your mother's job description hasn't included the right to reveal to you how she feels about her body, good or bad, or for that matter, how she generally feels about herself. Her task of guiding you toward womanhood has been more about telling you what to do and how to look. Those rules need to be changed as we grow into women. If your mother isn't able to recognize and shift this energy, then you, as her daughter, can help her do so.
Next page: Questions to ask your mom -- and yourself >>
What you like about being a woman
Before you talk with your mom, it's a good idea to review your beliefs about your self-image, your mother's image and the influence she's had on your personal style. Personal appearance is a sensitive topic. You want to be clear about how you feel so that you can articulate your thoughts clearly and calmly to her. You also want to know what you want from her after you tell her your memories and feelings. Do you want an apology, a hug or simply that she knows you appreciate her support? Or are you trying to tell her that it was hard for you to smile when you looked in the mirror after she told you how fat you were?
Take a moment to respond to these statements in your journal:
- One of the things I really like about being a woman is ...
- One message about beauty or self-image I've received from my mother is ...
- The physical qualities I've inherited from my mother are ...
- One aspect of my mother's appearance I like is ...
- One aspect of my appearance I like is ...
- When I think about my body growing older, I ...
- If I were easier on myself about the way I look, I'd ...
- I get my sense of self-worth from ...
- One thing I feel very strongly about regarding a woman's self-image and appearance is ...
Answering these questions will give you more insight into what you are and are not comfortable thinking about or talking about regarding your appearance. If you're like most other women, you probably found yourself thinking and feeling a variety of thoughts and emotions while answering those questions. You may realize that some of them are pleasant and some are not. Some of them will not even be your own, but instead, they're your mother's voice in your head. We don't often explore the thoughts behind our self-image, and when we do, we sometimes find out that what we thought was our issue is really our mother's issue. We notice that we have taken on beliefs from our mothers that no longer serve us. Or we find out just the opposite: Our mother's beliefs are sound, and we would do well to follow her advice now that we better understand our own perspective.
Questions to ask your mom
The key to getting closer to your mother
- What do you like about being a woman?
- Where did you get your sense of self-worth?
- What is one message about beauty or self-image you received from your mother?
- What do you like about your mother's appearance? Your own? Mine?
- What do you like about the way you look? What would you change?
- If you were easier on yourself about the way you look, what would you do differently?
- What is your favorite perfume? Beauty tip?
- What's one of your favorite outfits? What's the sexiest outfit you've ever worn?
- What's been one of your favorite hairstyles?
- How do you really feel about plastic surgery?
- What woman's style do you most admire?
- What's the weirdest beauty treatment you've ever done?
- What do you think about the way women my age express their beauty today versus the way you did when you were my age?
- What have you learned about beauty and aging?
Ready for the next step? Romantic Intimacy and Men is the next subject >>