Outgrowing Caring What Your Parents Think

I was (finally) cleaning out my files and found an article and a quote I’d saved that weren’t meant to go together, but do, beautifully. They’re for those of you in adult bodies who still think and act like children vis a vis your parents—dwelling in the land of childish wishes, hopes and resentments when you are as old as your parents were when they were raising you—and who would be immensely happier and healthier if you took your rightful place alongside your parents as independent-thinking adults.

Unfortunately, the first excerpts are from a book I can’t identify, from chapter 8: Why Can’t You Get Your Parents’ Approval. Here’s what the unknown author says: “In particular, when parents use love as a conditional reward, they set the stage for their children to become approval addicts and, consequently, people-pleasers. This is called conditional parental love and it can be devastating to children . . . The problem arises when the child perceives that love must be earned and that it depends on being ‘good’ and on pleasing the parents . . . the child connects pleasing others with being ‘good,’ which means being deserving and worthy of love . . . Disapproval, in turn, means that you are no longer loved because you are unworthy . . .When you are unworthy of love, people leave you alone—you are abandoned, unsafe, and miserable.”

Now, here you are, feeling undeserving and unworthy unless you’re perfect, good through and through and have purged every bad thought and act out of your wretched self. Tragically, here you are still waiting for them to love you as you’ve always wanted to be loved. They can’t and never will. If they couldn’t do it when you were innocent babes, how can they possibly do it now that you’re tarnished by life?

The other gem I found is a quote about rebellious eating that sounds as if it was said by a long-ago client and speaks to the outcome of what happens when children are loved conditionally and need to be good and nice because their parents will only love them that way. “It’s not so much that I am getting back at my parents [when I binge], but I feel like I am not under their thumbs. So I want to do something that is ‘wrong’ because I can now. And I use food like freedom.” You eat mindlessly and unhealthfully because you can now, because you couldn’t for such a very long time.

It’s time to give it all up—the desire for parents to love you and still feeling you’re trying to get out from under their thumbs. You’ve done it. You escaped childhood by growing up, as we all do. You have freedom to eat and love whom you please unconditionally, even if the object of that love is little old you. 

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