In my previous post I tackled the wrong and misleading question, “Why are you never good enough for your parents?” I highly recommend you read that post to gain a deeper understanding about toxic parents and dysfunctional families.
In this post I’ll discuss what you can do to deal with this issue that’s most likely intergenerational in nature: it has long and always been there—and the time has come for you to face it.
This stuff can be hard; I’m not denying that. But through hope and consistency, I hope you’ll see much better days.
Nothing I Do Is Good Enough for My Parents (13 Things You Can Do)
1. Challenge your past beliefs.
They are beliefs for a reason. Even if they were wrong, they were repeatedly and indefinitely imposed upon you until you believed they were true.
For example, you believed that your parents beat you up because you were a bad kid. Or that they fought every day because you were not a good student.
You were just an impressionable kid. Without proper guidance you were left to your own devices and had a little world of your own making.
Now that kid has grown. You owe it to yourself to be as pessimistic or cynical as you want about these beliefs in the pursuit of realizing what is true to you.
2. Understand that you are reparenting yourself in similar ways your parents did.
Unfortunately your parents’ influence on you is so strong that you probably hear their voice in your head. Which is probably why it’s good to habitually acknowledge that if you’re treating yourself the way your parents did, you’re probably going off course. It’s like telling yourself you don’t want to be like them.
Sticking to the above strategy opens doors for you towards other fun and healthier ways to properly reparent yourself.
3. You’ve undergone trauma. Honor this truth. Don’t deny it.
I know how it feels to wish to be born into a healthy and loving family. To be normal just like the others.
But you’re probably not “normal.” It sucks. But you have to embrace it as a part of you. Without discounting what you’ve gone through, it is what it is. And you know what? It’s okay!
On the other hand, denying your trauma can probably do more harm, because by denying it you try to don a fake identity, which ironically keeps you from healing and finding peace.
4. Give yourself some slack.
You’re likely plagued by constant anxiety in that everything you do must only be the “best,” at any moment.
But having toxic parents means that, in some ways, you’ve been handicapped right off the bat.
How can you expect to be a highly functioning “perfect” adult if in your youth no one taught you that? How could you learn anything at all when you were always trying to survive your toxic parents?
So don’t beat yourself up. Learn at your own pace. Which brings us to the next point…
5. Don’t compare yourself with others—especially with “normal” people.
It’s one thing to compare yourself with your peers. It’s a whole other thing to feel sorry for yourself because you’re looking at non-traumatized people.
The latter didn’t have the family experience you had. Tell them you dislike your parents and they may want to crucify you. These people can talk fondly about their family and it may sound foreign to you.
6. Stop seeking validation from your parents.
It’s ironic, to say the least. You feel you’re never good enough for your parents, but the opposite is most probably true!
This is true even for the most mundane stuff. Thanks to the internet you can learn just about anything, and you can probably give it some objective assessment to gauge whether you actually did a good job or not.
And that doesn’t need any validation from your parents! Heck, I even bet they never gave you validation your whole life, and don’t intend to do so in the near future. That’s just Toxic Parenting 101.
7. Stop trying to “fix” them.
As a young kid you were probably parentified. There was constant drama at home and you felt responsible to somehow fix it.
But parentification meant you could never fix issues simply because you were too young to handle them. You were simply confronted by such problems because your parents would not face them, or at least pick themselves up to even bother.
This urge to fix problems stayed with you well into adulthood. Now you probably think something’s wrong with your parents and that’s likely true. But you don’t have to “fix” them for whatever reason at all.
8. Stop expecting them to listen to what you have to say.
Do you feel like they’ve pigeonholed you into being someone, no matter what? That whatever you do, what they think about you doesn’t change for the most part?
Because it’s likely true! They have decided who and what you are to them, and to them you will always be that way.
When it comes to people, I tend to lean towards the “no expectations” principle, mainly because I have no control over other people’s actions.
So tell them what you want (because communicating your thoughts is fair), but don’t expect them to change because of that. If, by some miracle, they listened to you, then that would be awesome. But if they didn’t, that’s okay, too.
9. Accept the harsh reality.
Accept two facts in particular:
- that you have toxic parents
- that you were somehow dealt a bad hand and you have to make the most out of your circumstances
Acceptance, I would argue, is the first step to any meaningful change.
You can fool yourself, deny, or distract yourself from facing head-on what life is giving you, and it would keep you from experiencing life as it is.
However, with acceptance you can make realistic plans you’re glad to take on. You can heal and move on. You’re grounded in truth.
10. Distance yourself.
Even if you’re still living with your parents, you can still do this. They might even not make a fuss about it (hopefully).
But this is more for self-preservation. I don’t believe too much in willpower when toxic parents are involved. Being with them is like drinking poison or having cancer—you die a painful death either way.
You may have friends and other people that enrich your life—a positive in your happiness scale. But your toxic parents could quickly turn that into a negative. It’s not worth it being around them.
11. Look for support or parental/authority figures elsewhere.
I know it can be hard to open yourself up out there. You’re probably distrustful in general.
But you owe yourself the relationships you deserve. It’s only human nature. The primary relationship you needed was absent at home. Now you have to look for it elsewhere.
It can be a challenge to look for, say, a father and a mother figure. Or a mentor. But it can be rewarding.
12. However, acknowledge that you may be in a vulnerable spot.
Having toxic parents can have long-lasting negative effects on your beliefs, behaviors, and actions.
These effects influence you on how you choose friends and people you associate with. Or on how you cope with uncomfortable emotions.
You may end up with “friends” who turn out to be predators. Or you may resort to some form of escapism that could lead to addiction.
With patience and practice, you can master your vulnerability. Besides, you know what toxic people are like, thanks to your parents.
Choose your friends wisely—this has never been truer if you come from a dysfunctional family.
13. Don’t give up hope. Plan for your future.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling hopeless. It can get chronic, too.
But know that it is exactly an effect of having toxic parents who have constantly let you down. Acknowledging this may make you feel it’s not that bad at all. And it will help you move on to do productive tasks instead of being dragged down by learned helplessness.
Remember that you are worthy of a life that’s good, happy, meaningful, and suited for you. Make short and long-term plans and make them happen. You got this.
Why am I so worried about disappointing my parents?
Always getting worried about disappointing your parents may mean you’re working against unrealistic standards, without room for errors. You may have learned toxic and hostile ways to deal with “disappointments,” which, in the grand scheme, are probably normal. Ironically you’ve learned them from your parents.
Because of your parents’ toxic behavior, you’ve learned that everything must be perfect, but even if it was perfect, it still did not please your parents.
You’re then caught in a vicious cycle, futilely aiming for your parents’ validation, which is a lost cause.
You’ve been brainwashed. You had nothing to learn except your traumatic experiences at home. Despite that, you believed you had to be a good child.
This kind of excessive worrying means something is wrong, mostly with your parents’ expectations from you. They are ingrained in you. Proactive work, mindfulness, and acceptance can counter this false belief.
- Do You Feel Not Good Enough? Psychology Today.
Photo by Danny Lines on Unsplash