Healing from Highly Critical Parents In Adulthood
Too many of us have jobs, homes, and even life partners based on messages from our parents. As a life coach, I have had too many conversations with clients about distinguishing parental approval from their own personal ambitions and goals. This is especially true if you were raised by a domineering parent, which has distorted your idea of joy and happiness.
In this article, we will discuss how controlling parents in adulthood can impact your life and, more importantly, how to gain back your power.
First, let me tell you about a classic case of a woman who obediently followed her parents’ advice and how it damaged her emotional health and wellbeing.
The obedient Chinese daughter
I have a Chinese-American friend named Amy (not her real name). We have known each other for about 15 years. We met in a women’s Bible study group.
Amy and I first met just after she received her PhD in bio-mechanical engineering.
(I can’t even wrap my mind around how complicated it would be to get a master’s, let alone a doctorate, in this subject.)
Shortly after getting engaged to my now-husband, Amy and I talked about meeting men. I suggested that there were plenty of good Christian men in the church we were attending, but Amy shrugged and said that she was looking for a college-educated Chinese Christian man.
I remained silent since Amy knew what she wanted. After a few months, Amy introduced “Ron” to me and our friends as a well-educated Chinese Christian man.
Amy said she wasn’t really too excited about him. Despite this lack of enthusiasm, she said Ron is kind, honest, and loves God. They got married 5 months later after meeting.
Over the next 10 years of marriage and 3 kids later (even though Ron only wanted 1 child), I have seen Amy deteriorate.
The price of obedience
Amy could be considered the perfect Chinese child as she obediently followed her parents’ guidance. Imagine being the ultimate “good girl,” living up to her father’s dreams for her.
The perfect picture complete with the:
- Nice husband
- High-paying career
- Well dressed kids given the best education
However, her obedience came at a high cost. Amy is an insomniac, rules the house with an iron fist, and constantly worries about everyone in the house.
Amy is constantly worried about the bills because Ron doesn’t get paid much as an educator. She has to work in a high-stress job to pay the bills and afford a lifestyle that her parents would approve of.
Her life is built around pleasing her zealous father, and to this day, Amy is still trying to please her family members. But what is the purpose of this?
Amy called me the other day, considering living off her savings for a year to get some rest. Too many of us are dying silently while trying to please others.
Next, let’s talk about the reasons why a parent places a high expectations on their children.
The reasons why parents place pressure on their children
Many fearful parents unconsciously project their fear onto their children. They don’t want to see their kids suffer academically or in life, so they enforce many rules and standards.
Unfortunately, their kids frequently buckle under the stress. When the child inevitably rebels, the parent wonders, “I did my best. What happened?”
If you were raised in a performance-oriented home where everyone was told that you must be a doctor, lawyer, athlete or whatever, there is an incredibly high bar that you cannot meet. That absolutely ruins a child’s sense of creativity and desire to explore.
I wrote this message on Twitter and received a less than positive response.
If you were raised in a performance-oriented home were everyone was told that you must be a doctor, lawyer, athlete or whatever...there is an incredible high bar that you cannot met.— Denise Lee (@DeniseGLee) July 7, 2023
And that absolutely ruins a child's sense of creativity and desire to explore.
Emotionally damaged people spill their anger onto others because the burden of their internal shame is too heavy for them to bear. That is why it was so easy for the person on Twitter to lash out at me instead of dealing with her shame and disappointment.
Many domineering and controlling parents were dominated by their own parents, causing a vicious generational cycle that can only stop with you.
In the next section, we will discuss how you can regain your autonomy as an adult.
Gain back your power from your critical parent as an adult
Be intentional with your choices
- Do you question yourself before doing things because you fear a family member might disapprove?
- Are you currently in a relationship or want to marry someone because they feel familiar to your mother or father?
- Could you imagine regretting this decision in the future?
Create boundaries with your critical parents
Too many of us never knew our own boundaries because we lived in fear of disappointing others, especially our critical and controlling parents.
To gain self-respect and increase your confidence, it is important to identify your own needs and expectations when dealing with others.
In order to create solid and healthy emotional boundaries with others, it requires clarity on your part regarding the following:
- What are your personal values, needs, and beliefs?
- How do you want to be treated? What behavior do you deem unacceptable?
- What are your physical and emotional limits?
- What consequences will follow if someone violates your boundaries?
By knowing these factors about yourself and clearly communicating them to others, you can establish healthy emotional boundaries that promote strong relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.
Up your self-care game
As a leader and business owner, taking care of your spiritual, emotional, and physical needs is not optional. If you want to break free from the tyrannical voice of your parents, you must be able to understand if you are in a state of flow.
When you are familiar with and honest about your needs, you will automatically steer clear of harmful people and activities. This is when you are respecting the desires of your soul.
As an adult, you can regain power from a critical and domineering parent. It requires recognizing your sovereignty to make choices, the freedom to think for yourself, and enforcing your autonomy.
Don’t let the expectations of others ruin your health and wellbeing. If you need help finding your unique voice, work with me today.
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MENTAL HEALTH ADVICE
The information in this article is for informational purposes only. No material in this article or website is to be a substitute for professional medical and/or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read from me or anyone else online.
Also, this article is not designed to diagnose or treat you or anyone with a suspected mental health illness. Please, if you need help, seek appropriate help from a lawyer, health care provider or law enforcement officer.