Good intentions are important, but sometimes, even something done out of love can hurt someone.
Recently, Reddit user u/FeralViolinist asked, "What was something your parent(s) did that was in good faith, but ended up kind of messing you up?" Here are a few stories:
1."Poor boundaries and people-pleasing tendencies. It took me quite a bit of time to even understand it."
2."My mom is great, and she was a devoted and respectful parent. However, she was a 'not like other girls' kind of woman. She definitely took the opportunity to bond with me by talking down about other girls in my class. We made fun of pretty girls for being vapid, or ditzy blondes, or whatever other stereotypes we could think of. She also body-shamed (not me, thankfully), bragging that she still had a decent figure at her age while a lot of women had 'let themselves go.' I think she did this as a coping mechanism because she was a heavy woman and was punching down on heavier women. I love her, but those things set a poor example for me, and I spent a long time talking shit about my fellow women and dismissing anything feminine as dumb and unintellectual (barf)."
3."I was a very well-behaved child, and they kind of left me on cruise control, which has had so many fucked up residual things."
4."They raised us, one boy and three girls, devoutly Catholic. I remember a tweet that stuck with me: 'Spiritual trauma is someone handing you an inner critic and telling you it's the voice of God.' If you were raised religious, you know. If you were not, it would take years for me to enumerate all the ways being raised close to the church has negatively affected my life and the way that I was taught to think and feel about the world and myself. Suffice it to say, guilt/shame being the predominant emotions ruling one's life is not a healthy or pleasant way to live."
5."Did everything for me. My mom helped me choose my clothes, told me who to be friends with, cooked for me, did my laundry, and cleaned my room. All I had to do was be a good girl and get good grades. I never rebelled and did everything she asked. Then I went to college on my own, and realized that I had no life skills, did not know how to navigate friendships and other relationships, and couldn’t even manage my class load without my mother micromanaging my life. I never finished college. My 20s were spent with the family as I learned how to be an adult on my own. I made a lot of mistakes, and it was only in my 30s that I started feeling like I had a grip. I wish that I had been less 'loved' as a child so that I could have been more prepared for life."
6."My dad, who I was incredibly close with and was my ONLY good parent, pushed me to maintain a relationship with my emotionally abusive adoptive mom for years until I finally cut her out completely when I was 26. He did it out of kindness, but it hurt me much more than it helped me."
7."I did ballet and loved it. I wasn't much good at it, but I enjoyed it. Mom came and watched me as I showed off one parent's day, and then, as we left and I waited for her to say how good I was, she said, 'If you are only going to show off, then there is no point wasting money on classes. You need to try harder to be good at ballet for me to keep paying for you to go.' So, I quit. Then a few years later, I quit piano lessons for the same reason. Now, I try to tell myself that it is okay to just enjoy something for the fun of it, like swimming or crochet, and not to give up when I realize that I will never be good enough. Also, that exercise is the same: You don't need to be good to do it."
8."My sweet parents never fought and never argued. When they told me in my late teens that they were planning to get divorced and had been wanting to for years, I was FLOORED. It turns out, couples who never argue tend to be couples who never communicate, which is super important for the health of a relationship. I ended up with massive insecurity in romantic relationships and a bit of an identity crisis."
9."My mom wanted me not to 'go skipping into the sunset' and be naive. Whenever I said something like 'That's not fair,' she would respond, 'Well life's a bitch, then you die.' I'd have been around the ages of 8-10 when that was her constant refrain."
10."When my pets got sick, my mom would put them down without telling us, just come home and say they were dead. The first time she did this, my brother refused to speak to her for over two weeks, and she kept rationalizing it as she was the one who felt bad because she put the dog down, even though our issue was that we didn't get to say goodbye to our beloved pet. My mom thrived off of denial and willful ignorance and absolutely hated it when we asked questions about realities or had anxiety over real issues."
11."I had a very noticeable birthmark, on a limb, and my dad was obsessed with it. He viewed it as something that made HIM look bad. He made me cover it up with makeup, which was hard to do since it was on a limb, not on my face, so it washed/rubbed off very easily. He would SCREAM at me if I wasn't wearing my makeup, and if I put it on in the morning, but it had rubbed/washed off during the day, he'd scream at me for not reapplying the makeup. He made me get laser procedures to 'remove it.' These procedures cost a fortune, were not covered by insurance (since it was cosmetic), and worst of all, were EXCRUCIATING. They basically just burned your skin, with no anesthetic, and it took weeks to recover from. Three summers of my childhood were ruined because he made me get this done, and I had to spend a month recovering (pain, skin blistering, all kinds of agony). And of course, they didn't work."
12."My parents and maternal grandparents were around braggadocious relatives, and that created some resentment. So, instead of helping me to use a healthy way to celebrate my accomplishments and skills, anytime I would succeed at something, I heard, 'Oh, that is great, but do not tell anyone about it. People don’t like braggers.' To this day, I struggle with seeing confidence as arrogance. I have improved tremendously, but it’s still a battle."
13."This is going to make my dad, who is a great guy and an excellent father, sound like a terrible person, but he has a way of making comments about what I eat, implying that if I eat such and such, I'll gain weight. Thankfully, it's infrequent, but I've definitely told him multiple times that I don't care to hear those comments at all, and yet it sometimes still happens. He actually just made a similar comment about my husband a few weeks ago, when I mentioned that he was planning to order a pizza for dinner. ('He really likes junk food, huh?') Yes, dad, my bean pole husband sometimes orders pizza for dinner when we're not eating mostly vegetables and lean protein and exercising four days a week.
"I'm the only one in my family who hasn't had weight struggles, and I'm the only one who gets the benefit of this commentary. Between this and being raised in the heroin-chic culture of the '90s, my relationship between food, exercise, and my body can sometimes be a bit shaky."
14."My mom is autistic, and because she grew up in the '60s, she was never diagnosed and was treated badly at home and at school because of fairly normal autistic behavior, and labeled as stupid because of her dyslexia. She punished me severely because of my autistic behaviors and taught me to mask really, really well. She taught me to always lie about how I was feeling physically and emotionally because stiff upper lip and stoicism were super important, and showing any emotion other than anger was weak. My celiac disease went undiagnosed until I was 30 because I thought I was supposed to lie to doctors about my bowel habits and pain because she forced me to when I was little."
15."My schooling. My parents put me in a private, ultra-conservative Christian school in grade school. They themselves are part of the Presbyterian Church USA, which has always been a pretty progressive denomination. It was just the only private school they could afford, and they thought it would be better for me than our not-so-great local public school system. I don’t think they 100% knew what they were getting into, as evangelicalism wasn’t getting the press it does now. I’m sure they thought, 'Well, we may not agree on things like gay rights and abortion, but it’s not like they’ll be talking about those things in 2nd grade.' Wrong."
16."My dad worked away from home a ton and was often gone for weeks at a time. When I was very young, maybe four years old or so, he showed me a picture of my mom as a little girl and explained that she’d been adopted and had a hard childhood. He then explained that I needed to be a good girl and help my mom out when he wasn’t there. He would repeat this refrain throughout my childhood. Looking back, I think he thought he was just encouraging me to be well-behaved and patient, but it totally messed me up. My mom is a wonderful person, and she was often a good mom, but she has a crapload of baggage that only seemed to appear when my dad left. I think he was her rock. So, she’d slip into a deep depression without him, and I’d be there trying to take care of her.
17."My mom is a petite blonde perfectionist that comes with lots of baggage. She can't communicate her feelings and didn't talk about what's going on with her ever to protect me. Growing up with her, I would constantly know there was something wrong but couldn't ask about it. I had to sense what mood she was in. Sometimes, she wouldn't speak to me, and I couldn't be sure if it had anything to do with me or my behavior. She always presented as extremely tough, but she also seemed on the verge of breaking, which she never did. I became very good at regulating her emotions as well as mine.
"I became a sort of mind reader when she was in a bad mood. I have become very sensitive as a result, which led to her telling me that I was too sensitive, emotional, etc. I immediately know if someone washes a plate at me angrily. I can read a room super quickly. I still can't put my own needs first if someone seems less than perfectly well, no matter how much I might need to."
18."My dad insisted that I couldn't be mentally ill because I was a high-achieving gifted kid. It definitely came from a place of wanting nothing to be wrong with the kid he loved, but it meant that I didn't get help for a long time, and I'm still undoing the damage of maladaptive coping mechanisms."
19."They stayed together instead of separating/divorcing. They were miserable, and my mom was depressed and separated from her family because my dad didn't want to move closer to them. There were some other factors, too, but I am convinced that this misery contributed to my mom's death at a relatively early age."
20."My dad was big on bootstrapping and self-reliance. He genuinely meant well; he thought that ignoring your child's needs to the point of criminal neglect was how you 'toughened them up.' Because that was how he'd been raised, you never ask for or accept help. You never complain and keep your head down. You figure it out on your own. You never trust. If you ask him now, he will still say that he did the right thing, because I'm 'not relying on a man for money, grad degree on your own dime. I told my brothers about that marathon you ran.' And, he's kind of right? (Ugh.) But I also have trouble forming relationships, and being happy or content. I've bounced around a lot.
21."I was badly bullied as a kid, and my mom would basically tell me that instead of fighting back, I should empathize with the bullies because the fact that they were bullying me probably meant they were unhappy and didn't have a warm home and supportive family like I did, etc. I know she meant well; she was trying to raise me to be an empathetic person instead of having an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth mentality. But because I've internalized this so much, I still have trouble standing up for myself, establishing boundaries, etc. When someone treats me unjustly, I still tend to make excuses for them, looking for the reasons why they're treating me this way and trying to empathize with them, rather than defending myself.
"I've spoken about this to my mum, and I know she feels bad about it and would do things differently now. I don't really blame her though. I think she was trying to do her best with the knowledge she had at the time. But yeah, it did kind of mess me up."
22."My mom told me I couldn't date until I was 16, then didn't explain dating to me. I just wanted guys to like me, and as much as I told myself I was being myself, I really wasn't. Then, she complained that I didn't have a boyfriend and wasn't married yet. Thankfully, she has stopped this."
23."My father in particular was overprotective, anxious (would NEVER admit that), and frequently talked about death/mortality. Consequently, it took me years to not feel scared to death about doing things as simple as driving on the highway, flying, going to an amusement park, or climbing a ladder. Every conversation ends with 'Be careful.' I was raised to 'be careful' about everything. It has been kind of an exciting journey to go and do these things and find myself feeling at ease with them, and that they are not hard and can be safe. In retrospect, it was odd coming from a man who rode his motorcycle cross country and had an extremely dangerous job, but I understand."
24."The sentence 'You are too smart to react this way' when upset with others. In a way, I wasn't allowed to be emotional and had to react rationally to things people said and did to me. It makes it really hard for me to trust my emotions, and I tend to overanalyze everything I do and rationalize everything other people do or say even if they deeply hurt my feelings."
25."I was cared for and provided for but not really parented. I had nannies growing up, then went to boarding school. I had everything I 'needed' and 'wanted,' but not having them around gave me attachment issues that I didn't recognize until my late 20s."
26."My mom was so overprotective. She never let me play with other kids outside of school or extended family gatherings because she didn't want me to be kidnapped or worse. You can imagine what that did to my social skills. She also wouldn't let me cook because she didn't want me to injure myself, and she didn't show me how to clean because she wanted me to rest because I was always sick. I was pretty dysfunctional in my early 20s. Thank goodness for the internet, I was able to learn how to be a normal and healthy human adult."
27."I guess my mom thought it would motivate me if she CONSTANTLY compared me to my overachiever cousin and all of my friends. Everyone was better at everything, and she said I must use them as examples and progress. Obviously, that didn’t happen; all it did was ensure that for two decades after high school, I compared myself to my colleagues, my friends, basically everyone. I always felt like I wasn’t doing enough, that everyone else was 'ahead.' I am only beginning to unlearn that, thanks to therapy. If I ever have kids, I’ll never, ever compare them to anyone."
28."My parents decided early on that they would never argue in front of us, trying to protect us from negativity. So, I never witnessed any fighting and also never saw how couples resolved anything. I didn't know that most couples even had arguments. As an adult, I have no idea how to handle conflict. It's so foreign to me that even minor issues feel like the end of the world. I either ignore it until I explode and cry for hours on end, or I don't ignore it and get straight to crying for hours on end. Things don't get resolved because I can't vocalize anything without falling apart."
29."My mom used to pick at my blackheads as a teen, and now I obsessively pick my skin into oblivion and scar my face because I feel like I just 'have to get the gunk out.'"
30."My dad got sole custody of my brother and me when I was 8 and was a single dad for a couple of years. He felt that we could benefit from having a consistently present mother figure in our lives, so when he met the single mom of one of my brother's school friends, I guess it made a lot of sense to combine our families. My stepmom was quick to pounce on any mistake I made and ridicule or punish me for it, rather than teaching me how to improve. She hated the idea of my dad and I having a close relationship, and sabotaged any attempts on his part to bond or have quality time with me. If he tried to take me out to lunch for getting good grades, for instance, she would complain that I was getting special treatment and it wasn't fair to the other kids. It went so far that when I was in the hospital to have my appendix out, they got into a huge fight because my dad visited me in the hospital one day instead of going straight home after work.
31."My father had a belief that there were 'adult problems' that children should know nothing about, such as money issues or family disagreements. This meant when there was tension or it was obvious something was wrong, nothing was ever explained, and I ended up internalizing and making my own assumptions about what was going on. It made me very sensitive to others' emotions to where I tried to fix them to avoid or remove the discomfort. While I do believe kids don't need to know all of the details of the struggles or misfortunes of a family, I do think they deserve to have enough explained to them in words they understand and are reassured that they are loved and protected."
32."My mom gives too much unsolicited advice. She always made it seem like she was using her wisdom to help people, but really, she was just unwilling to accept that other people might have a different approach to things than she does. Her advice came out of her being judgmental and narrow-minded. It took me a long time to learn to not try to help people unless they ask for it. It wasn't until the last five years or so that I really recognized that what she was doing all those years was ignoring and disrespecting people’s boundaries because she believed she knew better. She’s done it to me my whole life, and I never saw it. Even a simple request like 'Don’t post that photo or information about me on Facebook' is promptly ignored because she thinks I’m dumb or overly restrictive for not wanting it publicly shared."
33."Worry about us too much. I travel a lot, and every single time, my mom asks me to send the flight details because 'she worries.' When I’d drive my brother and sister somewhere, she’d say, 'Be careful, you have my whole life in that car!' Constant comments any time I do anything that could remotely be conceived as dangerous (but things people do on a daily basis), comments about how she would cope if anything happened to any of us, and constant worrying about every family member (often completely unnecessary) is exhausting.
"It’s got to the point where I feel guilty every time I get in a car or on a plane because what would my mom do if something happened to me? It’s a really horrible way to live. I lived abroad for a few years, and honestly, it was the happiest time of my life because I was away from the fear and the guilt. It was crazy how quickly I internalized it again when I came back. We’ve all told my mom she needs therapy, but she just can’t see it. She pours all her worries on us, and it comes from a place of love, but she can’t see how damaging it is."