by Heather Freeman
Mothers are powerful role models. They leave an indelible imprint on a girl’s self-identity starting from before birth. When her imprint is that which supports a healthy dose of self-love and confidence, her daughter can develop her own sense of self, separate from her mother’s. She will grow up to be confident about her strengths and talents, and capable of taking the lead in her health and wellbeing.
However, this is a rare occurrence. More often than not mothers unconsciously carry an imprint which keeps them from giving their daughters the chance to be their best. This imprint then gets passed on, leaving the next generation of girls carrying on a legacy of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Our point of power as women is to know that we do not need to repeat our mother’s unconscious legacies – that our past does not script our future. And the moment we decide to break the cycle we can then truly awaken to our potential.
According to board-certified ob-gyn and New York Times best-selling author Dr. Christiane Northrup, a mother’s belief system about health and life in general becomes the daughter’s way of being. “If your mother was happy, healthy, vibrant, and loved her menstrual cycle, her breasts, and her body in general, then your health legacy will in general be optimal. If your mother was a smoker, anorexic, depressed, self-absorbed, or anxious, this may adversely affect your confidence and overall wellbeing.”
Jaqueline Lapa Sussman, MS, LPC, a practitioner of Eidetic Imagery Psychology (a fast moving methodology which allows one to go beyond their rational surface mind and uncover stored images of their potential and wholeness) says “Image Psychology research in the last half century has shown that our mother’s influence is wired into our brains and color our automatic knee jerk reactions to life.” Throughout a girls childhood a mother’s emotional wellbeing is communicated through her tone, body language, and actions, which programs her daughter with attitudes that affect her for the rest of her life. A girl grows up and takes that image from her mother (good or bad) with her to her adult life, and if she decides to become a mother, she then imprints that image with her own children.
The journey into motherhood provides women with a unique opportunity to break the cycle, to lead their lives and their daughters from a conscious, empowered space. When they boldly step into this power they are able to create a safe relationship with their daughter. The type of relationship that girls have voiced they need in order to communicate about and navigate their lives.
The Girls Scout Research Institute Report (2003) revealed emotional safety is as important as physical safety for girls. The relational model, developed by Jean Baker Miller, M.D., author of the groundbreaking book Towards a New Psychology of Women, offers a paradigm shift in our understanding of human development and of society as a whole. Dr. Miller’s relational model proposes that growth-fostering relationships are a central human necessity and that disconnections are the source of psychological problems.
The path to providing this safe space is better communications and a deeper understanding of the role interpersonal communication plays in creating a safe space. Interpersonal communication is a mutual relational, co-constructed process which John Stewart, Ph.D. Professor of Speech Communication at the University of Washington, identifies as a process, as opposed to something that one person does “to” someone else. The relational aspect of the process — the fact that communication takes place between people and influences every aspect of their relationship — is central to understanding why certain communications succeed while others falter.
Every time people communicate, they offer definitions of themselves and respond to their perceived definitions of the other(s). However, since these perceptions are always subjective, and therefore inherently judgmental, communication often leads to misunderstandings and bad feelings — causing people to shut down.
A mother’s job is complex. There is no doubt she tackles it with the best intentions – and not everything a woman has learned from her mother is considered bad or damaging. There are certainly parts of the imprint that a women will want to take with her into her adult life and there are always gifts in the shortcomings one has received.
However, our point of power as women is to know that we do not need to repeat our mother’s unconscious legacies – that our past does not script our future. And the moment we decide to see the legacy that has been passed on to us and to reflect, honor, and pay tribute to that legacy, is the transformational moment when we can move forward with a new life enriching story. We can then set our mind, body, and souls free and empower the next generations to come.
Heather Freeman, founder of the Gutsy Girl Club, is a resident of Colorado via Connecticut. As a transformational empowerment coach, she works with a spirited community of women who deeply support one another, build each other up, and provide a safe, supportive space to promote mothering from a place of authentic self-identity and a strong connection to one another. The free report Survival Tips for Raising a Gutsy Girl is available online. Learn more at www.gutsygirlclub.com
PERSPECTIVE commentaries by contributing writers appear each Sunday on Connecticut by the Numbers.