Count on Mom to drop a seemingly harmless quip that could set you off. Maybe it's her casual "Hinay-hinay lang sa rice," as you get a second helping of paella; or the way she brushes off your recent promotion with a rather unenthusiastic "Ah, talaga?"
Cosmo’s advice: Come prepared. Check out these common Pinay mom comments and see if you recognize your mother and yourself. Understand why her words affect you to help you deal with your own issues. Because the first step in reaching inner peace is a little self-analysis. Let's get started!
"You're so pretty, anak. Sayang..."
Direct hit: Your body image
Daughter dilemma: Gabby*, 32, a fashion buyer, is the daughter of a beauty-obsessed fashion retailer who used her looks as her ticket out of poverty—landing her a rich husband and a dream career. Every compliment Gabby got from her mom came with a critique about her legs, hips, and butt. When Gabby was 15, her mom said, "'Di bale, anak. Ipapa-lipo natin 'yang legs mo," even if Gabby didn't think they were big. "So I could never bring myself to wear shorts, skirts, sleeveless tops...even today." Even if she has every right to.
Mom's motive: "She's actually coming from a good place," says Randy Dellosa, MD, PsyD, resident psychiatrist for Pinoy Big Brother. "She just wants her daughter to reap the benefits of being beautiful." He adds, "Her vanity also implies an insecurity, like the fear of losing one's beauty—and losing her catch. Those are the values she's imparted to Gabby."
The downside: "Her compliments don't stick kasi may bawi," says Dellosa. "Either you become very insecure and develop a compulsion to over-exercise and starve yourself, or you feel so depressed about not meeting your mother's standards that you just let go of yourself, sometimes out of spite."
How to deal: Focus on being health-conscious instead of figure-conscious. Tattoo this on your mind: You are not your mother, and her values are not yours. "If being svelte is her priority, it doesn't have to be yours," says Dellosa. Instead of letting her words get to you, use humor or lambing to ease the tension. When she says, "Those jeans make you look fat," just smile and say, "Okay lang, Ma, my boyfriend thinks I look hot." Dellosa adds, "Instead of arguing with her, accept that she will always be like that. To expect her to change will only add to your frustration."
"No man wants damaged goods."
Direct hit: Your sexuality
Daughter dilemma: At 27, Dolly*, a real estate broker, is still a virgin—and not by choice. She's had three BFs, but she can't seem to break free from her mom's strict rules about boys and modesty. When Dolly was 14, she once wore shorts that made her mom scream, "Ang ikli niyan! Ano ka, pokpok?" Dolly was always warned she'd be kicked out of the house and disowned if she got pregnant out of wedlock.
Mom's motive: "The mom is a product of her own time (perhaps back when shorts ang suot ng pokpok), and wants to impose the values of her time on her daughter," explains Dellosa. On the flip side, he points out that the mother may have done things considered promiscuous for her generation. "For her to say that to her daughter, baka gan’un din siya noon."
The downside: You grow up thinking being attractive to men is a bad thing, says Dellosa. "You see sex as dirty and can seem aloof to men. In relationships, you tend to lack affection, making your bond about commitment rather than passion and attraction."
How to deal: "Dolly has to realize that sex per se doesn't damage people—it's sex with the wrong person that does," Dellosa clarifies. "The key is to find the right man who will go slow and focus more on love, respect, and trust. Sex is part of the relationship, but it's just icing on the cake. So when you finally have sex, it will disprove everything your mother said about it. And if you don't end up marrying the guy you lost your virginity to, don't beat yourself up over it," he says.
Direct hit: Your financial situation
Daughter dilemma: Kylie*, 26, a personal trainer, could never leave a shop without buying anything when she was a child. Her mom, a lawyer who worked her way out of poverty, bought Kylie everything she wanted and ingrained in her a love for shopping early on. Now an adult, Kylie's credit card is an extension of her mom's and it funds her lifestyle: Trips abroad, dinners out, weekend parties, and lots of clothes. "Mom tells me I should stop spending so much, but I can't take her seriously—she does the same thing!" Kylie admits. She now owes her mom P50,000. "If nobody stops me, I just buy whatever I want," says Kylie.
Mom's motive: Talk about retail therapy. "The mother exhibits poverty mentality," observes Dellosa. "She felt deprived growing up, so when she finally had the means, she bought things she didn't really need to soothe that feeling. She thinks she's saving money by buying unnecessary things on sale, a blind spot she has unconsciously passed on to her daughter," explains Dellosa, "But the mom is doing it out of need—Kylie is just doing it out of learned habit."
The downside: "Seeing her mother spend on a whim turned Kylie into a compulsive spender," says Dellosa. If Kylie doesn't put some structure into her spending ASAP, Dellosa warns she might wake up one day neck-deep in debt she can't pay.
How to deal: "Rely on your own funds and stop using your mom's credit card extension," advises Dellosa. "Maybe Kylie needs to experience hitting rock bottom with her finances to experience the consequences. Sometimes, it's only out of need that we realize things." Meanwhile, enlist the help of friends to police you into saving your money whenever you feel the urge to spend. "The key is to develop self-control," says Dellosa.
"Naku, kaya mo ba 'yan?"
Direct hit: Your self-esteem
Daughter dilemma: Sandy*, 29, a singer/writer, is the daughter of an artist with a disability. As she was growing up, Sandy witnessed how her mom declined one life-enhancing opportunity after another, always saying "'Di ko kaya 'yan." To her children, she was often quite encouraging, but she'd still say one stinging criticism. Once, when Sandy was in college, she proudly showed her mom an essay she got at an A+ for, only to be met with a curt, "It's nice, but it's obvious you're not a native English speaker." Sandy says, "It affects me that I cannot impress her enough."
Mom's motive: "The mom is plagued by self-loathing because of her own disability," says Dellosa. "She feels imperfect and doesn't like herself, so in a way, naghahanap ng karamay." It's also important to note that persons with disabilities are often looked down upon by society and have to work extra hard to prove themselves, Dellosa explains. In this case, the mom uses negative reinforcement to push her child to try harder, because it was negative reinforcement that pushed her to survive despite her disability.
The downside: "While negative reinforcement can push a child to try harder, it also damages a child's self-perception," says Dellosa. The mother is actually disabling her daughter, he adds.
How to deal: "Individuate yourself from your mom because you don't have her disability," Dellosa advises Sandy, because accepting this fact is crucial to unleashing your own potential. Take more risks, say yes to more opportunities, and leave behind that disabled mindset.
"Mainit ulo ko! Don't add to my problem!"
Direct hit: Your EQ
Daughter dilemma: Nothing instills fear in the heart of IC*, 28, a nurse, than her mother's angry voice. "She was always in a bad mood," IC recalls, "there was constant screaming, cursing, and throwing of things at home." Worse, her mom had a violent streak, often hitting her kids when they displeased her. Now, as an adult, IC often finds herself on edge, easily annoyed by the most mundane things. "'Pag feeling ko may nagdadabog sa paligid ko, I have to stop myself from punching that person!"
Mom's motive: "People with anger management problems have underlying depression," says Dellosa. "It manifests as rage." He says the mom is most likely also a victim of abuse. "Victims of abusers may become abusers themselves."
The downside: "Children who grow up in violence may become depressed and develop anxiety disorders," warns Dellosa. "Most are oversensitive and defensive. If they feel threatened in any way, they may exhibit exaggerated reactions," he adds. They also tend to repress joy at home, and find release in school or at work, or are even often the class clown or life of the party. "But they bring their mothers with them. If, let's say, someone speaks to them in a way that reminds them of their mothers when angry, they will fight back," Dellosa cautions.
How to deal: "Anger is excess energy, so find an outlet," says Dellosa. Dance, go boxing, whatever. Just don't think about the object of your loathing as you release the rage, as "anger has a tendency to compound," he explains. Translation: If you imagine throwing darts at the person's face, you might end up hurting him or her IRL the next time you see each other.
"Never mind your dad's kalokohan, basta sa akin siya uuwi."
Direct hit: Your relationships
Daughter dilemma: Kris*, 31, an advertising exec, grew up watching her mother cry in misery over her father's philandering ways: "Niloloko na siya ni Dad, wala pa rin siyang ginagawa. Martir!" At some point, her mom even hired her dad's mistress to be Kris' tutor. "I told myself I'd never be a doormat like my mom, but surprise, I became one in my relationship," she admits. "I guess I never learned how to fight back and say, 'Hindi puwedeng ganyan!'"
Mom's motive: "The mom valued keeping the family together above everything else, including her own happiness," says Dellosa. "Many women I treat who are like that also have mothers with unfaithful husbands. Some are also financially dependent on the guy. Or, the mom wants to prove to her husband that no matter what he does, she will stay. A part of her believes and hopes he will change," Dellosa explains.
The downside: "You see your mom's relationship as a template and end up like her. You get attracted to men like your dad because that's what you saw growing up, you get addicted to the adrenaline high of the drama at home. Or you become her total opposite and dominate your relationship, making your partner 'under' in the process."
How to deal: "Make a list of the pros and cons of staying in that relationship. Ask yourself: What are you trying to prove? Whatever it is, your partner will not change. Extinguish all hope na magbabago pa," says Dellosa. "And when you stop being a doormat, accept that the relationship will end."
"I'll take care of it, anak. Ako bahala!"
Direct hit: Your maturity
Daughter dilemma: It's been four years since Julie*, 27, a call center agent, graduated from college, but her mom still takes care of her needs. Julie grew up knowing she'd always have a safety net, that her mom would have her back no matter what. "She never puts me down, and always reminds me I'm too good, too well-educated to be in any job," she says. "Nothing is ever my fault in her eyes." Every time Julie expresses interest in some new workshop, class, or hobby, all she has to do is tell her mom and her mom will get it. "I deserve everything I want. Kaya naman ibigay ni Mom, so makukuha ko. Because I want it, I can have it. Ganun ako pinalaki," she says.
Mom's motive: "Kung deprived ka growing up, you'll do everything so your children won't experience hardship," says Dellosa. He says there's a huge possibility the mom experienced being belittled in her youth, which is why she showers her child with excessive praise and gifts.
The downside: "It causes a sense of entitlement. The kid starts believing she's special, that ordinary rules don't apply to her, causing friction in school or at work," Dellosa explains. "Her world revolves around satisfying herself even if it may hurt others." He cautions, "In extreme cases, she might develop narcisstic personality disorder, where one believes he or she is of primary importance in everybody's life."
How to deal: "You need to develop empathy for and sensitivity to others. Get out of yourself," Dellosa advises. "Gather feedback about how others feel about you and what you do that affects them negatively, then do your best to change accordingly," he adds. It's also a good idea to live someplace where you have no choice but to fend for yourself, Dellosa says.
This story originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, May 2014.
* Minor edits have been made by Cosmo.ph editors