10 Steps to Taking Your Power Back From a Toxic Mother-in-Law
Do you have a toxic mother-in-law?
The term refers to a particularly thorny in-law that schemes, manipulates, and verbally assaults to maintain control and a sense of self-importance.
If so, you might say something like this from time to time:
She makes me feel...
She forces me to...
I have no choice.
She did this to me.
There's nothing I can do.
I just want to give up.
Don't give up just yet. Here are 10 steps to taking your power back from a toxic mother-in-law.
1. Adjust your focus
You give power to what you focus on.
So stop dumping all your precious energy into that toxic cesspool and direct it towards your creative pursuits, professional achievements or anything else that would make you feel good.
Quite simply, the more you focus on your mother-in-law and all the negative things she does, the less space you have in your life for the positive.
2. Build your confidence
What does confidence have to do with it?
I'm glad you asked. A strong confident woman doesn’t need anyone's approval. She knows who she is and if you don’t like it, your loss.
Your mother-in-law has power over you because she exploits your insecurities. Plain and simple. It’s the insecurity that causes an emotional reaction, a.k.a. “hurt feelings.” So taking your power back means WORKING ON YOUR CONFIDENCE!
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.— Eleanor Roosevelt
3. Stop complaining
Complaining is a two-edged sword. It can be useful for venting your frustrations and getting sympathy. But at the end of the day, it's just another way to squander your energy and give your power away.
When you complain, you feel both innocent and victimized. And when you assume a position of a victim, you start believing that you have no power in the matter. You also fail to take any responsibility for yourself and your feelings.
4. Accept responsibility for how you feel
Even if you think that you’re right to feel a certain way, recognize that on some level you choose to feel this way.
That decision happens very quickly, on a subconscious level, and it's a habitual response. So making a different choice can be life-changing and yes, super empowering. To do that you need to…
5. Identify your triggers
When you identify your triggers, they become much more manageable.
So what triggers you? Perhaps, it’s when your mother-in-law is critical of you. Or when she’s ignoring you. Or when she’s trying to control you. Then ask yourself: why you might be triggered by that? What past experience or childhood trauma is the blueprint of that trigger?
Be as honest as possible, and with time you will be able to “disarm” your triggers.
6. Watch your language
Words matter. What you choose to say and how you choose to say it shapes your reality on a powerful subconscious level. So stop using disempowering language!
Saying things like “She makes me feel bad about myself” or “She forces me to be rude to her” absolves you of any blame, but it also strips away your power.
And while you’re at it, get rid of those “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure,” “I will try.” Use clear direct language that communicates confidence and intent.
7. Let bygones be bygones
Holding a grudge is a sure way to continue feeding the victim consciousness. It adds zero value to your life while robbing you of peace and joy!
So here’s how to let go of past hurts: express your feelings FULLY. Don’t hold back – talk, cry, write in a journal, beat up a pillow – whatever works for you. Let it OUT. Then let it GO, once and for all.
8. Establish boundaries
When establishing your boundaries it's important to pick your battles.
Figure out what you can live with, and what you can't and won't accept ever. Then let her know, firmly and respectfully, that it bothers you and you'd like her to do [this] instead.
For example: "We love when you visit but we'd really appreciate if you let us know you wanted to come over, just to make sure we're home and ready for company."
9. Find your power
This is your journey. So find out what empowers you.
If it's saying nothing and walking away, do it.
If it's speaking your truth, no matter how it lands, do it.
If it's creating physical distance and literally removing yourself from a toxic environment, do it.
If it's writing about it, do it. That's what I'm doing, and it's been tremendously empowering.
10. Make a clear commitment to change
Giving our power away is something we do subconsciously. We do it when we give someone (or something) control over our lives, our choices, our mood, our confidence.
But we have to consciously choose to take it back.
It’s always scary to make a change, and part of us resists it. But without that courage we’d spend all our lives in misery and despair. So no hesitation. No ifs or buts. Just say it out loud: I’m taking my power back, and I am my not giving it away to my mother-in-law or anyone else ever again.
What happens when you take your power back?
What happens when you get off the merry-go-round and reclaim your power?
Your life becomes yours to enjoy again. The flowers bloom with dewy sweetness. The birds sing the songs of love. Even that creepy neighbor who steals your Amazon packages looks dear and only slightly psychotic.
Yes, it will rattle her cage.
Yes, she will try harder.
You just smile and nod. Smile and nod.
And FYI, I am not saying that you don't have the right to feel the way you feel. But it's possible that at some point you became so immersed in the drama, you're no longer thinking clearly.
If you keep obsessing about your MIL even when she's not around, simmering with rage or re-living her hurtful words over and over, she's got you right where she wants you. Powerless.
You need to take a giant step back. Breathe. Do something you enjoy - even something small like splurging on a mani-pedi or going to a movie.
Your MIL is not going anywhere, so you might as well find a way to – no, not get along with her, that’s impossible – find balance and strength even in the midst of the chaos toxic people create.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2018 Lana Adler