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I am a 19 year old girl, and my name is [name withheld]. Lately there's been this thing I kind of wanted to talk to someone about, but I never knew who to talk to about it. So I've just never talked to anyone about it before, but I think it might help if I did.
Basically it's about me, but it has to do with my mom too. She is the kind of person who worries a lot about pretty much everything, and gets stressed out really easily. A lot of the time she has trouble seeing the positive in things, so she only sees the negative sides. It's pretty tough on her, because since she focuses on so many negative things, it makes her stressed out and depressed. Also, my mom and I have never really gotten along. I've never felt like we have anything in common.
I've grown up with her, but when I was little, I thought everything was normal, because she is my mom, and when you're a kid you don't really question your parents' behaviour. But the past year I have. and I talked to my brother about it and he said he feels the same way, and that he thinks she has got a manic depression, and that it's always been that way and always will.
And suddenly it's like this flow of emotions is just coming to the surface, and I don't know what they are and what to do with them. I first started feeling anger towards my mom, and I had trouble even talking to her or looking her in the eye. I had no idea WHY I was feeling so angry, and I felt like a really terrible person for being so mean to her. And then I realized I've always felt that way towards her, just not this much. But because I couldn't find a reason for being so angry with her, I just concluded that I WAS a terrible and cruel person. And I realized I've felt that way a long time too, just not consciously. And the more I thought about these things, the more depressed I got.
So it was like all these feelings I'd always had inside of me, but suddenly they were all coming out to say hello, and I just couldn't figure them out. And then there was this excercise in a youth group I visited a couple weeks ago. It was an excercise to become aware of and build up confidence and self esteem. And so at the end of it, everyone was supposed to say out loud, I am a beautiful person, and I deserve to be loved. And I just couldn't say it. I tried but I couldn't. I just didn't believe it.
So that just got me thinking about myself, and my life, and I was so confused I felt like I didn't even know who I was anymore. I didn't like the way my mom was, but I coudn't figure out why. And I didn't like myself, but I couldn't really figure out that one either.
But then I saw some of the things about my mom that I didn't like, how she was always so insecure about herself, and how she saw the negative sides before she saw anything positive, and how she worried constantly about things that didn't matter. And I realized I was terrified of becoming like her, terrified of being so insecure and scared and depressed. Any sign I saw in myself of something resembling her, made me depressed, too. And then those things were the only things I saw in myself, and if I didn't like those things about my mom, how could I like anything about me?
Even though I figured out what all those feelings meant, I still don't know how to make them go away. And I feel like it's messing up every relationship I have. The only thing I think about is getting other people to like me and see something in me that is different from what my mom is like. I always think that people don't mean what they say about me. If someone says something nice about me, I think that it can't possibly be true, they must be pretending. If someone is in a bad mood, my first thought is that I did something wrong. If my boyfriend doesn't reply to my text, I'm suddenly scared he's going to break up with me. I know it's pathetic and ridiculous, but I just can't make those thoughts go away. And it makes me worry constantly, just like my mom. All I want to be is a cheerful, happy and confident person, and that's what I want other people to see too. But where does that confidence come from?
I realize this issue probably isn't as serious as what many people with psychiatric problems deal with. But I feel like I can't be happy, no matter how hard I try, and how much I want to be. I am hoping getting someone elses input can help.
[name withheld]
Bergen, Norway

Hello, [name withheld]-

I think this issue is quite serious, and that you deserve an answer from me.

As I have written elsewhere, my studies of human nature and the development of human personality have convinced me that no one chooses to be the way he or she is. Each personality simply arises automatically due to a combination of genetics and outside influences, none of which is chosen, but simply come upon us like fate. A human being is conceived by a certain set of parents, in a certain time and place, within a certain economic, social, and political milieu. At birth, the adult-to-be already has a certain body type, certain mental and physical attributes, and, as recent genetic mapping has demonstrated, already the beginnings of a certain personality. This all develops in the womb, so obviously none of this is chosen by anybody.

If you understand this, then you will understand that your mother is not responsible for her negativity, her insecurity, or any of the other attributes which trouble you so much. Nevertheless, it is easy to understand your anger towards her. Because she has been one of the most important influences in your life, you now feel that you are stuck with the things you learned from her—mostly unconsciously and by unintentional imitation—and you resent her for having been the way she is. If she had been a person with a positive and winning personality, so this thinking goes, then your personality probably would be more positive, more confident, and less fearful than it is, but that is only hypothetical. Each of us gets only one personality (except, I suppose, in the case of multiple personality disorder), and the one you have is the one you have, completely unchosen by you, just as your mother's personality was completely unchosen by her.

As I say, [name withheld], I understand your discomfort with your present tendencies, as well as your worries that you will turn out like your mom, but resentment and fear are not the best way to deal with this situation. As you already have become conscious of your mother's problems, if you will just believe what I have told you about how the personality, being a combination of genetics and upbringing, is unchosen and comes upon us like fate, you will be able to begin dropping your resentment, and begin understanding that you are not your mom, but a different person with your whole life ahead of you. If you can get that far, you will begin to understand that each of us can deal with whatever kind of personality we may have inherited in positive ways such as forming friendships, engaging in therapy, learning new things, and involving ourselves in the world to the best of our abilities. The fears you have now can lessen and change into self-understanding and self-acceptance if you give yourself a chance to grow. Some conversations with a psychologist could be of great help in this work, particularly in forgiving your mother for being who she is, and in understanding that although you have been influenced by her, you are not her. That understanding will be the beginning of gaining the confidence you desire.

Be well.

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