As stepmoms, often we become focused on being liked by others in our lives. We want to be liked by our stepchildren, whether we realize it or not. We want to be liked by the other moms on our stepchild’s soccer team. We may even want to be liked by the biological mom. (Although we would never actually admit this!)
Along with being liked, comes the praise that we hope to receive from being liked. “You are the best stepmom ever!” we imagine our stepkids exclaiming when we plan a special activity for them. We want to receive praise from our husbands for the incredible job that we’re doing with their children. “Thanks for helping Emma with that school project. It turned out really well!”
In general, many women are relationship-oriented by nature, so we want to connect and form relationships with people around us, whether those people are our coworkers, neighbors, or our new family. We want to form strong bonds not only with our partner but also with our stepchildren.
The reality is that just by the nature of our stepmom role, we probably won’t receive a lot of praise and we’re not even necessarily set up to be liked by our stepchildren. With stepfamily dynamics at play along with strong loyalty binds, our stepchildren are programmed to dislike us. It’s not that they dislike us personally; it’s more that they wouldn’t like any woman who became their stepmom.
However, it’s really hard not to take it personally, and that’s when not being liked or not receiving praise can affect our self-esteem.
Oh, and don’t feel like you’re needy praise-seeking individuals, stepmoms. This doesn’t just apply to stepmoms. Anyone who feels like they are constantly trying to be liked or anyone who is hoping for some praise feels the same way.
Breaking the unhealthy cycle of seeking praise from others
So, you might be wondering how to break this unhealthy cycle of seeking praise from others. Author Tara Mohr offers a powerful strategy in her book Playing Big. She calls this “unhooking from praise and criticism.” Mohr offers several principles to help you unhook from praise and criticism, but the one that can really help you is to ask yourself:
What is more important to me than being praised or liked in this situation?
The answer to this question should remind you of where your true priorities lie. Let’s go back to our earlier example of planning a special activity for our stepkids. What is more important to me than being praised or liked in this situation? For me, since my stepdaughter is an only child, I want her to learn how to get along with children her age and make friends, so I try to plan activities like play dates or events where she’ll interact with other children. That’s where my true priorities lie, and that’s where I’ll focus my attention.
So, let’s say you help your stepchild with a big project at school. Why? Was it because you wanted to receive praise? I mean, it’s always nice to receive recognition, but I’m guessing most of you would say that you helped because you want your stepchild to learn as much as possible and be successful in school.
Asking yourself this question can help you unhook from praise and criticism and refocus your attention on your true priorities. It will take some practice, but you can do it! And, if you’d like to read about Tara Mohr’s other principles for unhooking from praise and criticism, check out her book here.