4 Ways Jennette McCurdy and Her Mom’s Relationship Was Unhealthy

TRIGGER WARNING: Our video and Jennette McCurdy’s book, I’m Glad My Mom Died, discuss topics such as eating disorders, sexual assault, sexual harassment, abuse, and mentions of unaliving oneself. If these topics are triggering to you, please feel free to skip this video. 

This video is based on the thoughts, feelings, words, and experiences of Jennette McCurdy that were told in her book, I’m Glad My Mom Died. This video doesn’t reflect the thoughts and opinions of Psych2Go or the writer. 

If you’ve been on social media recently, you may have heard of Jennette McCurdy’s book I’m Glad My Mom Died. Hearing that title, most everyone had a different reaction. Some were shocked that she would say something like that, never mind title her book that. Some were intrigued to see what her Mom could have done that was soooo terrible. Spoiler Alert: Jennette’s mom was very abusive and controlling. So much so that Jennette was only able to feel truly free after her passing. A bit morbid, but if you’re the child of a toxic parent, you may relate. What made Jennette and her mom’s relationship so toxic, and what can you look out for in your own relationships? Let’s take a look at 4 ways Jennette McCurdy and her mom’s relationship was unhealthy.

This isn’t sponsored, but don’t forget to purchase the full book, I’m Glad My Mom Died, to support Jennette and hear her full story.

#1: No Autonomy

When you’re a child, your parents are supposed to prepare you so you’re ready to leave the proverbial nest and have everything you need to be independent. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for Jennette. Her Mom seemed much more interested in pulling Jennette’s strings and dictating than teaching. In her book, McCurdy stated that her mother bathed her until she was 16 years old (and possibly older). Her mother invaded her privacy by conducting “physical exams” similar to a physician or gynecologist, too.

Humans develop in stages. According to Erik Erikson, a psychology student of Sigmund Freud, the adolescent phase of development occurs between the ages of 12 and 18. This is the phase where we begin finding ourselves, our independence, and making our own decisions. In theory, Jennette was in the age group of an individual who should be able to care for themselves on their own, say when they need medical attention, and state their own thoughts and opinions. But, because Jennette’s Mom never gave her that breathing room, Jennette never developed those skills. Being in the adolescence stage (or later stages) and not being allowed to be independent can be a sign of an unhealthy parent relationship, just like Jeannette and her mom’s.

#2: Action = Love

Whenever you’re meeting new people, one of the things we hear often is “Just be yourself. They’ll love ya!” Why? Because people are meant to love you for you, not for the things you do. Jennette’s Mom didn’t subscribe to this way of thinking. McCurdy begins her book with a story about her, her mom, and her siblings watching family movies. Not home movies of birthday parties or weddings, no. Home videos of when Jennette’s Mom had cancer. Mom would narrate everyone’s reactions and coping mechanisms, and she would treat them based on that. For example, in the video, one of Jennette’s brothers kept leaving the room to collect himself. Mother praised him as if him being distraught over his mother’s diagnosis made him a better person or child. This was very different from Jennette. She was scream-singing “Jingle Bells”. Mother chastised Jennette for this in present-day saying how stupid she must be not to be able to read the room and see no one is happy. Jennette was two years old in the video, but after hearing these comments at eight, Jennette internalized them for life.

Jennette’s mother equated action with love. If you do for me, listen to me, don’t question me, I love you. According to PhD and author Margalis Fjelstad, this thought process is consistent with individuals diagnosed with Narcissistic and/or Borderline Personality Disorders. If a loved one isn’t doing enough or the right thing, the diagnosed individual may react by using this harshness as a coping mechanism to create distance and protect themselves from being hurt. Jennette’s Mom used this to push away feelings that her daughter could have been happy that she was sick (which absolutely wasn’t true). However, it also planted the seed in Jennette’s mind that she’s not intelligent and that she needs Mom’s approval. Thinking that she needs to do things for approval and love is another result of the unhealthy relationship between Jennette and her mother.

#3: Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

When something not-so-fantastic happens, coping mechanisms help us to either work through it or mask it. Any Naruto fans here? Remember when Asuma died in battle, and Shikamaru just buried it and kept busy so he didn’t have to think about it? I know, I know! I didn’t wanna bring it up either! But this is an example of an unhealthy coping mechanism. Teaching positive coping strategies is a part of the caregiver role and part of that “helping you leave the nest” thing we mentioned earlier. From the stories Jennette tells us, it seems like Jennette’s mom was more interested in teaching how to keep up looks than healthy coping strategies.

In her book, McCurdy was very open about her mother introducing her to food restriction. When she was able to follow the diet Mom laid down for her, Jennette felt like she was in control of herself, her looks, and her life overall. As she got older, became more famous, and had more opportunities, Jennette noticed that she was in more situations that included food. It was stressful for Jennette to not follow Mom’s orders, but it was also stressful when people noticed her not eating. McCurdy explains that this is when she began purging. This became a coping mechanism, a way of holding on to control, a way of making everything okay. Instead of working through feelings, thoughts, and situations. As time went on, Jennette developed other unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking and, like Shikamaru, burying her opinions. These negative coping mechanisms are one more way Jennette and her mom’s relationship wasn’t a healthy one.

#4: Brainwashing

Did you know brainwashing is actually real? Now, we’re not talking about those little pen-thingies from Men in Black. In his book, Traumatic Narcissism, Daniel Shaw defines “traumatic narcissism” as a form of trauma triggered by being denied a right to individuality and boundaries are broken. If successful, the narcissist can “brainwash” their target to become an extension of them and always seek their approval. Kind of like in South Park when Cartman fused with the Trapper Keeper.

Jennette’s Mom seemed to have a similar narcissistic, brainwashing hold on her daughter. There were multiple times in the book where Jennette recalled herself thinking “I am nothing without Mom.” Even though Jennette was talented, intelligent, funny, and successful all on her own, it never was enough without Mom’s approval. This lack of self-worth even bled over into Jennette’s relationship with her employers. When working with directors, Jennette would stifle any concerns, like saying a line that made her uncomfortable, and do it anyway in hopes of gaining their approval to boost her self-worth. In any healthy relationship, you should be building that person up and giving healthy, constructive criticism when needed. This is just another way Jennette’s relationship with her Mom wasn’t a healthy one.

These were just SOME of the reasons why Jennette and her mom didn’t have a healthy parent-child relationship. Are there signs of a toxic relationship you’ve seen that we didn’t mention? Drop a 📖 in the comments and let us know! If you want to know more about their relationship, please purchase I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy. As always, keep an eye on Psi for more Psych2Go content. Until next time!

All references used in and to create this video are listed below:

Allen, B., & Waterman, H. (n.d.). Stages of adolescence. HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/Pages/Stages-of-Adolescence.aspx

Bota, P. G., Miropolskiy, E., & Nguyen, V. (2017). Stop caretaking the borderline or narcissist: How to end the drama and get on with life. Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get on with Life, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.4081/mi.2017.6985

Josephs, L. (2015). Review of traumatic narcissism: Relational systems of subjugation. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 32(1), 221–227. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038240

McCurdy, J. (2022). I’m Glad My Mom Died. Simon & Schuster.

Orenstein, G. A., & Lewis, L. (2021, November 14). Eriksons stages of psychosocial development – NCBI bookshelf. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556096/

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