Quite often (say, 3-5 times a week), my mother will ask me something, I will answer, and she will question whether my answer is legitimate or whether I'm just answering what I think she thinks she wants.

I get where she's coming from, but with it happening so frequently it can get annoying, and I'd prefer she simply take my words at face value.

For example:

Me: "What are we doing for supper?"

Dad: "Mom and I are getting Ethiopian. You have leftovers."

Mom: "We're not going takeout for just you and me!"

Me: "Mom, what would you get if it were just you?"

Mom: "Well, Ethiopian. Or pizza I guess."

Me: "Okay, does the Ethiopian place have anything edible?" (It's well-known that I generally dislike Ethiopian food).

Dad: "Yeah, they have (rice dish)."

Mom: "You don't have to get Ethiopian, we can get something separate for you."

Me: "No, I'm fine with Ethiopian."

Mom: "Don't get it just on my account."

Me: "No, really, it's fine."

Mom: "It's fine, we can also get something you want."

Me: "I already have leftovers, so it makes sense to try something new, so that if I don't like it I still have other food as a safety net."

Mom: "Oh, okay."

Ideally I'd like to not have to go into the full explanation each time and to have my mother just accept my initial "it's fine" at face value. I'm worried that whatever I say to broach the topic, though, will just be seen as a veiled attempt to act out of her best interests and therefore disregarded.

So, just as the title says, how can I stop my mother from questioning my decisions out of selflessness?

  • 2
    Just to understand that correctly, I am not sure if I did (perhaps other people too). So Dad wants Ethiopian food for him and Mom, you can eat leftovers because he knows you don't like it. Mom doesn't want to get food for only dad and her (why not? - I think that is where I struggle to get it right). Then she changes her mind and indeed does want to get Ethiopian food for two and something else for you. Now your question is about the part where you say you are fine with Ethiopian and she doesn't believe it? I'm asking to understand what exactly initiated this situation from her view.
    – puck
    May 1, 2021 at 8:41
  • 1
    In the end, when you “get Ethiopian”, is it actually “fine”, or does it often happen you give off a vibe of not being happy with the outcome? Not saying it is the case, but your mom’s reaction COULD be from experience over the years that when you say or do what she wants, in the end you don’t seem completely content afterwards.
    – AsheraH
    May 1, 2021 at 16:13
  • 1
    @puck "why not" - a general sense of fairness that if they get takeout, so should I. I don't really care, but she does and it's easier to not argue the point. "Then she changes her mind and indeed does want to get Ethiopian food for two and something else for you" - No, I asked her if it were only her eating, what she would want, and she said Ethiopian.
    – Sarov
    May 2, 2021 at 0:39
  • @AsheraH It was actually fine, yes. Though it wouldn't be the first time someone had mistaken my indifference for discontent. Not sure why, I've just got a resting 'discontent face' I guess.
    – Sarov
    May 2, 2021 at 0:40
  • @puck OP doesn't want Ethiopian food, and says they don't want it. Mom hears what is said but strongly believes that OP actually wants Ethiopian food but just says they don't want it, maybe to save the parents money, or for any other reason. The problem is: How to tell Mom you don't want Ethiopian food in a way that she believes it?
    – gnasher729
    May 21, 2021 at 9:14

3 Answers 3


I used to do the same thing as you and try to please everyone. Now I say what I want. I have a friend that always tries to please everybody, and it's actually quite annoying when you don't know what someone wants. Especially if the situation doesn't work out for anybody, because everybody is trying to please everybody and doesn't know how because nobody says what they actually want.

Your mom questions your decision because she isn't sure what you actually want. So in the food case, it's best to tell her what you want. So if you prefer pizza or leftovers tell her that. If you don't want to be difficult, tell her that. Like 'If you want to include me in delivery, I would prefer pizza. But I'm also good with having left-overs, they seem pretty good actually. We can also do pizza a next time and now you just do Ethiopian food? I know you guys haven't had that in a while and I don't mind having left-overs today.'

The result is the same but you achieved a few things. Your mom knows your entire thought process and knows what you would want to eat with delivery. If she still prefers to do delivery altogether, she knows what you want. You suggested a compromise, instead of deciding yourself to compromise without telling anybody about it. You also put something nice in the future as part of the compromise; like you guys can pick the delivery today and I can pick it next time. Next time you can always suggest a few things you feel like and decide together what works for everyone if you don't want to decide alone.

If you actually communicate what you want, your mom will stop questioning you. You can still compromise, but it's nicer when you communicate these compromises than when you make them without communicating. If you don't communicate, two things can happens. People like your mom will pick up on it and question you or feel like they can't fulfill your needs/wants, because you don't tell them to them. They will feel bad because of that. There will be people that don't notice and you will keep compromising what you want and they think you are happy, while you are not. In the end you will resent these people for using you etc. when you actually never communicated these things with them.

If you are really indifferent, you can still communicate more. 'I don't need delivery, but if you really want to include me I would prefer pizza. But I would like the left-overs in the fridge just as much.'

In a way you ignore her wish to include you, because you are indifferent to the food. I get that the wish to include you can feel silly to you, but for your mom it's probably important. I don't know if this is always the case, but that's what this interaction sounds like to me.

If communicating more doesn't help (like after trying for a month or so), you need to tell her in a conversation that you will tell her your wishes and she doesn't have to question them out of you. You need to talk about a solution that works for both of you.

  • 1
    What if I'm generally and genuinely indifferent, though?
    – Sarov
    May 4, 2021 at 13:56
  • Thanks for your question, I edited it in hope this answered it. Btw thank you for editing the mistake out of it. English is not my first language. Hope I didn't add more.
    – josephine
    May 4, 2021 at 14:34
  • I feel there may be a misunderstanding here. The OP states that 1) they are NOT trying to please everyone and 2) even when they are doing something to please, they would prefer their motives not to be questioned.
    – yo9cyb
    May 19, 2021 at 8:26
  • @yo9cyb For your second point, in my opinion it's better to always tell your motives, so that they are not questioned. I feel like when you don't give your motives, you can end up both being dissatisfied. For you first point, it seems to be a pattern between them and their mom, so I assumed it came from somewhere. And I feel like the phrase 'my decisions out of selflessness', still sounds like they are people pleasing in some form or another. I feel like the explanation was mixed on this point, so that's why I addressed that.
    – josephine
    May 20, 2021 at 8:07
  • @josephine thanks for your explanation! I agree that explaining your motives is good in general. But what if this is a repetitive situation, and everyone has alerady explained their motives 100 times before. E.g. OP has explained that they want to avoid prolongued discussion of motives for insignificant decisions. And yes, it seems to me too, that the patters is one of arguing about who's doing the pleasing and who is the pleased.
    – yo9cyb
    May 21, 2021 at 17:17

I have been in this same position too, with "Motherly" persons, some of whom I loved very much. And I too was getting annoyed for exactly the same reasons: having to explain myself for every little thing.

Then I ended up seeing that the "Mother" was aware that she was annyoing me, but just could not stop herself. So it was up to me to respond in a way that did not lead to questioning, but was also not hurting her. What I would do would be to be extra sweet but firm on not pursuing the topic down the slope I want to avoid. A simple thing is to shift from verbal (giving your usual reply) to non-verbal. For example:

Mom: "are you sure you want Ethiopian? you don't like it" Me: Normally I would say "I don't mind". But I stop myself, and instead I take her arm, look in her eyes, smile (genuinely!). "I'll be fine, Mom". Make a show of loving her (which you do) and being warm and not rebuking in any way.

OR Mom:"are you sure you want Ethiopian? you don't like it" Me: Smiling, taking her arm, handing her her purse/coat/hat/car keys "come, let's go enjoy ourselves!"

We both felt good after this, because it was affirmed that: (1) I know Mom is doing this because she cares (2) I cherish her love and am loving her back (3) compared to 1 and 2, Ethiopian food is too insignificant to deserve any fuss. Hope this helps you too.


It might have been more polite for your Dad to ask you before proposing leftovers, but when you say something is fine after previously dismissing it as inedible, people are going to figure you are being disingenuous. If you want people to believe you are sincere, don't contradict yourself within two sentences. People won't believe you are indifferent to something 15 seconds after you label that choice unacceptable.

If you wanted to correct the misstep of calling the Ethiopian food inedible, the way to have done that would be to affirmatively choose what Ethiopian dish you did want; no one wants to proceed until you've at least put on a show of disavowing your previous assessment and have in fact judged something on the menu as edible...."Oh yeah, the rice thing, I'd have that".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.