Callie Byrnes

6 Heartbreaking Lessons From Jennette McCurdy’s New Book ‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’

Actress Jennette McCurdy’s life has been full of speculation. Her story (or at least, what is assumed to be) has been told in tabloids, on gossip sites, and on social media—but rarely actually told by herself. That is, until she published her new memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, which chronicles her life as a reluctant actress, her long history of mental illness and eating disorders, and, perhaps most poignantly, the abuse she suffered at the hands of both Hollywood and her own mother.

“Writing is the opposite of performing to me,” McCurdy wrote in her book. “Performing feels inherently fake. Writing feels inherently real.”

And McCurdy isn’t afraid to get real—here are some of the most heartbreaking lessons you can take away from her new book.

You’re not obligated to love the people who hurt you.

There’s a prevalent idea that family is sacred and should be prioritized over all else. But what if your family is the one who’s hurting you? Are we supposed to continue to prioritize them over our own well-being?

The simple answer is this: No, we aren’t. McCurdy spent most of her life loyal to a family who neglected her, abused her, and manipulated her. She lived her life in pursuit of pleasing her narcissistic mother, something she struggled with even after her mom died. But it was this loyalty that led her down some of the darkest pathways in her life—her eating disorder, her worsening mental health, her dysfunctional relationships. 

The truth is, it doesn’t matter if someone is family—if they hurt you, that’s enough of a reason to set boundaries or even walk away for good. We shouldn’t feel obligated to put aside our very valid emotions simply because the world tells us we have to honor other people’s feelings first.

And you can absolutely love someone and know they are no good for you (and it’s imperative you do what’s best for you).

Here’s the thing about so many of McCurdy’s unhealthy and even abusive relationships in her life: There was oftentimes love there. Her mother was a narcissist who mentally, emotionally, and physically abused her, and yet McCurdy spent most of her life loving her anyway. Similarly, she spent years in a codependent relationship with a man who she certainly loved but who also made her own healing journey impossible.

There was a clear difference between these two relationships, though: Even though McCurdy’s mother was harming her, she was never able to set the boundaries she needed to protect herself. She allowed her love for her mother to eclipse what was necessary for healthy growth, in part because she didn’t realize it was happening but also because she feared losing that (conditional) love. On the other hand, when she realized her relationship with her boyfriend was stopping her from giving herself what she needed to heal, she was finally able to do what she knew was best for her and cut off the relationship for good. It didn’t mean she didn’t love her boyfriend any less, it simply meant she loved herself enough to do what she knew was necessary.

When you live your life for other people, you completely lose sight of who you truly are.

McCurdy’s codependent relationship with her narcissistic mother influenced her life in many ways and completely changed the trajectory of her life. She didn’t go into acting because she wanted to, but because her mother wanted her to; in fact, nearly every decision she made, both big and small, was for her mother’s benefit, not her own. Ultimately, she ended up miserable with where she was in life, because in a sense, her life had become not her own but her mother’s.

Here’s the thing: When we live our life for other people (or to impress other people, or to appease them), we lose sight of who we truly are because we’re no longer making choices based off what we want or what we think is best. But at the end of the day, none of those people we’re making our choices for have to deal with the consequences of that—we do. That’s why it’s important to know that you’re shaping your life to make it what you want it, not what anyone else thinks it should be.

Sometimes we grow apart from the people who were once vital to our growth—but that doesn’t make their role any less important in our lives.

In her book, McCurdy writes about her close friendship with iCarly co-star Miranda Cosgrove, who became one of the first people McCurdy opened up to about her eating disorder. However, she admits that over time, the two lost touch with one another.

“We’ve drifted apart,” McCurdy wrote of their relationship. “It’s a sad reality for me in my late twenties. At the beginning of the decade, the people I was close to seemed like friends for life, people I could never imagine not seeing every day. But life happens. Love happens. Loss happens. Change and growth happen at different paces for different people, and sometimes the paces just don’t line up.”

The truth is, you can love someone wholeheartedly for a period of your life, then later drift away from them. It doesn’t make their place in your life less important; it doesn’t mean you didn’t love them enough in the times that you did. Sometimes it doesn’t even mean you don’t love them anymore—it just means you recognize that things have changed, that you have changed. And that’s okay.

There will always be someone who tries to misrepresent your story—so it’s important to use your own voice.

McCurdy revealed that when Sam & Cat got canceled, the prevalent rumor in the media was that it was because she was upset that she wasn’t getting paid the same amount as her co-star Ariana Grande. This was news to McCurdy, who claimed she had been told the actual reason the show was being canceled was due to sexual harrassment allegations during production. Instead of clearing up these claims, though, McCurdy allowed herself to be the scapegoat because she didn’t want to bring much more attention to the drama than necessary.

But here’s the thing: When you allow people to misrepresent you, you’re essentially letting them take away your voice and your agency over your story. You’re letting them shape the public opinion of you to the point where, when they look at you, they’re seeing someone who doesn’t actually exist. By writing this book, McCurdy was finally able to take back who she was, fully and completely.

There will always be people who romanticize the dead—but the truth is, we absolutely shouldn’t.

As the popular saying goes, “Don’t speak ill of the dead.” We’re often discouraged from criticizing those who have passed away, but why? Why is it somehow more important to speak nicely about people when they’re dead than when they’re actually alive (when, arguably, speaking nicely about them is possibly more important)? And why are we supposed to whitewash history for someone who is no longer even here?

Look, I get it: It’s hard for those who are grieving the loss of someone to handle any more negativity than necessary. But the truth is, by romanticizing the dead and refusing to be honest about who they were in life (especially about the bad stuff), we’re ultimately silencing their victims and brushing over the harm they may have caused, even if the consequences of their actions are still prevalent in the present. In that sense, it is absolutely necessary to be honest about who someone was, even if it’s ugly and messy and heartbreaking. Especially so.