I was born in a culture in which the women of the lower echelons (of which I am very familiar) do not participate in “mushy shows of affection” like hugging their children, telling them they love them or showing any sort of emotion that could be mistakenly taken to mean affection. In 1982, I come along and I am he opposite of that, I am needy, emotional, constantly crying, affectionate, mushy, lovey-dovey and, needless to say, out-of-place. My parents did not understand me and I did not understand them. I grew up feeling unloved and uncared for and until recently I hadn’t quite grasped the problem. It was venus and Mars, only this was a parent-child relationship. In hopes of finding my lovey-dovey, mushy love, I went looking in many places–teachers who showed me any attention, older adults who showed any concern, older partners, really, anyone. Throughout my life, I hated myself. I felt like no-one loved or cared about me, especially the people who should care the most and I was alone and lonely. I wondered why God made me and knew I wouldn’t make it past 25 because I just couldn’t.
I pretended my way through high school. I had great grades because I had nothing else to do but get good grades. I devoured books, ironically I spent my time reading mostly fiction (which I rarely if ever read) because I was trying to live my life through an osmosis of sorts. I was always the happy-go-lucky girl on the surface; I was always smiling, laughing, having fun. I was the social butterfly of any group, the one who made friends quicker than anyone else. I was vivacious and vibrant all the time. And was it ever tiring. Truth? I had, maybe, one friend. I am an introvert by nature, I love the quiet of my own mind, I love small crowds and I tired quickly of smiling and laughing all the time but did not like the questions I got when I “came down.” So I played and lost my real self. I was who people wanted me to be and had no idea who I was. And it was tiresome.
I loved and poured myself into people who didn’t see me or understand anything about me, I accepted things I should not have because I did not know I was valued and valuable. I knew I could not have deserved more than I was getting and no-one could have forced me to believe different even though i said the words, “I deserve better”, “I don’t deserve this.” I stayed in relationships for too long that did nothing but erode the little bit of progress I tried to make fighting my own battles and actually believed I was getting better, loving myself by teaching myself how to take more and heavier emotional blows. I was self destructing and living an illusion.
I met my friend, Ann*, my first year in college at a small private liberal arts college in the middle of the snow belt. Ann was a woman who took no bull. She was tall and visibly strong; she strutted when she walked. She was sweet and genteel. She was funny and interesting, all the things I admired and would have killed for and none of which I was or knew how to be. She noticed I walked with my head hung even before I did; she was the one who pointed it out to me. Up until that point, I did not know if my head was to the left, right or backwards. All I knew was that I was living day-to-day. Ann took me on as her project, I now believe. She nurtured my spirit and helped me build an important layer of self-esteem that got me to walk with my head held high by graduation. How did she do it? Diligence and consistency.
- She listened to me and empathized with my feelings.
- She developed a vision of the person I was and would become.
- She invested financially and emotionally in me and was constant even when I lost complete sight of the goal.
- She planted empowering words and images in my head, in my line of vision, in my heart.
- She reminded me daily of how intelligent, talented, beautiful, kind and sweet I was.
- She told me over and over who I was and what I was worth.
- She physically lifted my head when it hung low, until I did it on my own.
- She cried with me, laughed with me, got angry for me when I couldn’t see anything to be angry about.
- She advocated for me, to me.
- and she gave me multiple reality checks when I needed them.
- She challenged me to find myself and live out who I was at my core.
She loved me in spite of me, and for me and helped me to love myself because if she could love me with such intensity, I can at least start to love myself. And I did. Now, I hope that I can one day do half as much for another young lady as Ann has done for me. Thank you, you are truly a blessing.
We are not all fortunate to find someone like Ann but you can be that to yourself or better partner with a friend and develop a buddy system. Push and pull each other through. It’s much easier helping someone else than it is helping yourself. Namaste!!
* Names have been changed to protect the innocent.