My parents split up and eventually divorced when I was just turning 13 years old. After my mother went through her suicidal phase she started dating. She had not been separated from my father for very long when she started dating. Men and dating became her priority.
Through her behaviour she communicated to me that attracting men was the way to cope with low self esteem and pain. Looking back on what she taught me and how she impacted my belief system, she herself believed that men and having a man in her life was what she needed more than anything else. She believed that she needed a man in order to survive. She needed a man in order for her to feel complete or even good about herself. Men defined her as worthy and good enough. Her self esteem came from them. Their attraction to her identified her. Having a man meant that my mom was okay.
I had learned from my mother’s actions, words and teachings that men were the most important connection or relationship a woman can have. Because belief systems grow from layers of information, add to that teaching what I learned from the media (movies and books) and from observing dysfunctional relationships in the la la land stages of love and there you have how I came to believed that the right man was the answer for me too. I thought that having a man (boyfriend) would mean that I was okay too.
When my parents split up, I was at the stage in life where I was noticing boys. I wanted one for myself. I wanted to be validated and cherished and good enough. If men could sooth my mother’s hurts, then they must be able to sooth mine too. If men were the answer to all life’s problems for my mother, then they must be my answer too!
And at the age of 13 who knows anything about what “right one” would look like other than from the relationships that have already been modeled for us?
I believed that men were the answer, NOT because I saw the belief work, but because my mother believed it so deeply she communicated it to me in 100 ways; when she was in the beginning stages of a new romance she was so happy. She would sing and play records. She did her hair and dressed a little more special. She seemed to have higher self esteem. She seemed to like life more. I wanted her to be happy and not be in so much pain and it seemed that men were the answer to overcoming that pain and sadness, and like I said, if it worked for her, there was every reason to believe that it would work for me too. I really wanted to be okay and I thought I would be is only someone said that I was!
I learned this false belief; that other people could define me as worthy. In fact I learned and believed that the ONLY way that I could be defined as worthy was through other people. Because of the example my mother set for me however, I thought that being defined as worthy by men however, was the “ultimate form of worthy”.
I learned from all the people in my life that other people could validate me or invalidate me. This had been what had happened to me since I was born. I was rewarded (validated) when I did what was expected of me and I was punished (invalidated) when I disappointed. Behaviour modification techniques can be a dangerous practice that results in teaching a child a false understanding of their own self worth and identity.
The foundation had been laid for me to for me to conclude that men were the answer to my low self esteem when I watched the positive effect that a man could have on my mothers demeanour.
My mother rarely got hurt by a man so that was not my fear. My fear was not being loved. By the age of 13, I thought men were my last chance at ever being loved.
In that sick dysfunctional relationship system, the men that I was attracting were also looking for someone to define THEM as worthy too. The false definition of love took over; I tried to prove that my man was lovable by my devotion and compliance to him. I tried to make HIM feel like HE was OKAY. That was what I had been taught love was. Ultimately in the false definition of love in these dysfunctional relationships, the more I sacrificed myself, the more I thought that I “proved” my love. Those men constantly asked for more devotion and compliance and I believed (as I had in my dysfunctional relationship with my mother) that if I found the right KEY to show him how wonderful and lovable HE was (especially at my own expense and by putting myself and my needs aside) then HE would no longer believe that there was anything missing in him and when he knew that, I was sure he would love me in return.
In the false definition of love, I had my ideas about what “proved love” and it was always about sacrifice because that’s what I was taught about love. I will give up my personal style of dress because he wants me to dress differently and that will prove how much I love him. I will give up my favourite TV show because he doesn’t like it and that will prove how important that HE is to me. I won’t have certain friends because he says that they make me act differently when I am around them and if I walk away from them and choose him that will prove that I love him. I will stop talking on the phone when he is home and I will watch sports with him or let him do things to me in the bedroom that made me feel sick and that will prove that I love him. In that false definition of love and in those dysfunctional relationships, I believed that if I could be who he wants me to be then he will love me. And when I am finally loved, I will be okay.
The truth is that when I finally loved me, I was okay. When I found me and embraced me, I was okay. When I realized that putting myself last is the same as agreeing that I am not worthy, and that I am not as “important” as they are, and when I stopped doing that; I was okay. When I found out that putting my needs last was not ‘selfless” and in fact it communicated that even I knew that my needs were actually less than anyone else’s and when I stopped doing that and I embraced the truth that my needs are just as important as everyone else’s, I was okay. When I said no to proving I was worthy of love, I was okay. I don’t have to prove it. It is already true. I was born worthy. When I realized that other people don’t define me as worthy, good enough, valuable or lovable and that I don’t need others to validate that in me, THEN I was okay.
(But first, I had to learn a whole new definition of love.)
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