There’s this phenomenon in nature that happens with baby ducks and geese called imprinting. The gist of it is that the very first thing the baby bird sees when it first hatches is what the baby bird thinks it is. So, if it sees a human first after being hatched, it truly believes that that is what it is too. Ideally, the baby duck will imprint to its mother, so that it can learn to live as a duck, learn to fly, mate, migrate and flourish.
My parents have their own stories, and what they did not receive or find in their own lifetimes they did not to pass on to me. They raised me to be a good girl, to be well-behaved, to not talk back or fight or be angry. I was smart, and was applauded for being smart, at church and in school. But the hunger and depression that I experienced in later years was proof that something was missing.
I was once asked, “When you were a little girl, did your mom or dad hold you on their lap and just talk with you and say, ‘So, what’s Carla thinking about today? What’s going on inside? What do you think or feel about this or that?'” The question hit me deep and the tears sprang to my eyes; no, I had no memory of that kind of interaction with my parents.
One of the biggest things we need to know as children in order to flourish as people is that who we are, just as we are, is valuable. What we think, what we feel, is important. What I knew as a child was that I was valuable if I was “good”; I failed to learn that who I was, who I am, IS good enough, no questions asked, no proof required. That “imprinting” didn’t happen. And so the outside world became my “parent”, so to speak. I began the painful and addictive habit of constantly looking outside of myself, to everyone else, to tell me that I was okay.