I’ve given a lot of thought to how and why I spent so many years trying to please a man that was unpleaseable. I’ve determined that some of the reason is a feeling of unworthiness. I felt like I didn’t deserve better. I felt like whatever anyone else wanted was more important than what I may want. I felt like things were my fault because I didn’t help him get better, I wasn’t smart enough or pretty enough. So I squashed my feelings and did things to please others rather than please myself. This included people that treated me like I was less than human.
I realize now that this sense of unworthiness did not start with him. It started long before I met him. It comes from being raised to be a proper, nice girl. Some parents tell their girls to put others first, be respectful of everyone, be nice. Girls in particular are taught that sticking up for themselves is not proper, even wrong in some cases. This message gets transformed from be nice and selfless into a feeling of other people must be more important than me. Other people deserve better than me. Can’t you see how this can be misinterpreted by the child? It even makes sense to me as an adult. Of course I would feel less important if I always have to put others needs and wants ahead of mine.
My Mother would be horrified to know that this was a lesson she had instilled in me. She had prepared me to live with an abusive partner and tolerate more than she could imagine. This was not her goal. Her goal was to make me a productive, peaceful member of society. She wanted me to be a strong woman. The message just got all scrambled. I’m not blaming her in any sense. She told me I could be anything I wanted to be, do anything I wanted to do. I believe that this is a pervasive problem in our society and until girls are raised to value themselves and see the worth in their desires and feelings we will continue to have this cloud of domestic abuse over this country. Hidden by shame and fear.
Parents should review the message they are sending their child. Are they instilling a sense of worth in the child or making the child kowtow to everyone else? Is the child encouraged to speak up and express their needs and desires or are they discouraged and told they are being selfish or unkind when they express and opinion or desire? Maybe not outright but could the parent’s response indicate to the child that they are less important, their desires don’t count. Being nice and a productive member of society are important but not at ones own expense.
I don’t have the answers I only know the results if we don’t change how we raise our kids.