8. I struggle with believing in myself. As many times as trusted loved ones have told me I’m beautiful, loving, and smart, I find myself completely unable to believe them.
Judy’s response to this statement: https://theprojectbyjudy.wordpress.com/2017/11/09/self-care-8-of-25/
Even though Judy and I were raised by the same parents are roles in the family were quite different. I was designated care-giver and she was the scapegoat. Please understand, my earliest memories are instructions to take care of my mother, I was 4 years old. When my sister was born a week after I turned 5 I was told that I would be caring for her. I took my responsibility very seriously. This gave me an illusion of being powerful. However, it was just an illusion and when I failed, I took full responsibility for my failure for things that should never been my responsibility in the first place. I wasn’t big enough to change Judy’s diaper but I would stand on the toilet next to the changing counter in the bathroom and sing to her. She would get terrible rashes and I stressed trying to comfort her. My counselor pointed out what an unfair load was laid on such little shoulders. Of course I failed, I wasn’t equipped to take on the responsibilities I was given. That feeling of failure to care for others haunted me through my life. Yes, I would be told I was pretty then my mother would make sure they cut my hair off and I looked more like my brothers than a girl. At church, I was mistaken for one of the church lady’s boys. I was told I was pretty then dressed in clothes that were hand-me-downs that obviously didn’t fit me. I was always told I was dumb, lights-are-on-but-nobody-home, with an occasional compliment in front of an audience. No audience, no compliments. By the time I was in my teens I didn’t trust compliments. They were either hollow platitudes for an audience or a way to manipulate me into doing something they wanted me to do. I remember in high school not believing people when they paid me compliments. Add to this, if my Dad complimented me on anything, I would be made to suffer, later. When he wasn’t there. I dread his compliments. So the whole compliment thing was a complete miss for me.
Fast forward to my marriage….my husband had a rough time. I struggled with accepting his compliments. I struggled with accepting he loved me. I was already deeply ingrained belief that I was not good enough. As I continued to mess-up as a parent, (by the way, every parent messes up, it is like part of the rule books that parents are sent children that clashing seems inevitable) this already guilt complex deeply entrenched from childhood dug deeper and deeper into my soul. Whoo boy. It was a negative tough place to be in. I remember early on in my marriage reading self-improvement books. One of them was How to stop SDBs. How to stop Self Defeating Behaviors. I had a clue I needed to change but I didn’t know how to change what I saw as Self defeating behaviors. I could see that I self sabotage (I still do) and I didn’t know how to stop it (still working on this.)
First time my counselor gave me a compliment, I glared at him. He gave me compliments any way. He kept giving me compliments. My therapist, I swear, was the most persistent person I ever met. I would argue with him and he would still give me compliments. One day he asked me why we notice criticisms more than compliments. I quipped back, “I didn’t have to duck a compliment.” Up to this point, I hadn’t talked about the physical abuse that ran deep and wide in my childhood. It was one of my come backs that left him off step. He would get into these grooves of making statements or questions expecting certain replies. I had a knack for breaking script and saying something totally unexpected for him. He had to teach me how to accept a compliment. He patiently explained that when someone says something nice I say, “Thank you.” A compliment is not a beginning of a debate to explain how many things are wrong with me. I can I believe in me when I can’t even accept a simple compliment?
I actually prayed for an answer for this one. I worked hard through counseling but believing in myself didn’t happen their. I kept praying. I ran across an article on PTSD suggesting using martial arts to rebuild self confidence. I thought well that is great for the soldiers with PTSD but couldn’t apply to me since fighting is one of my major triggers. Next time I prayed for an answer I got a rather rude chastisement along the lines, “I already gave you an answer, why give you another one if you are going to ignore it?” I signed up for a one on one class to make sure I could actually get through any training without a total melt down. I could do it, but I didn’t like the one-on-one training. I signed up for Parks and Recreation Karate class. This was a major turning point in my belief in myself. I kept it a secret for months. My coworkers started asking me what I was doing. I asked, why? Their replay stunned me, “You just seem more confident.” I didn’t expect to go beyond the first session. Now 4 years later I am working towards my purple stripe in my karate class. I am blessed with a very understanding teacher and class mates that accept me exactly how I am. Eventually I did have a full blown flashback melt down in class. I cried so much I left a puddle of tears on the mat. One of the other students cleaned it up. They gave me space. The next week I started to apologize and the teacher said the most astounding thing, “You have nothing to apologize for.” He meant it. I still struggle from time to time. The teacher and class are amazing, there is no failure only lessons that need repeating. They believe in me. My husband believes in me. My sister believes in me. My coworkers believe in me. In all this, I am starting to believe in me. My prayers were answered, just not how I expected.