Today someone took me seriously. They didn’t criticize, try to control or second guess my ideas. They listened, brainstormed and shared in my excitement.
Growing up in a controlling and criticizing environment; dreams and opportunities are not met with enthusiasm. They are met with doubting questions, only pointing out what could go wrong, the negatives, commenting on what they disagree with or implying you could never accomplish such a goal.
I remember as a kid being so ecstatic that the youth pastor at our new church had asked me to play flute for a special number. I was thrilled! This was our first real big church we had been apart of and before this we were involved in some very small Baptist communities – one in which was a church my dad started. We met in a park building. No official ‘stage’, ‘foyer’, or ‘Sunday school rooms’. Just a small gathering of people at Central Park.
Moving to this new church with a fancy building, church pews, and a large congregation, perhaps led my mom to believe that it was “legit” or “official” no back-home, country, informal sing-alongs would be tolerated. Things must sound polished and professional. (Little did I know – this church indeed valued image above authenticity, truth and reality)
I was so excited when I got home. I remember leaning over the banister as my mom stood on the stairs, “Mom!! The Youth Pastor asked me to play my flute for Sunday worship when the youth group is leading” I had been playing flute for 2 years now, and knew that I could do it! I had no doubt in my mind and I was eager to practice with the other girl who would play with me.
My mom’s response, “Oh. You know this is a big church right? You can’t make mistakes – this is like a big thing it has to be professional. It’s not like our old church.”
My heart dropped to the floor, immediately I felt the need to defend my talents, and an overwhelming sense of failure and inadequacy rushed through every vein of my body. Right then and there a voice was planted, “you can’t do this.” “You’re not good enough Rochelle” I walked away defeated before I even lifted my instrument to my mouth.
Tonight, sitting across the table from my friend was a redemptive, opposite experience. As she listened to my vision, goals, and ideas – her enthusiasm was the wind beneath my wings. She listened, crunched numbers, made lists, gave ideas and helped me to visually see that my talents, heart and vision are very much a reality and worth taking seriously.
No doubting questions, comparison to others, criticism or judgement. Only mirrored anticipation, focus and wisdom.
When you grow up in a disorganized, dysfunctional, abusive home your ideas are for you and you alone because they are squelched. After a while – you stop having them. You learn not to share them, try out for the team, sing in the choir, audition for the play because that experiential lie planted by the caregiver tells you: you can’t, you’re a failure, and you’re not good enough.
How does this translate into adulthood?
feelings of worthlessness
binging and purging
black and white thinking
and the list goes on….
I heal from these by isolating the ROOT of all the experiential lies over 31 years…. “I don’t matter.”
“I don’t matter” comes out in so many forms, but it really reveals itself in intimate attachments after abuse.
“I don’t matter” is connected to the way we seek validation from an outside source. If I believe that I don’t matter and my soul is constantly asking the outside world: “Do you see me?”, than no matter what relationship I am in I will seek validation, from the circumstance.
What does seeking validation look like in relationship?
“I know everything about every topic”
“I have an answer every time you share something with me about your life”
“I give unsolicited advice”
“I’m always right and I will convince you that you’re wrong, even though that’s not my place”
“I will give you my opinion when you share an idea”
“I will share all my concerns with you when you share something important about your life.”
“I will chase success until I lose myself because I need all the credit”
“I will keep my home in perfect order so that people praise me about how cute, lovely and perfect my home is.”
“I will obsessively check my weight to make sure that the scale validates my value”
“I will cut you off in the middle of your sentence because my thought is more important than yours and I have to prove it to you.”
“I NEED you to agree with me about everything, for me to feel that I matter, because if I’m right – that proves my value”
“I will be the woman who serves the most by giving of my time, money and resources, because I need to be seen and I NEED to be NEEDED.”
“My way is the right way to behave and believe”
“You are not allowed to have your own opinion – you need to validate mine”
I humbly and with great sorrow admit that I have done everyone of these things in my intimate attachments. I do not condemn or shame myself – it is how I survived in a neglectful and emotionally abusive home, I was DESPERATE for someone to take me seriously, believe in my gifts, support me without telling me all the bad things that could happen. I needed someone to listen to my voice and value that I can make a decision for myself. I needed someone to allow me to fail and learn from those mistakes rather than controlling me and making me small. I had no other example to learn from, therefore my brain developed these maladaptive behaviors which constantly beg the world around me to show her that “she matters.” However, the world will NEVER show that enough- I have to know it in myself.
When those needs for validation are not met in our family of origin – we will SPEW onto other people what we are DESPERATE for…. “Do you see me?” and “Do I matter?”
We were MADE for belonging and joy, and by God’s design it was the caregiver’s job to provide a framework of seeing you the way that God sees you. Complete love and joy to be with you.
Fast forward 20 years later and here I am standing in my kitchen listening to someone I love, tell me about something exciting! His face lit up while passion stirred in his voice. He was so exuberant, sharing with me something SO DEEPLY important to him, connected to his calling, dream, and a “someday” longing.
What was my response?
Criticism, my own negative opinion, and the reasons why I would never do that. The second those things flew out of my mouth, his body deflated like a balloon.
What have I done? I did exactly what my mother did to me for decades. I WAS FEELING INSECURE, so what did I do? I NEEDED validation … Do I matter? Here’s how I asked that question with maladaptive behaviors: “I needed to be right, I needed HIM to know that I’m the expert of this topic, and I have the advice HE needs.” Ultimately, this shut my partner down, gave him NO desire to share his passions with me (which is how I felt toward my mom), and I lost his trust that I would be a safe person to confide in.
Him sharing had NOTHING to do with a moral issue, a relationship topic or anything that was cause for alarm. He literally just shared something that was a passion and that fired him up!
What I learned later from this moment is that NO AMOUNT of convincing others, being right, giving advice, criticizing, pointing out others flaws, giving my opinion, keeping my house perfect, serving others and obsessing about my weight will help me feel validated. In fact, these behaviors push people away. These patterns make me unsafe.
In order to be safe: I must know my value, take MYSELF seriously and walk in the truth of the beloved. When I surround myself with people who know the same about their journey, we create a community where it is safe to be messy, and everyone is taken seriously, while providing one another with opposite experiences.
Rewiring these ways of relating from childhood can only come from opposite experiences in relationship and being open to the Holy Spirit. Listening to His gentle leading, teaching and comforting. We must be on a journey of getting to know what our Creator says about us in the secret place.
I would like to say that now I have learned to keep quiet, in a good way. I KNOW WHO I AM – and I don’t need to “prove” it to the other person for validation, when they are speaking.
They can have their own story, hopes, dreams, goals and I can have mine. Their human right to these things, does not effect the outcome of my life. They are their own person.
We are separate, but connected in the Family of God – each one displaying His glorious Image.
My Dear Sister,
Has it been a long time since you’ve been taken seriously? Abusive marriages make us feel crazy, unheard, small, diminished and hopeless. It is so hard to understand our value when we are told everything is our fault, we’re selfish, lazy, fat and dumb.
There is a community of SAFE women who do not need to destroy YOU in order to validate themselves. We want to welcome you in with open arms. Love you, embrace your ideas, value, desires, hopes and dreams. We are FOR your success and healing. You MATTER!
May the Lord of truth, goodness and light lead you to a place where you may expose your reality, participate in opposite experiences, so that you may know, you are VALUABLE just because.
“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” – Jesus (John 14:26)
You are not alone.