I have a “no” mother and a “yes” father. It has always been this way. As a child, this was devastatingly confusing. I took Mother’s “nos” as an indication that I was unlovable and Dad’s “yeses” as an indication of my worthiness of love. Mother was ever withholding, and Dad was overly generous. It was confusing, to be sure, and I grew up to become a very black and white adult. The undoing of this has been a lengthy and rewarding process. I say all this not to invoke pity or sympathy, but merely as backstory for what is a powerful ah-ha!
On a recent phone conversation with my mother, I mentioned having a stomach virus. Her response was, “Well, a stomach virus is always good to lose a couple of pounds.” My friends gasped when I relayed the story or yet another Motherism, as I have come to call them. They no longer sting – thanks be to God and many a good therapist. It wasn’t until my dad called this morning, “Just to see how you are feeling, kiddo” that the big ah-ha happened.
As children, we look to our parents, older siblings, teacher, friends, etc. to get a sense of who we are. Their reactions mirror back to us our own self-image. What I did not know as a child, and in fact none of us do, is that my parents’ reactions run through a filter that has nothing to do with me. The filter is made up of their own life experiences, most of which happened long before I was even a twinkle in their eye.
Today, what I know is that I have the freedom to take what I like and leave the rest. Mother is free to have her beliefs about stomach viruses and weight loss, and I am free to let it roll off of me like water off a duck’s back (cue the choir of angels). Dad is also free to call and check on his ill daughter, and I am free to enjoy the loving gesture. Guess what? Neither of those actions has anything to do with me, they are not a reflection of anything about me, ever, period. (Cue the angels again!!)
I choose who I am and how I show up in the world, and I decide how loveable I am. No one else gets to determine that for me…or for you! Wow, that is a load off.