I’ve always taken pride in being empathic. I reward and develop friendships with service people who exceed my expectations. I always try to put myself in others’ shoes- the jeepney driver who cut me off, the pedestrian taking his sweet time to cross the street, household help who sometimes don’t get instructions clearly. Most of all, I try to understand difficult people as much as I can.
Yesterday, a very important person, someone I care about deeply, someone I’ve always tried to understand and make excuses for, hurt me again. There’s something about this man that has always left me vulnerable. I’ve wanted nothing but to please him, make him proud of me. I’ve received a few praises over the years but what I remember the most are comments about my appearance and weight. He once said I looked like a whale. He said my husband (now ex-husband) would leave me because I was unattractive (he did, but because of another woman). He said I was too emotional, too nice, too friendly.
I greeted him with a kiss on the cheek as he entered the restaurant. A few minutes later,
Him (out of the blue): Your next project is to lose weight!
Me (trying to defend myself): Pagbigyan mo na ako (cut me some slack), I’ve been sick for three weeks! I’m also training for a half marathon and I run every day.
Him (snickering): Alibi accepted!
I forced a smile and looked away in disbelief. I watched the woman beside him and waited for her to defend me but she was silent.
|"Fat" me (1 day before |
I cried as soon as I got home. Not a lot, but the pain was overwhelming. And familiar. I should be used to it by now, after 47 years of hearing that I’m lacking in one thing or another. Throughout my life, I’ve managed to smile respectfully at hurtful comments. I’ve tried to understand him and make excuses for him. I’ve never doubted his love for me but have always wanted to feel it.
He’s shown it in more practical ways- with generous gifts, trips, my monthly allowance. And I’m grateful. I’ve learned to accept that this is how he shows it. And I have no doubt he loves me.
But whenever I’m around him, I’m a nervous 5 year old afraid to spill water on the table. In my 40s, I’ve seen major changes in him. He has become more communicative, laid-back, funny, honest. So I’ve relaxed, too, and have tried to open up more. But when these comments come (mostly having to do with my weight), I am often caught unaware. I’d be paranoid if I was really overweight (like yesterday) but I know that, even if I’m not at my fittest, I’m not ugly-fat like he makes me feel.
While I was holding back tears in my bathroom after lunch, I finally admitted that this feeling of unworthiness from my father has permeated my life through the years. I guess the mental conditioning that I wasn’t good enough led me to go on with relationships that were detrimental to me. Because I wanted to prove I was worthy. Because I kept making excuses for these men, thinking they’ve had sad childhoods, or that they, themselves, did not feel valued by their families. Or maybe, “he’s just tired.” With my ex-husband, I also justified the lack of intimacy with “I’m fat and look disgusting.” Nowadays, when my husband says something that challenges my intellect, I often retort, “are you calling me stupid?!” Or “I’m not dumb, you know!” because I tend to think that people look down on me.
Although I’ve been going to a psychiatrist for a while now, we never really discussed childhood hurts. It was my choice; I never wanted to dig deeper. I’ve had so much trouble dealing with the “now” of my life that I didn’t want the added burden of trying to resolve past issues. Yesterday, I realized, that I didn’t need to spend hours with my shrink to dissect why I’m so screwed up. I was screwed up because I still kept hearing my father’s voice in my head. Whether in justifying my partners’ abuse or being defensive about being inferior, this feeling of unworthiness has been ingrained in me. And, now that I am more conscious about it, I want it to stop.
I don’t regret what happened yesterday. It was meant to happen. I was meant to see and realize. I guess I am in a better place to appreciate the value of that pain. And I’m hoping that I finally draw from that pain to be a better person.
I don’t blame Papa. I still want to make excuses for him but I don’t hate him. In fact, it was when I realized that, it wasn’t him that I was sad about but that, I have allowed his silent voice to make me believe that I did not deserve love or to be treated well; or to believe in myself and feel secure. Yesterday was a turning point that, although painful, was long overdue. I was emotionally ready to go through it and process it better. To not dwell on the feelings but to draw from the experience and learn.
After my moment of sadness in the bathroom, I was walking with my 15-year old daughter to the pool. “Don’t give your dad such a hard time. He loves you. He always tells you that. He says you’re pretty and smart always. He really appreciates you.” She gave me a quizzed look so I told her what happened over lunch. She understood. And I hope that you, who have children, see this too. The seemingly innocent teasing, joking about appearance and weight, or of your child’s intellect, sometimes those linger. Like mine have. Don’t wait until your grown up child has to see a psychiatrist at 45! :p
|The father-daughter dynamic is very crucial in shaping a|
young girl's future. I'm grateful that their relationship has
gotten better through the years.
Empathy is good but not to the point of abuse. I want to learn to set limits. I will try my best to distance myself from people who always tend to hurt me or those who want nothing but to take advantage of my kindness and understanding. I will learn to bask in the love that I have long-deserved but never truly appreciated. I am worthy. I am loved. I deserve this. I know better now. I will be better now. :)
|No more silent voices in my head! (Hopefully :p)|