My oldest daughter, Q, was sharing her dating woes with me recently. She was laying in my bed talking to me about a particular guy she had grown fond of. As I listened to her, I remember thinking, “Doesn’t she know how freakin’ phenomenal she is?” I mean, she’s truly brilliant, she has a beautiful heart, and she’s talented beyond measure, not to mention she’s absolutely stunning!
I’m listening to her recount the latest saga with this boy who clearly does not value her and all that she has to offer. I want to say, “He doesn’t deserve you, your time or your efforts. Forget about him!” But as I’m listening, God is showing me something...
A lump formed in my throat. I was frozen and could barely utter a word of advice to her, because I realized that this lack of self-worth is something I taught her over the years. Despite the conversations I had with her about loving herself, understanding her worth and not making room for people to use, abuse and disrespect her, my own behavior had shown her something completely different.
I was reminded of my previous relationships and the constant lack of respect that was shown. I thought about the countless times I had been disrespected and unappreciated, yet, I stayed and kept fighting to hold on to those toxic relationships. She witnessed men lie, cheat and manipulate and she saw me go back time and time again making excuses for their behavior. She saw me fight tooth and nail to make it work and most times, I was the only one trying to fix it. One guy had the audacity to say to me, “I grew up with my mom doing everything. She worked, paid all the bills, waited on my dad hand and foot, cooked his meals, ironed his clothes - everything and he did nothing. So, in my mind, if I do 30% of what my father didn’t do, a woman should be lucky.” WOW! This was a man I gave 100% of everything to and he thought it was acceptable to give me 30% of nothing. What’s more is he actually fixed his lips to say it to me.
That should have been more than enough for me to walk away, but nope! I continued to jump through hoops and over hurdles, working overtime to win his love and affection.
*skuuuuurrrr* Pump the breaks. Let's pause here.
Remember that line in Waiting To Exhale when Bernadine was talking about her husband and she said, “I thought if I gave him what he needed, he would give me what I needed.” *cue that line here* That was my approach to relationships. Needless to say, it was ineffective for many reasons. When you are a giver in a relationship with a taker, you teach them to do what? TAKE MORE! They don’t understand reciprocity. And that is a breeding ground for resentment. [I’ll come back later to share a revelation I recently had on giving.] Secondly, what I needed really needed to come from me. The love I was in search of should have come from me and truth be told, if it had, I wouldn’t have been in 90% of my past relationships. Most of them existed and continued because of a deficiency I had at the time. They started from a place of brokenness.
During my conversation with Q I realized the tolerance of emotional abuse, whether it was overt or covert, done consciously or unconsciously, had been a learned behavior for me too and without even realizing it, I had passed it on to my daughter. No matter how much I thought I was teaching her the importance of self-worth, she had a front row seat to witness my dysfunction and she absorbed lots of unhealthy ideals and habits as it relates to self-care, creating boundaries, holding people accountable and demanding respect.
The good thing about life is, as long as we’re on this side of the grass we have an opportunity to make different decisions and work toward different outcomes.
My daughter, both of my daughters are extraordinary! I know that. However, I know them having a full grasp on what that actually means and how it manifests in their lives is a learned behavior. The lessons start with me and what I allow and how I show up for myself in my own life.
We’ve got a lot of work to do.
Girls, class is in session!