Updated: Nov 2, 2022
I grew up with a strict, but loving mother, and a stepfather who was the epitome of the stereotypical stepfather… he was not at all concerned with the two kids my mother had in her first marriage. To be honest, he was very vocal about my brother and I being a burden to him, but as a child, I longed to be loved, so I continued to be nice to him, while he was verbally, mentally, and emotionally abusive to me. My mother tried her best to ensure that she gave us enough love to compensate for our absent biological father, and the negligence of the man she married, but it was pointless. At the time, she did not know, and neither did I, that there was nothing she could do to fill the void in a child who only wanted to be accepted and loved by her parents. Sadly, as I got older, that void grew bigger and bigger and eventually turned me into a human doormat.
For all of my young adult life, my mother worked at a cereal plant, and seven-day work weeks were mandatory, so she was always at work. Helplessly, I watched her overwork herself to the point of exhaustion to keep our family afloat, while my stepfather worked when he wanted to. To my amazement, my mother still treated him like the king of the castle SHE maintained and paid for. I watched her help family members and friends, even when she did not have the time or the money, and when they would disappoint her on the rare occasion she needed them, she smiled through it, just to keep those relationships intact.
Growing up in this type of environment made me think that a woman was supposed to be strong all the time, and that she could not have a bad day or take any time for herself. I also thought that I had to be unproblematic and allow people to walk all over me to keep family, friends, and a man around. To me, it had become normal for a woman to work like a dog, be there for everybody, and wear the pants and the skirt in a relationship.
Looking back, I see that my train of thought was tainted and toxic. I learned how not to ask for help when I needed it, and when I did, I was ashamed of myself (Pride!). I learned to be there for everyone, but to not expect anyone to be there for me. I learned to blend in and become what people expected of me so they would keep me around. I learned to be non-confrontational when people would mistreat me, and I learned to be ok with carrying the burdens of everyone around me. I always put myself last… my happiness, my wants and needs, and ultimately, my peace of mind all came second to the needs of others.
Walking through life with all these toxic lessons guiding me, I remember feeling drained in my relationships with family, friends, romantic partners, and at work with co-workers and management. I accepted the role of “designated problem-solver”, so I had to smile and pretend my life was fine because I did not want people to think I did not have all the answers. Honestly, I did not, but I would bend over backwards to find or make up answers to problems I did not create and was not responsible for. I was the “Yes” woman, and everyone took full advantage of it.
The need to be loved and accepted made me expect less from others but push myself well beyond acceptable boundaries to give them more. I felt as though my presence in their lives was because of what I brought to the table, so I had to constantly prove myself. I later had to admit that I knew some of the people around me were indeed using me, but for their acceptance and love, I allowed it.
FULL STORY AVAILABLE IN ISSUE NO. 1 GEAUX QUEEN MAGAZINE. Shop | Geaux Queen