Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Confidence, or the End of a Crushed Spirit

I often feel incompetent even when I know I am not. It's something that's haunted me since I was a young child, perhaps because I did not get a whole lot of confidence boosting from my mother when I was little. I was shy... painfully shy... to the point that on the first day of Kindergarten I crawled in a bookshelf, curled in a ball and wouldn't come out, crying until my mother came to get me. My mother was troubled, and I don't remember a whole lot about how she raised me when I was small. I know she loved me but I think she was so submerged in her own issues of alcoholism, past abuse, suicide attempts, and depression that perhaps I fell by the wayside at times. I don't really know.

By the time I was 7 or 8 I knew my father was the stable one in the household. I was an only child, and he doted on me. When my mother was having a bad day, withdrawing or being hostile, I could go to my father for comfort or a game of Scrabble. He tried to build me up, always telling me how smart I was and how good I was at things. And I believed him, but I still lacked confidence. My whole self image and sense of worth revolved around being "good." And my mother made it very clear to me that I was never going to be good enough for Jehovah God. He was always watching... not just my actions, but my thoughts, and he KNEW what a "bad girl" I was inside. I tried so hard to please Him. I would lie in bed at night and plead to Jehovah to forgive me for whatever horrible things I'd done that day, even if I didn't have any idea what they were. I knew I was inadequate, and I was terrified that He knew it and would destroy me for it. My mother reinforced this fear, showing me pictures from Dante's Inferno. The birds would peck my eyes out and rip apart my flesh if I was sinning when Armageddon happened. She would have a party with her friends next to my openly disfigured corpse, and feel no sadness for my loss because Jehovah is righteous. So I better be good. Be perfect. Hard things for a child of 6.

I admit it. I was scared a lot as a child. Not scared of being hit, because she stopped that when I was about nine years old and she was chasing me to hit me with a wooden spoon and I turned and grabbed it from her. I was scared of the Hidden Badness inside me that she always said was there. The badness Jehovah, and my mother, knew about. I could pretend to be good. I could try. But they knew how inadequate I really was.

We moved to a new part of town when I was in third grade. I had to attend a new school. On my first day there, instead of making new friends I laid my head on my desk and cried through class. It was painfully difficult for me to be social or to feel like there was anything about me that other kids would like. I was different. I couldn't salute the flag or eat a birthday cupcake or attend a class Christmas party because of my religion. "Mommy," I cried in first grade, after having been sent to the office for refusing the say the pledge of allegiance, "the teacher needs to talk to you. PLEASE come to school with me today!" But she pushed a Bible into my hands and sent me to school, saying, "you know what's right. YOU explain your beliefs to her. YOU stand up for what's right. Or don't, just be like the World and worship Satan and that flag and disappoint Jehovah. YOU decide." And so I did. I fumbled through the explanation to my teachers alone, with my Bible, year after year, sometimes even getting "paddled" with a board for not saying the Pledge. Year after year I sat in the hallway on a chair during every Christmas, Valentines Day, and Easter party at school, alone, like the "bad kids" who sat out there for time outs. "Please, Mom, can't you just come and pick me up when they have the party? My teacher said it's okay." "No! You need to stay and do the right thing! Be an example to those kids." My mother's attempts to make me "confident" had, in fact, the opposite effect. I always felt singled out, weird, different. And bad... because Jehovah knew that for a split second, I thought those Christmas cookies looked good and I wished I could taste just one.

Even as an adult, I tend naturally to believe I am doing things "wrong." I am not a "good enough" mom, housekeeper, worker, student, friend, blogger, person. I thought I was a bad wife when I was married to my first husband. He reinforced that idea. I thought I couldn't do the things I wanted to do. When I was divorced, I was terrified of getting a job and going back to school. I just KNEW I couldn't do that. Especially not alone. And when I'd try to lose weight, I'd give up after a few tries because I felt so woefully inadequate to even take care of myself.

Finally, finally this is beginning to change. Those emotions still pop up, but reason takes over. I *did* do well at my job and at school. I did finish school and get my degree. I AM doing a good job at many things in my life, from mothering to weight loss. Not perfect, but no one is. The fear is gone, but I do have to pay attention to the echo of my mother in my head.

"You didn't do ALL the laundry yesterday!" Well, no. But I did five loads, and that is enough.
"You didn't mop the floors, either!" No, but I vacuumed, and I am satisfied with that.
"Your shelves are dusty!" Sure, but my kids got the love and attention they needed.
"You didn't even bike yesterday!" True, but I walked, and I will try again today.
"You are worthless!" No, actually, I am priceless.

I know my mother passed on what her mother gave to her. She was berated and beaten from a very young age, and I have to give her credit for doing a better job with me than her mother did with her. She did try. She did love me.

And I am doing a better job with MY kids, and maybe just as important, with myself. I have to parent myself in a loving way, giving guidance and encouragement like I do to my own children, without guilting or negativity.

Good job, self! You got a lot done yesterday! And today is going to be even better! I truly believe in you.


s said...

you hang in there-you are an inspiration

Anonymous said...

having watched your fb posts yesterday I do have to agree with your positive comments! Hang in there. When you feel inadequate (regardless that it's not rational and purely emotional) just remember that you are doing a great job. Hug your kids and enjoy them and it will make you feel better. ;)

Verity Vaudeville said...

We are the sum of our nature and nurture, at the end of the day. The influences who have shaped us throughout the years. And although we can be taught inadequate systems/ways of coping/thinking/responding to our environments, we still have the power to change the now. We can do so much, maybe that awareness just needs refreshing every once in a while.

As usual, you make perfect sense to me.

Karen said...

Lyn, how you became the wonderful Mom you are with the example put in front of you always amazes me. If you ever need a reminder of just how amazing you are, come here. Many of us know it even when you don't!!!

Lanky said...

This is beautiful. Your kids are lucky to have you. You are one smart, precious cookie!!

MargieAnne said...

You've come a long long way from your beginnings. There's so much to be proud of.

It's sad that in trying to love you your parents gave you such a terribly skewed look at life and who you are, when in truth God is absolutly good and loves you beyond measure and we are made in His beautiful image.

I often remind myself that if I love my children how much more does God love me. It's a strong concept and so different to how we were taught about God way back.

A childhood brought up with a punitive, angry God is hard to overcome. I still sometimes need to remind myself that God wants to love and nurture me like mother nurses her child.


Lynna said...

I'm fairly certain that God weeps over all the ways people misrepresent God... especially when damage is done to precious little children. I ache for that little girl who didn't hear that he Father in heaven sings and dances in delight over her. Whether anybody told you this or not, you are God's favorite (smile). And God loves the glorious ruins that we all are... each imperfect, and loved beyond all imagining. (Sorry for the sermon, but, hey, I care about you and maybe you just need some people in your life to see you through God's eyes and to tell you who you REALLY are. Blessings to you.

Leslie said...

Boy, the negative self talk can really be deeply grooved - like a default setting that has to be reprogrammed completely. I love that you're aware and reframing the thinking. So much of life is a head game! You continue to inspire, Lyn.

jordan said...
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Weight loss is NO FAIRY TALE said...

What a powerful story! Thanks for sharing! I can see some of myself in the same picture.

Ann K. said...

Thank you for sharing such a difficult part of your life. I, too, am surprised that you have come so very far. From my experience, your situation could have been so much more dire than it is, due to the emotional strife you suffered. Its a testament to the power of choice.

"You are worthless!" No, actually, I am priceless. - I am going to say this to myself from now on.

Lisa said...

so sorry you had to go through that... but proud of wht you are doing with your life now...

Anonymous said...

Reading this made me want to hug that poor little girl, and tell her she won't always be so alone. Your story reminds me of my own mother's: her mother was an alcoholic, and my mom always struggled to be perfect. She is one of the warmest, most empathetic people I know. She is the best mom, and tried so hard to give us the security and love that she didn't get. I hope to be like her one day.
I feel sure that, maybe not now, but one day, your kids will say the same about you. You have accomplished so much and given your kids so much. You do so much. No one is ever perfect. We all slip up. You are so empathetic towards others. I am glad to see you turning it back towards yourself--and towards that poor six year old who just wanted to please her mom.

Anonymous said...

So many many women go through this - i'm sure there is many names for it. The one I know is "impostor" syndrome - you feel like an impostor, like you're not really qualified to do X where X can be anything. I'm sure it has to do with the way we grow up, culture, social assumptions, but I've heard it from so many women in at least two different countries, so believe me when I say this is something everyone struggles with. You have made so much progress, you are continuing to make progress - make a list of your accomplishments and hang it up high. And don't believe that you have to be "perfect", EVERYONE makes mistakes.

midlife_swimmer said...

I feel like this often, and grew up feeling this. but never had a dad to counter balance the rest.

I am glad you were blessed with someone who believed in you and was there for you :)

Losing 100 said...

That is so true! I have discovered in my own weight loss journey that you have to love yourself enough to take care of your self. I never thought I was worth the effort, now I know I am. We all are!

Sarah said...

Lyn this broke my heart to read. I am glad you survived that (which is incredibly impressive) and am so amazed you are coming out the other side. I am sure you are great at a lot of things but I know FOR SURE that you are an excellent blogger. My favorite actually. Thanks for sharing your words and your hearts with us. I have realized a lot about myself by reading what you write. Thank you sincerely for that.

He Took MY Last Name said...

And you Lyn, have broken that cycle. You aren't your mother's daughter. You arent harassing your children or abusing them (at least I hope not!) you are a strong, confident woman who has moved on from a painful past. You are a strong, confident woman who continues to tackle the future. You are right. You are priceless. You are truly beautiful. You are an inspiration.

You are a wonderful mother, blogger, friend, etc what ever else you want to be.

I'd say I envy you, but that is not true. I admire you.

-J.Darling said...

This one brought tears to my eyes. Growing up in a strictly Lutheran school and church community, yet being "different" as I'm more of a creative soul left me feeling like there was something inherently wrong with who I am. It seemed reinforced when I felt my biological parents didn't want me. Then I got divorced in 2006 - yet another person didn't want me and found what he DID want in others.

But ya know what? I'm glad I was an outsider, different, and am away from that hurtful relationship that I was so entrenched in. As much as it has made my battles w/ negative self-image perhaps harder than they need to be, it's also made me inheriently stronger than ever I realized.

Sarabei said...

You know, I know that sometimes it doesn't matter what other people say when you're feeling like that, you'll feel incompetent (or like an imposter) no matter what. However, I can tell, just by reading your blog, what a competent woman you are. You are honest about all you do, the positives and negatives, and there is no way you're incompetent. I can only imagine that if I knew you in person I would only think even more highly of you. Keep up the good work - I'm glad you're able to get yourself out of those feelings when they occur.

bd160 said...

*Standing ovation*

You ARE priceless! Thank you for sharing your story, and for being strong enough to break free from your past and REALIZE that you are!

violinista said...

very inspiring. I don't know you, you don't know me...but I'm proud of you!

Anonymous said...

Such emotions you share that could well be spoken or witten by me ! It is amazing that in order or one to move on in the journey of their lives , they have to regress back into unhappy memories . I think that is why so many of us have the same weight problem ... we don't see ourselves as adequete becuase of emotional abuse .... whatever it is ! I have been journaling my own journey and discovered so many things ( including your blog :-) that make me believe I can do it , I am a GOOD Mom and GrandMom and I am a good daughter who God loves ..... Positive thinking regardless to which God you believe in or how you apply it to your life is a HUGE step in self-healing ! You are a great Mom and you are an inspiration !

Erik's RV Blog said...

I just started reading your blog and I must say I'm impressed. 5 kids and still find the time to lose weight, congrats are in order!


LN said...

I was raised with no religion and constantly felt left out and did not understand or relate to any of the holidays. I have felt my whole life as if what I did was never enough. This was what I thought would work: More, more, more, faster, faster, bigger, bigger, bigger, better, better, better!
You are doing the hard work of consulting your own self and soul for how you are doing. And the answers you are finding you can really trust.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to erase those old "mother" tapes, but you can do it! As Dr. Phil says, it takes 100 "attaboys" to heal one psychological burn. We all matter more than we have a clue about, as Dr. Jeff Rediger said on the Oprah show today. There is a dignity and goodness about your life and what you bring to the world and to us.

Rhi said...

Hi Lyn,
I know how hard you are working to be the loving, caring mother that your children need, and I think that is amazing. My own mother was also raised in a similar environment, and today she constantly second guesses and questions her own judgment, because she was taught that she wasn't good enough or capable enough. She has done an amazing job at not parenting like her mother, and it sounds like you are too. I really respect you so much for that! You go!

Anonymous said...

GREAT POST and I'm soooooo sorry for what you had to go through as a child. ((( hugs ))) It DOES affect us when we're grown up also. I didn't go through all the stuff you're describing, but I also was not confident at all (ironically friends say that I come across as VERY confident).
Your progress pics are AMAZING! Keep being inspiring! And good for you for answering your negativity with positivity!!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks for being so open and candid about your childhood. It makes me appreciate my Parents even more, if thats even possibel. I thank God for them they were both great Parents. Now for you, you have accomplished so much you should be very proud of youself. I don't know you and I am. Hang in there and keep workn through all those emotions. We all have our battles its just our choice how we choose to let them affect us and our liives.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear this story, but glad you shared.

As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I can assure you that you received a very inaccurate picture of Jehovah as a child. It sounds like you did not receive much comfort from your mother when things went wrong, and that Jehovah was presented as a condescending god. However, at 2 Cor.1:3 he is called "the God of all comfort," and at 1 John 4:8 we are told that "God is love." It sounds like your mother had an alcohol problem that would have interfered in all aspects of life, including doing things Jehovah's way, which is most certainly not the way you have described. It sounds to me like she could not be bothered to go to the school to explain the beliefs of your family. As Christian parents we should be very involved in such situations.

Now that you are at a stage in life where you can think for yourself and are away from the sadness of your childhood, I would strongly encourage you to listen, as well as express yourself as you have here in this post, the next time Jehovah's Witnesses call. I think you will find that Jehovah is not at all what you learned as a child.

And you will indeed be very glad to find out the Truth about Him.

beerab said...

Gosh Lyn I'm sorry for what you went through- my mom's story is similar to yours- she was adopted and her adopted family (this is in the middle east to give you some perspective) treated her more like a slave than a daughter. Then when she got married (to get out of the house) her husband (my dad) treated her like crap. BUT through it all she managed to be a great person and a great mom- like you :D

BTW I am going to speak to my hubby about doing medifast- you've totally inspired me to try it! Thanks!

Debbie said...

Lyn -


Just curious... after that less-than-ideal upbringing, are you still a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses?

Lyn said...


No, I stopped going when I was 17. I have been to several different churches but am not a member of any, and do not attend a church at all right now.

Inner said...

When I read this post, I felt rage. Rage at your mother for being so cruel to you and not protecting you from the harsh cruelties that were falling on you from all angles. No child should have to live through the hell you lived through, and I hope every day for the rest of your life you are surrounded by people who love and respect you for the amazing individual you are. You've already had more than your fair share of crap loaded onto your plate, and deserve a smoother ride here on out. I hope that you felt some relief getting your truth out to the world, and I'm positive you've helped at least dozens of people with this post realize they are not alone in the childhood traumas they have suffered. You are enough, and you are making a huge difference in many peoples lives. Well done.

Dinah Soar said...

The thing is Lyn, none of us is good enough to measure up to the righteousness of God--so there is no point in is futile.

That is why Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, because we can't be 'good enough'. He gives us salvation freely--because we could never earn it 'being good'. That is the beauty of God's love. He, as Christ, gave himself for us.

Your mom was horribly mislead. It is never right to teach young children what she taught you so graphically. Teaching them that God loves them and that they are fearfully and wonderfully made--yes. Teaching them to obey their parents because it pleases God, yes-- as long as they are also taught that God doesn't quit loving them when they don't mind mommy and daddy. God wants us to do right because we love him, not to earn his favor.

But to give them pictures, literal or figurative of death, hell, judgement--those can scar a child for life.

And the thing is this...children are 'safe'...they are not accountable for any sin until they reach an age of understanding the difference between right and wrong. And that age varies with children.

Your mom expecting you to endure what you did at school is like taking a tender shoot and planting it in the frozen hard ground with no protection. It will wither and die.

You can replace the misteaching, the false teaching with the truth.

God is a loving God, who loves us just as we are. We can come to him just as we are. He expects nothing. He gives to us the gift of salvation...a free gift. Jesus bought our salvation so we wouldn't have to 'earn' our righteousness--because it is impossible.

And for the record...the Jehovah God I worship, is not the same one your mother worshiped. Many religions distort the attributes and person of God. God reveals himself to us in the Bible--not an interpretation of the Bible, but the original script, and in nature.

Anonymous said...

omg, lyn, you have described the criticism i heard all of my childhood, but from my father and mainly towards my mother and brothers and sometimes to me; he is a very angry man and i always felt everything i did was not good enough, never good enough; he also got it from his own father. i also started criticizing myself and only recently realized how self-critical i am towards myself and how much i beat myself up A LOT; i have also turned to food, to cope, for comfort and do the same things of zoning out w/ the tv, computer and food...for hours!!!! i am glad we are working towards loving ourselves. i'm sorry this happened to you and your mom.

i am praying that God will restore the ancient ruins in our lives and heal us completely and make the wastelands in our lives into beautiful gardens and I'm sorry your mom made him out to be a scary, judgemental god.