Interesting – I Googled this word today (mostly because I couldn’t remember if it was spelled ‘unloveable’ or ‘unlovable’). The box popped up that showed the definition. I was almost annoyed by its simplicity and sarcastic connotation.
Unlovable – adj.; not loveable.
And then I read the same word in a corresponding phrase:
i.e., an unlovable child
How awful. It’s hard to even read that, let alone type it. And it’s even harder to wrap my mind around the fact that there are some people who feel that way about children.
But the reality is, there are people like that. And there are children who feel and are made to feel unlovable. I know, because I was one of those little girls.
I received recognition as a child/teenager in a few different ways:
- I was physically controlled – spanked, popped, or worse – when I misbehaved. In other words, I received negative recognition;
- I was neither punished nor encouraged when I was at home. I spent almost my entire home existence in my room, not talking, not laughing, but also not being a burden; but
- I was NOT punished when I made good grades, worked really hard at my job and made a lot of tips on any particular day, stayed away from my boyfriend and friends, and also stayed off of my phone. I was NOT punished when I didn’t ask for things (permission to leave the house, something special at the store, lunch money, new clothing, a ride to a band competition or concert, or any of Daddy’s affection, time or attention). I was NOT punished if I followed the “be seen and not heard” rule. And there were even a few instances when I was congratulated for my good behaviors / hard work. I vividly remember the two times Daddy told me he was proud of me, and those fall into this category.
I spent every single second of my childhood feeling like the only way to be loved was to earn it – that the only way I was worth anything is if I was useful or productive in some way.
Earn it? Why would anyone even want love that he/she has to earn? Well, the answer is simple – because it’s the only love he/she knows. And so once a child has established a strategy, at such a young age, that “works” for him/her, they survive by repeating that strategy. “I must earn the love and acceptance and affection of others. I must be valuable by being useful. I must do something productive in order to be special.”
I question whether or not that kind of love really is the true definition of the word. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s all I know. And the burden of “needing to be worthwhile” has followed me through every crisis, every crossroads, every decision, from the time I was 6 years old, until now – and I’m almost 30.
Off and on since age 11, and consistently for the past 18 months, I have been in therapy, trying to do more than just “Band-Aid” the idea that I am completely worthless – because that’s the root of all of my problems. And it is difficult to dig into those wounds, even over two decades later. Even typing this blog post is cathartic. A lot of tears are currently being shed on this keyboard, as is usually the case when recalling my childhood.
At almost 30 years old, I still feel like there’s a sign on my back that says, “Will Work for Love.” I feel like a bad girlfriend if Jackie’s scrubs aren’t clean for work the next day – because he doesn’t hesitate to ask, “Do I have clean clothes for tomorrow?” I feel like a horrible mother if a home cooked meal is not on the table every night. If Lexi makes less than a B on a quiz or test, I feel like I did not adequately help her study. And because I feel like I’ve failed in one or many areas, I also feel like I do not deserve love.
Two nights ago, Jackie told me that I care more about controlling the household than I care about the family itself. I was up crying about that accusation for a lot of that night. What he doesn’t understand is that I feel like the only way to earn love from him and my children is to control.
There are so many things in my life I have absolutely no control over. I couldn’t control the fact that my mama left me when I was 11 years old. I couldn’t control the fact that Daddy married someone who psychologically tortured me for 3 years – keeping a written log of my weight, keeping a lock on the food pantry, listening in on every one of my phone calls, taking money from my pockets when I forgot to take it out of my dirty jeans after work, embarrassing me in front of our pastor and my father by accusing me of sleeping around (when I hadn’t even slept with ANYONE), reading my journals and notes I wrote to friends, calling me “crazy,” and even putting a dollar limit on what foods we could order when we went out to dinner. I couldn’t control the fact that my second husband was a total douchebag and didn’t hesitate to belittle me any chance he got. I couldn’t/can’t control the fact that my future 17 year old daughter manipulated me, tugged on my heartstrings and made me vulnerable to her emotions, only to screw me over two days later. I can’t control the fact that our Tut, a person I have grown to truly adore, respect and appreciate, is moving across the country. I can’t control the fact that my sisters do not include me in their lives, unless they need something from me. I can’t control the gossip that floats around at work. I can’t control what my ex-husband does with our kids when they are on his time.
But I can control some things. I can control the condition of my home. I can control how much laundry gets done, how often the yard gets mowed, what meal is served for dinner, what time the kids go to bed, how clean Lexi’s hair is and how she styles it.
So it’s really just a simple mathematic equation – even if irrational. Combine my theory that I do not deserve love, my need to control everything I possibly can, and the notion that I am only worthwhile if I make myself valuable through services, and you end up with this huge pile of issues to sort through.
When someone tells me they love me (who are really just Jack and my kids), my gut reaction is to cringe, and I think to myself, “Why in the hell would you love me? What did I do to earn it?” And it’s so hypocritical, because I love Jack and I love my kids, without hesitation, and regardless of what they “do” for me, and I always will. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand why they’d reciprocate.
So you see, it’s a self-worth issue, and it’s something I deal with every day. Some days are better than others. And since today is a down day, I needed to vent.
I’m exhausted. Rant over.
Meg / cC