Why is this such a hard concept for me to truly believe about myself?
I don’t think this relates to my childhood, per se. I was a middle child…the peace maker type. I was born into this world with an emotionally sensitive nature that is deeply concerned for the comfort of others. Those factors contributed, I’m sure. But, my parents did not make me feel my needs were a burden to them. They were attentive and loving. If anything, they may have leaned towards spoiling us a bit, as they wanted us to have an easier life than they had.
But, my nature made me vulnerable to a charming, popular, good looking young man when I was 18 years old. My easy going nature made it easy to over look and forgive the times he was two hours late for a date or wouldn’t call me for days. The time he decided to work in a strip club as a DJ was expected to not be questioned because he was a Christian and would never do anything immoral. And on and on…..
We got married when I was 21 and our first son was born when I was 22. I was committed, loyal, and believed we could create a loving family similar to what I had been blessed to grow up in.
So, when my ex quit a good paying full time job when I was pregnant the first time so he could go into Christian ministry, I was asked to support his calling. We had to fund raise his entire salary by asking friends and relatives to contribute to the ministry. So, I had to go back to work as soon as possible after our son was born.
This was just the start. If I went through every expectation placed on me throughout 20 years of marriage to put my needs aside to support his dreams, this would be many pages long.
I did these things willingly, even though I sacrificed much. I believed he would be like my dad, and give just as much back. I waited and waited to see that….always convincing myself that eventually it would be my turn. But, he was always too stressed and overwhelmed and couldn’t believe I would be so selfish as to ask for anything from him knowing everything he was always going through.
This went on and worsened over the years. Over time, I came to believe I, and my needs, truly were a burden. I came to believe I did not matter. I remember feeling cognitive dissonance about this….knowing on one hand that everyone matters and everyone’s needs are important. …with living with the daily reality that this wasn’t true for me.
Having been on my own for over 5 years now, I have resolved a lot of those faulty beliefs. I get it on a cognitive level that I matter and my needs are not a burden to others. But, this was deeply conditioned into my psyche and this conditioning plays out in so many areas of my life to this day.
When I am in a relationship, it takes tremendous courage for me to ask for what I need and overcome the anxiety that I will be in trouble for asking. I still expect to be punished with silent treatments or verbal reprimands.
With my friends, I have to remind myself it is okay to make mistakes and also to ask for something. I do know that they genuinely want me to be happy.
If I think I am going to create discomfort for someone, it causes me fear and anxiety to speak up. I still expect to be told I am being selfish. I am still often surprised when that doesn’t happen.
Even the simple act of checking in with people makes me feel like a bother. When I call or text anyone, I still have to overcome the feeling that I am bothering them. It’s embarrassing to admit how often I have to say to myself, “you are not a burden ” just to send a simple text.
I am making progress, but it is a long journey.
One step at a time.