“Children should be seen and not heard” That actually is what my childhood was like.
Self-esteem. This is a subject that is touchy and very difficult for me to talk about. Sometimes I feel as if people think that when you are an adult you should automatically have self-esteem. As if being a grown up means that you no longer have the insecurities of a child. I don’t like that assumption. It is very hurtful and dismissive.
Thinking back on my life so far, I’ve tried to figure out what it is that caused such poor self-esteem for me. I certainly didn’t choose it. I don’t want to be pitied or condescended to. I think maybe we don’t consider enough how much our childhood affects our everything. Adulthood doesn’t mean automatic anything. When you never learn it, how can you practice it in your life.
I think over and over to myself what I need to do or what I should be able to do and say to be a normal social person. And it seems basic and uncomplicated. But again, if you never learned those skills, you don’t enter adulthood and automatically become endowed with magical self-esteem and social skills.
Remembering back, I am realizing that the major contributing source of a lack of self-esteem is a lack of communication. Human beings were meant to communicate with one another. It is one of many very important ways that we connect with people so we don’t go crazy.
I can’t tell you how many times when we were kids that we would have a friend from church over on a Sunday afternoon and the kid would always go home and tell their parents how quiet our house was. It became this thing. The Dalton’s house is so quiet. And it was true. Aside from yelling between my parents frequent arguing, there wasn’t any noise. No one talked to each other. We didn’t have conversations or debates, positive or negative.
I really try not to sound like I’m saying “it’s all my parents fault” for everything, but in this case it IS all my parents fault. They did not talk. To each other. To us. To friends. Nothing. Talk about our lives, our emotions, our fears, our joys, our insecurities, politics, history, current events, science and everything else under the sun. We did not talk. Ever. The only “conversations” I can clearly remember were when we were all being lined up to get spanked. They weren’t really conversations at all. Just my parents telling us how bad we were and how many times we were going to be hit.
Do you know how hard it is to have confidence in yourself when you never learned how to communicate. I do well through writing. But that’s always been my only outlet. I learned how to write when I went to the Christian school and that was how I expressed things. I have a lot of diaries. They are not things I’ve ever really talked about to anyone. When you think your parents don’t give a crap about what you think or feel, you tend to retreat into your own world. I became silent. It didn’t matter what I thought or felt. It only mattered what they thought and felt, which was pretty much never in agreement with each other. My mother’s emotional state was always more important than anything else.
Why should I, at 16 years old, want to sit down with my mother and talk about something I’m feeling and thinking when that had never ever happened before. When children are born they do automatically trust their parents or caregivers because they literally depend on them for their lives. But that trust quickly falls away when you are never asked how you feel or what’s wrong, and never listened to. My point is, if you don’t talk to your children from the very beginning, they aren’t going to grow up and want to talk to you.
There were a few times my mother sat down with us and basically just read us bible verses and tried to use that as justification for what was wrong. That is so incredibly manipulative. I can’t stand it. It angers me to my very core that someone who claims (still) to be a dedicated Christian would take the holy book they believe in and use it to manipulate her children into feeling sorry for her. You can ask all of my siblings and they will all say the same thing.
There was never any kind of conversation with either of my parents about dating, relationships, college, career, life goals. I still to this day have absolutely no idea what exactly my parents thoughts or beliefs were about dating. We never discussed it. I never dated, we didn’t talk about dating, or boys, or friendship. I think because I was a “good girl” it was just assumed that I was never going to get into any of those things. Or maybe it was assumed I didn’t want to. I didn’t date in college either. And then I had a very tumultuous, damaging relationship that made me feel like I wasn’t even capable of being in a relationship.
One thing that still hurts me a lot is that my parents never discussed college with me. They never asked me what I wanted to do, what I was interested in, or even if I wanted to go to college. I kind of decided it all on my own, at 19. I picked PCC because it was the only college I knew anything about and it’s where other kids in the church went. There wasn’t really a thought process involved in the decision making. I really just wanted to be out of my house to I went to Florida. And I hated it. Even after I came back from my first semester and told my dad I didn’t want to go back. There still wasn’t any kind of discussion. He didn’t ask why or what else I might have wanted to do or where else I might have wanted to go. He just told me to finish.
I ended up deciding to graduate a semester early so I could get it done with as soon as possible. And it just felt like another thing that I did just because. I had no vision, no goals, no dreams, no ambitions. I finished at PCC because it was the “right thing to do.” I wish so much now that my dad would have actually sat down with me and asked me what I wanted for my life and what direction I should take. I did it alone. I was a naive, inexperienced kid and I did it alone.
After college when I got into a relationship with a terrible person, the only conversation in regards to that was my mother asking me if he was pressuring me for sex. That’s it. That’s the one and only question she ever asked, even though I was miserable. I told my dad when I broke up with him and that was pretty much it. Still no conversation. I just think it isn’t fair for a parent to raise their child with no communication or social skills or direction and then when they become legal throw them out into the world to try to figure out how to survive on their own. My dad didn’t literally kick me out, but there was no talking about it. I was lost. I’ve always been lost.
Now that I think about it this may also be something that has contributed to me never being able to make up my mind. Jumping around to different schools and floundering in search of a job or career with meaning has been my life since graduating. I always admired my dad for his job and work ethic. He worked very hard and truly loved his job. I wanted that. But no one told me how to find it. I’m working on it.