Self Awareness is an important aspect of being a good human. To have conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires is painful but in the end I think it makes you a better person in the long run. I want to talk about this pain today because I have it in spades at the moment.
During my very first therapy session in Atlanta, Georgia in 2003 I poured out my heart and soul. I had never talked to anyone that I felt that safe with and when I was done, she looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “If anyone has a reason to be a crack whore it is you. I am amazed that you are not lying in a gutter somewhere in despair”. She went on to tell me that my self awareness saved me from the many pitfalls people have when they are abused and tossed aside.
Even as a small child I was able to step outside myself. I remember when I was getting a particular hard beating, as my mother’s eyes were wide with anger I would close my own and tried to look at what was happening outside myself. I realized my mom was drunk, tired and frustrated and if I could just sit quietly she would tire out and stop faster than if I cried and begged. I learned this from experience. So that is what I did. After she passed out in exhaustion I would then take a cold bath to reduce the swelling because I already knew at the tender age of 7 that seeing those bruises would only make her feel ashamed and hence adding to her bad feelings which would in turn cause more severe verbal abuse. It was a vicious cycle.
Yet, I absolutely loved my mother. A love for a mother is very very strong. I knew Father had left us and she reminded me every day it was my fault. Other than my lovely grandmother who lived hours away, she was all I had. I learned defense mechanisms that no child should know. I just wanted her to love me. I mistakenly thought that if I was just “better” or if I did everything perfectly then I could earn her love. I lived like this until adulthood. It is obviously not healthy and caused me to have unhealthy relationships later in life.
Friendships for me have always been awkward. I spent too much time thinking about my character and my feelings. I set up all sorts of hard to reach goals. I missed out on a lot of boyfriends because at the first sign of someone liking the same guy as me, I would back off to be a “good friend”. Many women took advantage of that I found out too late. When I realized this was happening I tried to talk to my women friends and they were uncomfortable. I would often be told, “Just go with it, why do you have to be so weird?” What was I supposed to say? I had the weird BEATEN into me? LOL
Yesterday I cried into my pillow for a good hour. I was hurt and frustrated. I had too many emotions in my heart to be able to figure out what was happening with my feelings. I had first emailed my friend to get some more information but what I learned hurt even more. As I tried to process, I typed out a response email and then did not send it to her because in the end it would have just made her uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my husband because I was already frustrated with him. My kids are too young. My other confidant was working so I decided to just let myself wallow in my self pity. Not the greatest way to handle things but it is better than drinking too much or beating someone.
While I am self aware, I rarely put myself first and I realize a lot of the pain I’m having is because I’m going against a part of my self that had been trained to put others first for defense. I need to take care of myself too. No one is going to take care of you better than you will. They all have their own needs and desires and very few people put others before them. While I finally learned to LOVE myself in my late 40s I’m finally learning that I do not have to give all of myself away to the people I love.
I DESERVE love and people must love me just the way I am. At this moment, I am awkward, sensitive and a little needier than I normally am. My father’s cancer and death has really taken a toll on me. Before that I lost my mother which led to very complicated feelings. I also lost my Uncle Alex that I had for such a brief time. In the past 10 years I have had to grapple with more emotion than I could handle. No wonder I feel into what the therapist calls “situational depression”. I am just crawling out of that and I need to be patient with my recovery.
I wanted to think that there was someone that I could lean on as much as I leaned on my Daddy. The truth is there is no one. I realize that I am not just mourning the loss of a father but the only person that ever loved me without asking for anything in return. I love my friends and I love my husband and I do know they love me but even all their love combined was not like my Daddy – he was the one person in my life that was so glad to know me and felt lucky to have found me. He never gave me ultimatums or standards to live by. There was never any quid pro quo. He was the only person in my life that had ever made me a priority. The one and only thing he ever asked for was to die in his home. I am so glad I was able to help him do that.
So here I am at 53 realizing that while self awareness is good and helps you make better decisions, it can also lead you to second guess yourself and cause pain. I’m happy to have internal self awareness and I will hold onto that. My exteranal self awareness, on the other had is a little too acute. I am too aware of how others can see me and while I’m never good with social norms, it makes me too self conscious. I need to let others feel what they feel and move on. I am allowed to feel my feelings and they are too. If they are self aware as well, they will know that I love them even if some of my actions make them uncomfortable.
Adulting is hard and I learn something new again and again. I hope my daughters will be more balanced when they reach adulthood than I was. Surely they will be happier for it. They have an inkling of what my childhood was like. I have spared them the gory details although they will read about it in my second book MOTHER. IF you are hyper self aware like me try to be more forgiving of yourself. Too much external self awareness will make you distressed and you don’t need that. Don’t depend on others to love you more than you love yourself. Good luck.