In my therapy, I learned it is quite normal, but not healthy to view yourself through the lens of others' approval. It worked for me for a while because my parents thought I was a great daughter, I generally had good friendships, teachers seemed to be positive and encouraging, All this fed my people-pleasing tendencies and I wrongly assumed that when people were pleased with me, I somehow earned value. This reasoning meant the converse was true, when a person was displeased with me, my value and worth could be diminished.
My husband was my closest relationship and I allowed his mood, his view to completely define me. Without realizing it, I took my cues from him and lost myself. He battled his own issues and so my self concept took a beating, my world became so small.
When the secrets came into the light, my world felt like it went dark. Lies whispered in my psyche:
- If you had been a better wife .... more attractive, more verbal praise, more sex...
- You must accept the way things are because you aren't strong enough to insist on change.
- People will blame you, they will wonder what is wrong with you?
- You're trapped, you really have no choices.
I'm still determining exactly who I want to be, but there were some things that I knew right away:
1) I want to be a faithful woman, trust God even when I don't understand and strive to be honest in all things.
2) I want to be an engaged, consistent, fun and loving mother. The fact that I'm single, doesn't matter!
3) I want to be a true friend, available and sensitive to others.
Even this blog has been an exercise in refining my own self. For instance, although I am a single mother, I don't want the "single" to be what defines me, but the "mother." Another way I have learned to express myself is in my home. I am free to decorate and purge however I feel will best suit me, and serve our family needs. It's been fun and stretching to make changes within a tight budget. I'd love to share more about that!
Most of all, I am learning that I get to choose what I represent to others by the choices that I make. Yes, I am a divorce, single mother. There are tough things that have happened in my life - we all have them, but that is not what defines us. The way we respond to those difficulties creates the persona by which we are known. I hope that when others think of me, they think of a hard-working, bright, upbeat mother and friend to call for help or a fun time. My attitude and my priorities represent the "me" I want to become.