You know what, dear friends and gentle readers? Relying on external sources for a sense of self-worth and personal validation is about as effective as banging your head against a brick wall, expecting to relieve your headache. It doesn’t work. In fact, it causes even more pain.
I’ve attempted to impress my father for over two decades. Not just impress, but earn some level of respect and admiration from him. Time and time again I try, only to be met with cold resistance and the realization that I will never, ever be good enough. But time and time again, I try. And time and time again, I fail.
It feels like not being asked to the school dance, or being picked last at a game of kickball. It is an internal pain. You feel, or rather, you know that you will never measure up.
My current profession is only temporary as I work towards something greater, but despite being temporary, I do my best. My father visited me at work today and purchased a few things. I was able to discount some items because, well, he’s my father and that was the least I could do. He was very cordial with my coworkers. Had them smiling and laughing. He observed how I interacted with other customers, how I tended to their needs and assisted them with their purchases, tailoring my suggestions to the individual, and not the individual’s wallet.
I’m not exactly sure what I expected. At the bare minimum, I expected some level of appreciation in the form of a “thank you.” But it didn’t come.
At 29, I internalized the rejection just as I did when I was 19, and just as I did when I was 9. I interpreted the lack of verbalized gratitude as a sign that my work fell short of acceptable, regardless of the care and effort that I put into it. After he left, I maintained whatever was left of my smile and continued to help others, but with the depleted spirit that occurs whenever I expect something from him that I inevitably never receive.
It is difficult to change a way of thinking that has been ingrained in you for the majority of your life. Not allowing my interactions with my father to effect the way I view myself is something that I am able to maintain for moments at a time, only to revert back to my old behaviors following some kind of disappointment.
My father loves me the best way he can, but not in a way that I need. He’s a good man, for the most part, when the mood strikes him. But he can be a shitty parent.
And that happens. And it’s okay.
One day, I’m not going to hang my head every time he refuses to acknowledge the things I do for him. One day, I won’t feel like a failure when my thoughtfulness is ignored. One day, I will be able to appreciate myself for who I am and not base my self-image on whether or not I can make him happy, or proud.
Sometimes you can’t make people proud. And that’s okay.
What matters most is becoming your own ally, because personal comfort is a hard-won thing, and when achieved, it can propel you into greatness.
You can and you will be great, so long as you don’t base your perception of greatness on the opinions of others.
I can and I will be great, so long as I don’t base my perception of greatness on the opinions of my father.
I will be 30 in six months and one day. I can spend the rest of my life waiting for something that may never come. That is indeed an option. Or alternately, I can become my own friend, and thank myself for another day of positive interactions and active living. I can thank myself for another day of working hard to achieve my goals. I can thank myself for being myself, as weird and wonderful as I am.
I can become the person I base my self-worth on. Another day on earth, another day out of bed, another day spent working hard, another day living my life; these are things I can thank myself for and be proud of. These are things I can achieve my own validation for.
It’s not easy. But it’s possible. And the possible should be sought after and strived for. And that’s what I’m going to do.
Your song of the evening, dear friends, is “Quiet” by This Will Destroy You, a post-rock band out of Texas. They put out some great instrumentals. Thinking music. Please give them a listen.