I’m sitting in the dark in a big hall, loads of people around me and a young energetic girl on stage sharing her wisdom and being an inspiration to us all. I was there with my school mates but in that moment, I was alone, she was talking directly to me. Or at least that’s how it felt, I shed a few tears. Well, I cried a bit. Okay, I full blown ugly cried with a big frown, open mouth and a runny nose.
If there was one thing she wanted us to take away with us this night, it was these three little words: “You are enough”. And those three words evoked so many feelings inside of me.
I have, without really realising, always battled the feeling of not being enough and always felt like I have to do better, prove myself and make others proud. When something goes wrong I am also very good at blaming myself. I tend to convince myself that I didn’t do this or that right or that I am simply “not enough”.
But where does this come from? Well, I’ll try to give you a short version of a very complicated and bumpy ride called my life.
I grew up with a parent that seemed to struggle. Struggle with the role of being a parent. Unfortunately, this seemed to be my fault. I was brought up in an environment of mental and physical abuse. The physical abuse almost completely stopped when I was around 6 years old but the threat of it always lingered in the air.
As a young kid I started having to take on a lot of responsibility at home, which was fine. However, if things weren’t done, right down to the letter, I would be met with a fit of rage.
If a piece of clothing was folded the wrong way the whole laundry basked was turned upside down and I was told I did a sloppy job and had to do it all again. If my toys weren’t categorised in the toy boxes they were spilled all over the floor and I had to start over.
If it didn’t take me long enough to vacuum my room (however long that should be) I was sent back into my room to vacuum longer and better.
If I came home too late (5 minutes late would be way too late) or did something considered out of order (it didn’t take much!) the punishments were very intense.
I grew up with a lot of screaming and pointing and a lot of threats. The sentence “You have ruined the weekend (week, day etc.), I hope you are happy with yourself!” rang in my ears whenever I behaved like a child (I say that as I have children now and know I was no better or worse than other kid). That was a huge responsibility for my small shoulders to carry.
If I behaved exactly the way this person wanted and did everything expected of me (which was a whole lot more than any other kids my age) I would get some love and praise, and MAN did I live for those moments!
However, I was a kid and I became a teenager. I got fed up with the environment I grew up in. Therefore, I rebelled, but only periodically. I tried drinking alcohol a few times, no drugs or anything of that sort, got with boys and other things parents usually frown upon. Often Child Protective Services got involved. Sometimes because I called for help. Sometimes because this parent called them. Sometimes because the people in our town knew I was being brought up in unacceptable circumstances and they couldn’t look the other way anymore.
By the age of 16 this parent didn’t want me anymore and I was sent away.
For this parent “I wasn’t enough”.
Living with strangers
Child Protective Services had a hard time deciding what to do with me. They weren’t used to having to find a solution for a teenager that was just being a teenager. However, I ended up in foster care for one summer. I was sent to a farm where the family also ran their own company.
I felt like the family at the farm didn’t want me there, but that they got decent money for housing me.
I had been ripped out of my life and placed in an unfamiliar place. I didn’t know the people around me. I didn’t know the area. I wasn’t allowed to work (while everyone in the house was away most of the day/evening working) and I wasn’t allowed to use the internet or call my friends and family. I felt completely alone.
The parent that didn’t want me made sure I would still be punished even though I lived somewhere else.
After about 2 months of this however a guardian angel intervened, and the situation changed. The power was taken away from that parent.
At that foster care home “I wasn’t enough” and felt like no one really cared.
I was raised in a household where there wasn’t much money. Regardless of this I counted myself lucky as there was always food on the table and I always had a roof over my head. The people that raised me had to work hard to make ends meet and therefore I had to take care of myself a lot. I also had to wear used clothes, passed down from my cousins. They were a lot bigger than me so by the time I could finally wear the clothes, they were well past their “fashionable wear by date”. For this reason, I was bullied.
I was also bullied for developing late. I was picked on for not having boobs when all the girls in my year had got them. I stuffed cotton down a bra. That idea was suggested by someone I though was a friend. She even lent me the bra. She then told everyone about it when I showed up with my newly developed “boobs”.
At school I “wasn’t enough” for my peers.
The sexual abuse
I was abused by a family member. I only remember glimpses. One of my coping skills seems to be to block things out. I am quite thankful for that.
However, I remember being told I was difficult and prudish while this person tried to penetrate me, I was around 10 years old. I remember being told to moan and then being told off for doing it wrong.
Even while I was being molested “I wasn’t enough”! I couldn’t even do that right!
Hurt them before they hurt you
My relationships where later defined by my upbringing. I couldn’t believe that anyone would love me, let alone love me forever! I had been rejected as a teenager by a parent, one of the few people that you would think was guaranteed to always love and protect you.
Without realising, this spilled over into my relationships. I didn’t realise this myself until much later.
If I felt things were getting serious and that I was getting heavily involved I would hit the eject button.
Made to please
In my constant search for approval and intimacy I let men treat me in a demeaning way, a way that was self-degrading and some of it was pure abuse. I didn’t see it at the time, I just loved attention and the affection however short and shallow it was.
Upwards and onwards
Even though this sounds like a sob story, it isn’t. Really it isn’t. As a child I was still fairly happy, and I did have friends. Even with my “luck” with men I have done some amazing things and met some unbelievable people along the way. I have also grown as a person.
Today I am aware. I am aware of HOW I was shaped. I am aware I HAD to cope. I am aware I didn’t always do it right. I am aware I have hurt people along the way and I am aware I probably hurt myself the most.
However, after being in foster care for 4 months a family member fostered me. She took me in and got legal custody of me. That person was amazing. When she took me in I was broken and hurt but I was still unbelievably positive and driven by the urge to survive. I used humour A LOT!
As I have talked about previously , I decided at a young age I wouldn’t let what happened to me or what other people think affect me from now on. It is my life and I am responsible for it, and for how I am going to tackle it with the cards I have been dealt.
I am a fighter through and through and therefore I decided I wasn’t going to let all of this define me. I have always believed I am meant to do great things, and I wasn’t going to let other people put me down or make me believe that I wasn’t.
I am driven not to use my past as an excuse to be unhappy or to lose my path in life.
Therefore, with bumps, falls and crashes I have pulled myself up. I did the best I could with what I had.
And you know what? I am damn proud of myself.
However, these words made me cry. Why?
Because, even though I am independent, even though I have reached a really good place in my life, even though I have the best fiancé, even though I have happy and clever children, even though I have educated myself (and am still at it), even though I have the greatest net of friends and family around me and even though I am generally happy, I know some of it was fuelled by “not being enough”. Fuelled by “I’ll show them!” and by “If I was that useless I couldn’t have done that!” etc.
And even though I know I am doing well, even though I know I am at a great place in my life, even though I know I am a good mum, even though I know I am a loving fiancée, even though I know I am a friend to my friends and family I still feel like I have something to prove. Sometimes I feel like no matter how hard I try “I will never be enough”.
So why am I putting all this out there? Why am I sharing this with the world?
Well, because even though I have self-doubt at times I know “I AM enough!” I also think it is important to be authentic and true to one self and all of this IS a part of me. I hope my story can encourage other people going through difficult times to keep going. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, don’t give up. I also think it is important to share my experience as if someone is going through hard times and for whatever reason stumbles upon my blog they know they are not alone and there is a way up.
I believe stubbornness, sarcasm, writing poems and diaries, being positive and never giving up has got me to where I am today, and I will keep going no matter what other people may or may not think.
You know why? Because “I AM ENOUGH!”