by Maya (Guest writer)
Growing up, my adoptive mom believed you should never pick up a crying baby. The thought process behind this—children, even infants, need to learn to comfort themselves. She taught it. I lived it.
As a toddler I can still remember running and hiding if I fell down or got hurt. The thought of going to an adult—especially her—for comfort was an absolute no go. There wasn’t a warm hug to be had.
Happiness worked in the same manner. I would hide in my room and cover my mouth to smile. Joy had to be a secret because otherwise someone could take it away.
By age ten I resorted to self-mutilation for escape. My adoptive mom responded to that with a spatula to my back. She believed I needed to be punished for hurting myself. I quickly learned the severe consequences to showing any kind of emotion. Happiness or pain. Want or need.
Today when things aren’t going well either internally or externally, my first instinct is to do what I’ve always done. Hold it. Hide it. Not share my needs. In those moments I ache inside as if I’m still a small child, desperate for loving, safe, motherly touch. But that, too, I keep locked up. The little girl I once was, still runs and hides.
I’ve been wondering how to break such patterns. Today I asked myself, “Why would I want to let go of living in survival mode?” Answer, “It protects me from possible rejection.” Soon the real answer swelled my heart. It’s because I want more for my life. That’s why I want to break them.
Continuing to live closed off from vulnerability isn’t a new beginning. It’s just a cycling through the same patterns that I’ve already lived.
What if taking care of myself means not being afraid to let others know if I have a need? To speak it out for what it is? What if a new beginning, even as a motherless daughter, means learning the things I missed as a child?
- That it’s okay to express need and desire
- That it’s okay to reach out for help
- That I don’t have to protect my heart in those kinds of ways anymore
Though my mother didn’t pick me up and comfort me as a child, I don’t have to continue living out those lies today. The lies of my emotionally absent mom. She probably wasn’t held either.
Freedom from the need to hide is attainable. I can choose emotional honesty. I can choose vulnerability. Not just with myself, but with others, too. I don’t want to hide my heart anymore. And the beautiful thing is that I don’t have to.