By Twanna F.
At a very early age, I learned from my father that truth, specifically my own truth, wasn’t worth much. I learned that people will make assumptions about you and your story. They will collage their own insecurities with the pieces of you they are most comfortable accepting in order to interpret you in a way that allows them to be secure.
Growing up, I was afraid of my dad. He was angry all the time, for reasons I’m still trying to understand, and he met me with strong opposition any time I tried to offer up my opinions and ideas. Out of fear I let him shut me down before there could ever be a heated discussion. Once his voice raised to a certain point I knew it was hopeless. He couldn’t hear me and I wasn’t strong enough to make him. Even as an adult I haven’t gotten half the stuff off my chest that I need to when it comes to my dad. I remember sitting in the car with my dad about a year ago, after one of the many traumatic episodes with my mom’s crazy ex boyfriend. My brother and I had gotten into a crazy argument with him, voices cracking, chests puffed up and hands in each other’s faces. As my mother tried to calm all of us down he shoved her into a wall in the hallway and just as it was about to get more physical he stormed out and stole my mom’s car. I wish I could say this was the worst of what we went through with my mom’s ex but unfortunately it was nothing compared to the months following.
I needed to get out my mom’s house so I asked my dad to pick us up the next day. Not sure why, but I expected sympathy from him or at least a few questions as to what happened. I was met with frustration as he made the situation about himself and found a way to lecture my brother and I about not appreciating his support enough. He felt that we didn’t look traumatized enough, distressed enough, thankful enough that he was “saving” us from the situation. My ears got hot with every ignorant word he spit at me. And when my body started shaking with anger I yelled “What do you expect us to do? Cry?! I don’t have any more tears and even if I did it wouldn’t change anything!” I was begging him to hear me and for a minute I thought it was worth it. I said, “We’ve been traumatized for years this is nothing! You should know that. You know I was molested living in that hou…” He didn’t wanna hear it. He literally said “I don’t wanna hear that.” Shocked, hurt, angry, and tired as hell I shut up. I curled into myself and imagined alternative endings to the conversation in my head. That was the only place where I won, in my imagination.
Believe me I love my father and I’m sure he did the best he could being a parent with what he was taught growing up. But he was a huge factor in hindering my ability to take up space. He forced me to make myself small around him, to be seen and not heard unless he asked me to speak. And when I did speak, if it didn’t mimic and magnify him I was immediately silenced. So, I spent my childhood trying to contort myself into who he wanted me to be. Disappointing him meant more to me than disappointing myself. Making him uncomfortable meant more to me than making myself uncomfortable. So I showcased the pieces of myself that he liked and hid everything else in hopes of making him proud. In hopes that maybe he would love me the way movies say a father should.
Being a daddy’s girl was a dream that never came true and it followed me into adulthood. In all of my relationships, platonic and romantic, I struggle with taking up space. I’ve dimmed my light, dumbed myself down, made myself uncomfortable (physically and emotionally), told half of my truth and forced shared interests all for attention and “love”. At my worst, I had to begin to question whether certain behaviors, beliefs and interests were really my own because for so long I had to be someone else just to appease the people around me. Over and over I would paint myself someone else’s favorite color in hopes that they would look at me. But while I waited for eyes to fawn over me I neglected myself and it made me feel terrible.
In learning that I was doing this damage to myself subconsciously, I’ve had to become more aware of my choices and where they are rooted. Why do I care so much about being a safe space for others when they don’t even think to do the same for me? Don’t I deserve to feel comfortable? Don’t I deserve to feel at home in my own skin?
Breaking bad habits is far from easy but I know it’s worth it because I’ve stunted my growth thus far. I’m learning that the hate is inevitable, and you simply cannot please everyone. The only happiness you can ensure is your own. If no one else is proud of your triumphs, if no one else is grateful for your attention, if no one else fucks with you and your vision… You have to be that for yourself. And those that reciprocate your energy are the only ones worth sharing your space with. It’s easy to make room for others, to neglect ourselves and succumb to fear. But pushing past that fear means everything, it means health in all aspects. So fill every room with your magic because this is the season for taking up space!