As promised in my last post, I found the proof of my long-time difficulty with having a Maternal Role Model.
Originally Posted on The Old Blog, November 2012:
… I am desperate.
Desperate for someone to care.
Not just anyone: I have requirements, and they are strict. A woman, successful, an authority figure, someone who reminds me of myself in some way, someone whom I strive to be like, someone whom I would want to be my friend.
I don’t ever remember a time in my childhood when I got along with my mother. In fact, I spent most of my teenage years hating her and for a few years I even lived with my dad. My childhood memories of my mother are all fairly unpleasant: yelling, hitting, pinching, lying, being afraid, feeling shameful… I could go on. You could say I had a better relationship with my dad, but it still wasn’t great and looking back on it now, it certainly was dysfunctional.
Growing up, I had no one who cared about me. My parents were newly divorced and were too busy hating each other and making each other miserable to really realize what they were doing to their children. They provided the necessities and we never wanted for anything physical – we were clothed and fed, we went to school and we did well. Emotionally, they gave us nothing. I never felt special or like I mattered to my parents. My accomplishments always seemed to fall on deaf ears and land in front of blind eyes. I was a 12 year old girl with nothing to motivate me and no one to encourage me. And then I became desperate.
I started playing the clarinet in school and I was really good at it. So good, in fact, that my band teacher took notice right away. Ms. S., my band teacher was new, right out of university, young, fresh, ready to make a difference in some kids’ lives… it didn’t take her long. Her attention to my talent was like a single drop of water landing on a cracked desert floor. I loved it so much, it felt so good – like a drug. I needed more and I needed it right away. I excelled in music because it meant I could please Ms. S. – she would compliment me and encourage me, she would invest time in me and talk to me. I started doing better in school too, because I didn’t want to disappoint Ms. S.. Then 7th grade ended and Ms. S. left.
I started 8th grade and the desperation was back. I longed for that satisfying drug of encouragement and interest: I actively sought it out. There she was, a new teacher – Ms. B.. Again, this young, successful, friendly woman filled in the gap and gave me what I longed for so much. But like any drug, the effects started to wear off and I needed more. More acknowledgement, more time to talk, more emotional connection, more love. It was hard to get it all because there was that all-important teacher/student boundary, but I took what I could get and I tried as hard as I could to make her need me in her life the way I needed her.
I had Ms. B. for a few years, but after moving to high school, the relationship became less satisfying because I wasn’t getting everything I needed… I moved on to someone else… Ms. C., then TK, RJ, AW, and now K. Some of these relationships overlapped and there were some years without any meaningful interactions with these people. Some of them have remained an important part of my life and some, I have no idea where they are or what they are doing today. The one thing they all have in common, though, is that they have never really understood the dept of their role in my life.
In all honesty, I never even realized why exactly I needed these women in my life. I just knew that I did. I would latch onto them because I needed them. Most times I hated myself for doing it because I didn’t understand why I needed validation and recognition from these people in order to feel good about myself and my accomplishments. Worst of all, I would need them in my life so badly that I was afraid to tell them how I felt or what I needed. I was (and am) so afraid of rejection by these women that I would just take what I could get, no mater how small the interaction. Recently, through counseling, I’ve come to realize the relationship between the lack of a positive female role model in my childhood, with the need I have to seek one out for myself. What I can’t understand, however, is why I still do this to myself now… 15+ years later.
These relationships are often crippling for me because I choose people who are not always in the best position to give me exactly what I need: They are usually highly successful, busy, hard working women with little time to invest. I choose people who I want to be my friends, who aren’t that much older than me, who I strive to be like in some way. I want to please them so badly and I want them to approve of me so highly, that I am afraid of making a mistake. I scrutinize every word of every conversation I have with these women, because I’m afraid they will find a reason to not like me. When I don’t feel like a priority to them, I wonder what I’ve done wrong and why they don’t want to talk to me. I know this is illogical, but emotionally, I can’t help myself.
I have placed these women on the highest of pedestals, and failure in their eyes is my biggest fear. Failing in their eyes brings me right back to that lonely girl with no attention from her parents.
So, I am desperate for a relationship that is meant to fill a gap that can never be filled. I am looking for something that doesn’t exist and can never be exactly what I want it to be. Until I can figure out how to fill that gap in a healthy, healing way, I will always be desperate.