Today, on Mother’s Day, as many celebrate the special woman who gave them life, not all find cause for celebration. Instead, for some who grew up living with domestic violence, it can be a difficult day. Rather than recount the love of their mother and the precious moments spent together growing up, some struggle with painful memories that still weigh them down.
How can you bring yourself to celebrate, if growing up in that home, your mother constantly told you that you were WORTHLESS – constantly reminded you of who you would never be? How do you heal your self-esteem and feel ACCOMPLISHED when one of the people who were supposed to love you unconditionally, see the best in you, and help build your self-esteem for you trampled over it instead?
Messages of Worthlessness often say more about the way that parents grew up
Here, we explore how such messages of worthlessness often say more about the way a parent grew up when she was a child than they do about you. This is a LIE they likely learned in childhood, most often because they themselves faced an adversity or multiple adversities in their childhood home. This LIE is often generational and knowing this can help you distance yourself from the personal belief that they were right about you. They weren’t. They were just most likely doing to you what was once done to them, passing down the LIE of WORTHLESSNESS to you.
The nonphysical violence in particular was intense
I first introduced you to Mort as few weeks ago. He first experienced this sense of worthlessness as a child. Mort never felt good enough. Born in 1952 and raised in a blue-collar town south of Chicago, he was the baby of the family. No one ever hit him. His father was a big guy with a quick temper, but he adored his youngest son and never laid a hand on him. And yet violence, both physical and nonphysical, surrounded Mort as he was growing up.
The nonphysical violence in particular was intense, with loud and bitter arguments between his parents erupting regularly over everything from money to housecleaning and disciplining the kids. As it often does, it spilled down to their children, a hurtful by-product of such homes.
“Him? You gotta be kidding,” she said. “That kid is worthless.”
Among Mort’s most painful memories are the insults and put-downs from his mother. As a boy, she called him “you little schmuck” so often that Mort began to think that was his name. As a teen, he remembers a conversation between his mother and one of her coworkers, a nice lady who took a shine to little Mort.
“That boy of yours is adorable,” she told his mother. “And so bright!”
“Him? You gotta be kidding,” his mother said. “That kid is worthless.”
His mother was just repeating the cycle
His mother was just repeating what she had learned growing up. His parents were raised in an orphanage that was like something out of “Oliver Twist.” Mort’s mother and father each had a living parent, and the homes they were both born into were violent. But what hurt most was being left in that cold and depressing institution because their families couldn’t afford to keep them. Mort’s mother was so bitter and hurt about being dumped there that she never got over it.
“I was a latchkey kid before the term was even invented”
His parents were sweethearts at the orphanage and married young – his mother only 16 and his father 17 – just to get out of there. They worked hard, opened a neighborhood general store, and were able to provide for their three children – two boys and a girl – far better than their own families did. But what they couldn’t offer was nurturing and affection, because they’d never known it themselves.
“I was a latchkey kid before the term was even invented,” says Mort, who survived on dinner out of a can during the week. At a very young age, Mort was left alone for hours at a time as he waited for his parents and siblings to get home from work or school, forced to wear a key around his neck to let himself in the house.
The neglect along with his mother’s constant messages of worthlessness communicated to Mort that he wasn’t worth caring for. Yet his mother was just abandoning her own son the way she had felt abandoned by her parents. This doesn’t justify her behavior. But it does demonstrate that Mort’s worth was not really in question. When he sees that now as an adult, he is able to counter the lie.
Perhaps the adults in your household also learned the lie of worthlessness as children and simply passed it on to you. If that’s the case, you can apply the TRUTH to begin to release the belief that you aren’t worthy?
Please share in the comments below your reflections on what your parents communicated to you through their words or actions, and what you now know looking back on it all as an adult. Thank you for sharing.
A detailed overview of the WORTHLESS Lie can be found in CHAPTER 7 (“Worthless to Accomplished”) of INVINCIBLE: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up With Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free.