Abuse evaporated my self-esteem
By Lily Mendez
I was the girl that everyone called a slut. Or that everyone thought would be pregnant by age 16.
That’s what I would say when people asked me what I was like, growing up. Obviously, I didn’t feel real good about myself.
And my low self-esteem was reflected in my relationships with boys.
I always had a boyfriend as long as I can remember. I wore revealing clothes to get their attention, and they flocked to me.
But they didn’t treat me well. They disrespected me, put me down, and made me feel worthless. But I thought that’s how boys were supposed to be. I thought it was normal.
Until I got a boyfriend who made me feel loved and worthy. The boyfriend I have now. But I wasn’t used to it at first, so I was confused and strangely annoyed by his kind behavior. I just couldn’t understand how he could be so nice and loving.
But now I realize that my confusion and discomfort came from how I was raised.
Growing up, my father abused my mother. He was an alcoholic and would scream at her and put her down. And he even put his hands on her. My father would hit my mother in front of us, and she would just take it.
But she didn’t take it because she was dependent on him. My dad could not keep a job because he was always drunk. He couldn’t even get up to get to work. She was making all the money and paying for everything, plus taking care of her children.
I think that patriarchy probably had something to do with my father’s abuse. He was dependent on mom, financially, but he lived in a world that told him that men should be more powerful, and that women should be dependent on men. But that wasn’t the case, so the only way he knew to feel powerful and superior again was to put her down. And he could release all the anger he felt about his unemployment at the same time.
But why did my mother stay? I think she didn’t leave him because she thought he would change – because he always said he would. And because she didn’t care too much about herself. She had low self-esteem and seemed to think she deserved to be treated that way.
She put up with it for 15 years before she finally left him. But she didn’t know was how much it affected all three of her children.
I’d never realized how much growing up around abuse had lowered my own self-esteem, and caused me to think it was normal. My mother thought she was worthless. And that made me think I was worthless, without even noticing it.
When I start a family I don’t want my children to be in an abusive environment. I want them to respect themselves and not believe that all men are heartless and cruel, or that all women should take it.
This post was written by one of my students who asked to use a pen name.
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Posted on September 19, 2014, in feminism, psychology, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged battering, feminism, psychology, self-esteem, sexism, violence against women, women. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.