Abuse evaporated my self-esteem 

You are good enough, even if you don't know it

You are good enough, even if you don’t know it

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.

Abuse lowers self-esteem

Abuse lowers self-esteem

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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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 19, 2014, in feminism, psychology, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Jansi Christhuraj

    It is one of the powerful article that touched my heart. I always thought that the girls who wear clothes that expose their body are really bad. The author made a very good point about what made them to behave like that. The early stages of childhood is like a sponge; they absorb everything that is going on in their surroundings. The dad made the illusion that the mom was inferior, even though he was out of work and drunk. The children saw the bad things everyday and thought that it was normal, and that is how the world works. I am not sure whether it is a real story or not, but I am glad that the girl was able to find a good person in her life and is now confident that her children will not witness any abuse and grow up with self-esteem. Good luck to that girl and her family.

  2. After reading this story, I think what I heard was true, which was that if our parents are so violent, we have possibility to raise our kids like our parents did to us. Also, we have much possibility to have boyfriend who is like our father. In my family, my father is the traditional father who thinks that he is always right and has to be powerful. Thats why, I have almost never seen that my mother talked back to him. In my family, what my father said was always right. He didnt hit or punch us a lot, but what he said was sometimes unforgiven. So, my mother also estimated herself so down like this author and her mother. Also, like her, I was the one who chose the boyfriend who was like my father. Now, I have a boyfriend who is really taking care of me and give me a lot of love, but until then, my ex boyfriends were like my father who hurt by too much words. Thats why, I can feel like I understand her and I can tell that the environment where we grow up is very very important because the personality or characteristics which we have made in such an environment is very difficult to notice. I am happy that this author has noticed it and have a good relationship with the boyfriend.
    Now, I can tell that the parents have to be responsibility especially in front of kids because they can affect their kids a lot, and women including me and my mother have to estimate ourself by ourselves.

  3. This is very sad, but very true. A man grows up thinking he is suppose to be in charge and in control of everything. He is suppose to be strong, and the head of a relationship. So when a man feel threatened or has low self esteem, he will go out and find someone he feels also have self esteem problems, or is “weak” and he will take advantage of her. He will make himself feel better by bringing her down and and abusing. I had a friend who throughout high school she was in an abusive relationship. She was the popular girl with lots of friends and she was really pretty. She did however come from a home where her mom was raising her on her own, and although she did see her dad from time to time he was raising his other children. When it came to her relationship, my friend would tell me stories about how her boyfriend would tell her she was ugly and that no man would ever want her. He wouldn’t allow her to wear make up, and if any other man would look at her, she would get in trouble by him. Not only was he emotionally abusing her but he was also physically abusing her. He was threatened by her beauty and brains and knew he could take advantage being that her father wasn’t really around. It wasn’t until later that we found out that his dad was abusive towards his mom, and he witnessed it as a child. Kids grow up to be like their parents, so if a kid sees their parent abusing the other they will grown up thinking it’s ok. Also if I kid grows up seeing the mother being abused, they will grow up thinking it is normal and the way it should be

  4. This article had caught my eyes right from the start because of what I learned in my Avid class a couple years back. My teacher, who grew up in an abusive household (just like Lily) told us that his father was also an alcoholic and his mother was a druggie ever since he was very young. He would always get beaten by his father every times he come home drunk and his mother was never actually there for him. And with that, it had affected him and caused him to become a very anger person and he would take it out on other people and get in a lot of trouble in school. He even run away and become homeless for a year, but his grandmother took him in and get him to go back to school. He graduated and got a master degree. He was one of the best teacher I’ve ever had because since he’d been through all that, he is more understanding and supporting us with what we do. He really care about all of his students, he even bought in food and school supplies for us just in case anyone need it or is starving because he knows that not every family will have the opportunity to provide their kids with everything that they need.
    I just wish that more parents would realized that they are a parents now, they are responsibility for another human being. Their actions and behaviors will affect their child’s perspective on life.

  5. Jasmine Lopez Torres

    This post made tugged some heartstrings of mine. As someone that has also dealt with abuse as a child, I can definitely relate to the author of this post. Growing up, the men of my lives proved to be very unemotional, and abusive type of people.Unconsciously though, I registered that my father and grandfather were the representative of the whole male race. When my grandfather (an alcoholic) and my father (an unemployed ,stressed out single father at the time), would do something so terrifying and abusive,I thought that men always had this dominating trait to them and they didn’t care for women. I grew up finding love from other men and that’s how I would somehow be accepted by them. I would become involved with almost any guy who would show interest in me (this, I’m not proud of).My ex-boyfriends proved to me again that all men are cruel and careless. Then, I fell in love with my present boyfriend of 3 years and he totally changed my perspective on men. He is the opposite of what the men in my life used to be like. I too, grew up with self esteem issues. But my perspective on men has also changed through the years by becoming more educated.Also,I’ve learned to love myself more. I’m learning more and more everyday and I realized that being sad or annoyed at myself was a waste of time. I am so proud of how brave this author is for exposing their darkest parts for others to read. I believe this is part of the healing process.

  6. This article made me realize the importance of being independent. I actually had a similar experience. My father was addicted to gambling. He would skip a trip with us, spend all of the money for my tuition, even hit us. I’m not saying that I was born and raised with a horrible family. There was and still has been love. But why couldn’t she leave him and start a new life? Because she had no way to go grocery shopping since she didn’t have a car, she graduated from a community college and doesn’t have a specific skill to earn enough salary. (I found out that we were obviously in domestic violence when I learned about it at the end of middle school.) What my mom always say is “Be independent.” This is why she lets me do whatever I’m interested in, wants me to have a great education. I think things would be much easier if she had a good education or skill.

  7. This is a very interesting story because Lily was raised in thinking that men abusing women is normal. I am glad that she found out that women aren’t supposed to be abused and looked down upon by men. This just shows that no matter how much people say that women and men are treated equally it is not totally true if you ask many women. I got lucky as a child I was not abused or looked down upon by my family, but I did notice when I was around 12 I was always doing the dishes and helping my dad with all the inside house work and my younger brother would help him with all of the outside work. It sucks that her mom was abused and she finally realized after 15 years that she could do better and she doesn’t have to go through all of the abuse that she went through. I also find it interesting that since her mom was making all of the money and her dad couldn’t keep his job since he was an alcoholic, he still had to feel more powerful which is why he abused her mother and he put her down so many years. Instead of how he handled the situation he should of stopped his drinking or at least put an effort into minimizing his consumption of alcohol and started putting on his big boy pants and put himself to work and provide for his family.

  8. what is awesome in this reading is that she actually acknowledge where her problem is from and she does no bear it as an excuse to make her children suffer. Even though she still shocked she actually is strong enough to move on . Through this reading you can feel her emotion. I really think her mother thought to do what was best for her children even though unfortunately she helped hurting them.

  9. Mine stayed because Jesus. And oddly enough, he did change after he got older and weaker. But I hope your student finds peace.

  10. There are many mothers who still go through the abuse given by her husband. Some take the pain for their children’s future and some because of fear of society. Some could live with this pain forever and some know the limit till they could the pain given to them. If a woman is with her husband even after all this doesn’t means that she is not strong and dependent on her husband but , it simply means she loves her children more than her self respect and would take that pain in a hope that may be her husband would change some day. But, one thing they all forget that it does have a very bad impact on their children.

  11. I appreciate her honesty and chutzpah… and her ability to go to the root of problems for solving them is really praiseworthy. Wish her a great life and family in future… 🙂

  12. The writer’s ability to track the hows and the whys should definitely help her break the cycle and patterns she so honesty talks about. Lots of courage here!

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