WERE YOU A MISTAKE?
A woman I respect (and low-key adore) recently launched her own business. She's a formidable woman and growth coach and I know that because an unexpected lunch date with her and a good friend of mine a few years ago produced several gems that stayed with me during a few seasons of my life.
Her first virtual webinar: "Shifting Your Gifts into Passionate Pursuits" was an hour filled with transparent moments; steps to take to identify what our gifts and talents are, how to cultivate them, and lastly, how to seek out and build relationships with people who are successful in our chosen industries. However, her first question sparked an immediate flame of confusion in me. As I reflected on the call, I just couldn't shake this question. And as I sat alone with my thoughts, I was prompted to write this post on the subject matter: "Were You a Mistake?"
The question was so unusual that I found myself perplexed by the possibility that it was a literal question. "She couldn't possibly mean what I think she means," I said to myself. Yes, she did and I was left in a daze. She answered her own question then prompted us to do the same. She empowered us to analyze our view of self; our past, traumas, and our ability to (properly) nurture our gifts into passionate pursuits.
"Were You A Mistake?"
Yes, I was a mistake. I heard it several times as an adolescent girl growing up from my then alcoholic, emotionally abusive, and depressed father. I will never forget those unspeakable words. I can still see where we were standing in the kitchen as I watched my father anxiously pace from the kitchen to the pantry while spewing his disappointments onto me, and how I felt after hearing for the first time that I wasn't wanted by him.
I was a daddy's girl and I was crushed. As tears began to swell up in my 11-year-old eyes, my body stood there motionless, trying to process and understand what I'd heard. Not only are such words emotionally scarring, but they also bear fruit that affects every decision we make and every relationship we have. Growing up with an abusive parent(s) or one suffering from a substance abuse disorder leaves a child short-changed and desperate for love. While we are ignorant of it, every move that we make is haunted by the subconscious memory of abuse and feelings of worthlessness.
"Were You A Mistake?"
My youth was riddled with abuse in multiple forms that produced an unstable lifestyle consumed with pseudo confidence, poor decision-making, and missed opportunities - despite higher education, pillars of support, and varied successes. A slew of early achievements kept me focused enough on chasing the next big thing that I was able to flee the environment, city, and state that perpetually caused me grief. As a child, I fantasized about an alternate reality where I was happy, successful, and in charge of my life. I empowered myself. I created a wall that I thought would keep me emotionally safe. I was fearless and worked hard to become someone that I believed was admirable and invincible. I stayed busy. Socializing and networking. This kept me distracted for years from my buried truths. Yet, it wasn't enough to prevent me from falling into a path of poor decision-making and an unhealthy relationship. My laps of luxury weren't enough to fuel the fire that I needed to keep burning when things slowly began to fall apart. What was perceived as a stable life filled with friendship, love, and beaming success was soon shattered by the reality of unresolved issues.
"Wait. Do you think that I behave like a victim...?!"
If I close my eyes, I can see myself sitting in my large one-bedroom apartment with vaulted ceilings. A huge walk-in closet filled with a designer wardrobe, sneakers, and stilettos that had yet to be worn. The balcony attached to my bedroom was large enough for a serene seating area where I could hear people jumping in and out of the pool. At night, the glow from the jacuzzi would illuminate the beauty of the palm trees planted throughout the complex, and make for a serene backdrop during the LA nights. I often played pool in the rec room or sat in the sauna when I needed to wind down. I loved my apartment. I loved this complex. It was my first apartment in LA and life was good! I was going places! Yet, my life slowly began to unravel as I listened to my dear friend, Ella, who is like a sister to me, answer this question with a: "Yes, you do". I felt like a fraud. I was shocked, confused, and disappointed in myself.
Shortly before and not soon after this chat, every stable thing in my life began to fall apart. I found myself without my trusty support system. Not to mention, after forgiving and reconciling my relationship with my father, he died suddenly and my entire world came to a screeching halt. I knew that I had the potential to damage my life in such a way that recovery would be difficult - if not inevitable - if I didn't seek the therapy that I needed to grieve in a healthy manner. Before his death, my dad did his best to love me, empower me, lead me, teach me, laugh with me, listen to my relationship issues, comfort me, and guide me to a relationship with the Lord. We would speak for hours about our days; our highs, lows, our goals. He was my biggest cheerleader and had become my best friend. He did his best to teach me everything he could to set me up for success. While short-lived, he was everything that (I believe) a daddy is supposed to be for his little girl, and because of this, I was able to push past my comfort zone and move forward with my life in the way he would have wanted.
So, I began to transform my life. Therapy allowed me to grieve in a healthy manner while also dealing with unresolved issues from my childhood. Before his death, my father and I addressed many of the traumatic experiences that shaped much of my early life. His willingness to listen, acknowledge, apologize, and rebuild our relationship allowed me to finally bury the hurt and disappointment that I'd carried with me my entire life. Grief therapy turned into "Brandi Therapy" and I began to break my victimized mindset as a deprived and abused child. I also started taking my church attendance seriously. I poured myself into the church and the Word. I established a relationship with God that led me on a journey of self-discovery and healing that only a relationship with the Lord can provide. I surrounded myself with people who poured life into me. They empowered me. Prayed for me. Nurtured me. They didn't want anything from me except to bear witness to the best version of me.
"Were You A Mistake?"
Until that call, I'd never been asked this question. As many times as I've shared my story; the therapy sessions, chat with friends, mentors - including discussions with my dad, I never fully addressed its significance to my life. I'm grateful to have already dissected and overcome Brandi's box of trauma or this question would've knocked the wind out of me!
"Were You A Mistake?"
I understand how the frankness of this question and the weight it carries can cause internal conflict. Especially for someone scarred by a history of abuse. Being told that you're a mistake - whether it be from a parent, lover, mentor, or friend - in any capacity - is hurtful and can cause significant emotional trauma. And being asked this question can (re)launch a series of unhealthy patterns that lead down a rabbit hole of regrets if you're not ready to address it.
I now understand that while I was a mistake for my parents at that time - my mother was only 18 when she became pregnant with me and my father wasn't ready to be a parent - the angst and disappointment I saw on my father's face when he crushed my heart that afternoon 20+ years ago, had absolutely nothing to do with me. I was simply a representation and constant reminder of my father's choices and the dissatisfaction with himself. His inability to cope with his disappointments launched a chain of assaults that deeply wounded my brother and me.
I believe the purpose of this question and why Ingrid Hadley launched her virtual experience with it, is because it causes us to examine who we are and why. If we don't face our truths; our past, our traumas, and our choices, we will endlessly question who we are, why we are here, and who we want to become. We will doubt our worth, our talents, our gifts, our impact on the world. We will be quick to believe those that tell us we're useless, stupid, worthless, or unwanted. We will lack the love and support systems needed to become the greatest version of ourselves.
So, were You A Mistake? What are You going to do about it?
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