We’re taught to be confident. No, we’re ordered to be confident. We’re told, “own it!” “be yourself!” and “you’re great just the way you are!” We’re fastened, from the beginning, to latch onto praises, to find validation, in whatever form, for everything we do. Well, most of us are.
My mom never doted on me. She never bragged about me to our family or friends, she never complimented me when I was doing well. It was mundane, expected. When others called me beautiful or striking, said my eyes were magical, she just smiled, and I looked down, embarrassed. I learned from a very young age that my mother didn’t want to shower me with praise, she wanted me to earn it.
And for a while, I hated her for that. I saw her sisters praise their daughters, look how good my daughter can play the piano! Look how well my daughter can sing! I was jealous. I wanted my mom to reply, “Look how Korey got into such a great college, how she gets such good grades, how she loves so hard.” Something, anything. I wanted to swell with pride, to feel superior.
But she didn’t. Oh of course, she would tell me she was proud of me, congratulate me on my hard work. But it was never loud. It was quiet, humble. It made me so angry, for the longest time. I knew I deserved just as much recognition as my cousins, my friends. I had daddy issues, God knows I did, and as was my tendency, I blamed those on my mother as well. My parents divorced when I was eight, and because I was so young, I never really got an explanation.
So I imagined one.
My dad was always a huge teddy bear, he loved so hard, maybe too hard. He could never spank me when I got in trouble, that was my mom’s job. So of course, as a child, I blamed my mom. She was the disciplinary, the hardass. I just knew she had driven my dad away. I didn’t think twice about the “drink” my sister complained about finding in the bathroom, or the week-long disappearances to “do business.” It was my mom’s fault, I knew it. She never spoke of any fault my father had, true, but she also never spoke well of him. It was her fault.
Then my dad died.
And again, I blamed my mother. This time, I knew my dad was an alcoholic, and so I told myself it was my mom’s fault for not being supportive enough. He needed her, and she abandoned him. I just knew it. She wasn’t encouraging enough, patient enough. I started to think she just wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized how wrong I was. I saw my friends and family members whose mothers or fathers had widely boasted about their accomplishments for what they were: conceited. Of course, not all of them turned out that way, but I realized how lucky I was to have been raised in a manner that forced me to find my own source of praise and recognition: myself.
When I was out on my own for the first time, I stopped blaming my mom, because I started to miss her. I couldn’t breathe after she dropped me off at dorm, I knew if I let out a breathe, the tears would come. But I also couldn’t hold myself together. Not without her. She had become my rock, in every way. She wasn’t soft, cuddly, or doting. But she was solid, dependable, honest. She was what I needed my whole life, and had taken me 18 years to figure that out.
Because she had been training me, my whole life, to be able to stand on my own. Without overt praise, or bragging. To find my own source of strength and confidence. She taught be to happy with myself, by myself. And for that, I am forever grateful.
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