I asked my daughters the other day if I have ever said anything to them to make them feel inferior, stupid, insecure, dumb or worthless. Thankfully their answer was no. However, I cannot same the same for other teens that I know. The words of their parents didn’t fall on deaf ears but listening ones. And because of those words, they now live with such pain and hurt and rejection by the very ones who were supposed to love, comfort and protect.
When I was a young girl of about 8 or 9 years of age, we would all sit around the dinner table, eat, converse, and go about our way. However, I started to notice something that would happen around that dinner table. Whenever I would speak, my mother would correct me. If I said the sentence in the wrong way, she repeated the sentence and said that I needed to say it more properly. If I said a word incorrectly, she would again bring correction by telling me that I didn’t say it right. This happened a lot. My brother and father were never corrected, only me. So I began to think that I was dumb or stupid.
As the years went by I started to feel very insecure about myself . All I ever wanted from my parents, especially my mother was validation and approval. Things had gotten so bad that I looked for that validation through other people, especially the wrong people. After making costly mistakes in my life, I tried to make an effort of educating myself in different areas of my life and making a promise that when I had children, I would not do to them what was done to me.
But even 30 years later, that insecurity was still permeating throughout my life until recently when I was confronted about this by someone close to me. Needless to say, I went back to my mother and finally had the guts to tell her how I have felt all these years.
Surprisingly, after talking with my mother, I found that I had misunderstood what she was trying to do. You see, she felt insecure and rejected and worthless too when she was growing up. She didn’t want what happened to her to happen to me. So she tried to make every effort to make me better than her. She thought in her mind that by correcting me, she was educating me so that I could feel good about myself. Unfortunately the opposite happened.
So that leaves us with the question, “What message am I sending to my teen?”
Many years ago I knew a woman who had adopted two children. In her own misery of life, she chose to pick one child as her favorite and reject the other. She would tell one child that she loved them. She would say nothing to the other while in the same room. She would hug and comfort her favorite child and then walk away from the other or say, “Go away.”
Now you may think that the favorite child is happy and got their mother’s attention and everything they wanted which was true to an extent. You may also think the other child probably had a rough life and mixed up. Well, you would be half right. You see, the mother lost both children in a divorce as they were growing up. The favorite grew up and realized with maturity that their mother was playing favorites and they didn’t like how their sibling was being treated. In fact, it infuriated them and they chose to not want a relationship with their mother.
The other child was out of control, ran away and did self-harm along with attempts of suicide. The father in this story loved both of his children very much and tried to care for the children, but in the end the rejected teen wanted to be validated so badly by the mother that they made a decision that was shocking to everyone. That teen chose to go and live with the very person that rejected them in the first place.
As of today, part of that family is in counseling. Hopefully those teens will find peace and healing through help, time and leaning on God’s promises of hope for them. And to think, it all started from words that you should never say.
I have come to learn through my own process that no one can validate me. The only one that can is God alone. He created me and knows me and has a purpose for me. He has accepted me right where I’m at; bruised, broken, hurt, pained and with no judgment. He waits patiently for me to turn to His comfort, support and love. What He gives you, you cannot get anywhere else. He can heal like no other. He can love like no other. He can accept like no other. He just wants us to come to Him.
There is a quote by Oswald Chambers that reads:
Leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.
So hug your teen today, speak encouraging words and how you love them just as they are, and pray for them. They need it!