Unconditional love. Respect. Affirmation. These are the things that I have always wanted from my birth father. For most of my life, I have hitched my self esteem, my self worth and my self identity to his opinions of me. This has definitely been to my peril. What’s ironic about my desire for these things from my father is that he was not a permanent fixture in my life until I was fourteen years old. He didn’t have a track record of giving these things, but for some reason I constantly fantasized about a utopic relationship between us. Why is it that we seem to want the most from those who are least able to give it?
My father and I have a complicated relationship. I am the youngest of his four children by three different women. My parents were not married when I was conceived and my mother decided to leave him shortly after my birth. I would see him from time to time but I don’t remember him being a steady presence in my life. My mother met my step-father when I was three and married him when I was six years old. My younger brother was born and we relocated from New York to Texas. This move ended my visits with my birth father. With the exception of a handful of trips to New York, I don’t remember having a substantial relationship with my father before I was a teenager.
As I reflect on our history, it boggles my mind how much his absence affected me and influenced how I engage men in romantic relationships. One might think that I would not be seeking something that I never received but in my mind, I had created a fantasy about what it would be like if my father and I ever reconnected. This fantasy became a reality when my mother and step-father divorced. This was a traumatic time in my life that was overshadowed by the fact that my birth parents were reuniting and would eventually get married. I found myself in a broken state; one where I struggled with the loss of a relationship with my step-father, who had raised me and, at the same time, trying to be happy about the return of my birth father who I really didn’t know. It was a difficult time for everyone involved. I learned very quickly that the life I had envisioned with my birth father would not become a reality.
I had a revelation yesterday. It was actually quite painful but simultaneously liberating. Nothing I could ever become, say or do would engender the affirming and uplifting response that I so desperately seek from my father. And you know what? That’s my issue, not his. I have to come to terms with the fact that I have been looking for that which is life-giving in the wrong place, from the wrong person. For my sanity’s sake, I have to let go of this overwhelming desire to be “approved” of by my father. I am a thirty one year old woman who is finally letting go of something that has not served me well. I am choosing, on this day, that my self worth and identity will not be based on any external factors, particularly those that perpetuate negative and harmful ways of being.
I have never been the proverbial “Daddy’s little girl”. Nor will I ever be. And it’s not necessary that I am. For the first time in my life, I realize how important it is for me to create a new narrative, one that takes into account who I am and have been created to be, first and foremost by God.
I pray that I am able to remember that God created me and simply said, “It is good.”
I pray that my self worth and self esteem will no longer be based on what others think and that I will embrace that I am enough.
I pray that I am able to be in relationship with my father in a way that honors who we both are and leaves room for who we are not.