Shouldn’t a Person’s Best be Good Enough?
By Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso
Growing up I was more or less forcibly raised into the Catholic church and given the idea that the holidays were about peace and love. I remember seeing everything from images on cards to families in movies having wonderful holidays where people worked together and parents doted over their children. Over the years I’ve unfortunately learned the hard way that this is pretty much bunk. I’ve actually grown to hate Christmas a little because it’s just become one more opportunity for my parents to make me feel inadequate. I’ve had a rough history with holidays over the years due to my seasonal depression and a past suicide attempt but I think this year is especially rough because I feel more out of place than ever around my family.
My parents have made me feel so broken and alienated in the last few months that I’m basically sitting on a ready-to-print suicide note at this point. I’ve gotten to a point where, since we aren’t really allowed to truly discuss things in our household, I can only come to a conclusion that my mother just really hates the person I am with my autism. I wanted to really be able to bury the things she’s been saying the last few months and I can even sort of understandably pass part of her calling me me mean. What I can’t get past is getting called toxic.
There’s no creative perspective that can lighten the situation of a parent calling their disabled child toxic or even their non-disabled child for that matter. When you call something toxic, realize that words have weight and can do more damage than you anticipate. When you call a person’s thoughts and feelings toxic, you call them toxic and you send the message you don’t want them in your life. It’s not clever and it’s not a sign of being assertive. It’s an immature pass on truly facing the rough spots of your life and a callous disregard that the other person has a right to feel and think. Before you feel a need to yell out how toxic something or someone is, imagine how you’d feel on the receiving end of that and find a better way. There are plenty of ways you can resolve your differences in life that respect the other person and allow you to walk away with your dignity intact. Words can and do hurt all the time and they are fully capable of leaving scars that don’t heal.
I already feel inadequate and damaged enough without my own mother rejecting me, but then maybe it’s for best at this point. I’ve considered her a cornerstone to my support network for years and maybe that was just a very wrong assumption for me to make. I suppose it’s rude of me to want or assume that my own mother has any obligation to love me. If I’m a burden then I’m going to universally be a burden. I think the most disappointing thing is that I basically have to bury myself around my parents for them to even tolerate me being alive. I feel like it’s not too much to ask for my own mother to be able to see the person I am under my disability.But beyond that I just wish I knew what I had to do for the world to decide I’m good enough.
I tried so hard today to accomplish a few things. I sorted and tried to do laundry which is normally really hard for me to focus on and then I cleaned out part of a closet which I’m usually in too much pain to do. I even tried to engage my mother and help her find some decorations. But lo and behold when I did something as simple as putting a box back into a closet she wanted to use that wasn’t getting cleaned out fast enough, it was somehow not good enough. It’s never good enough. Even on a damn holiday my best isn’t good enough.
Before you chime in on how dramatic this seems, realize that I’ve grown up always being reminded about what I’ve done wrong. Imagine hearing every single day about all the times you’ve screwed up, all the money you owe and all the things you didn’t accomplish. Add to that a callous abusive father who has never said I love you or I’m proud of you and a mother slowly adopting the same abusive behaviors. I realize I’m different and I honestly realize that the majority of the time I’m a failure. I’m never going to be as capable as my peers and I’m not even going to be able to be fully independent. I may not even be able to ever hold down a job again. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings and rights. Different shouldn’t be classified as wrong and if the people around me could give me even half a chance maybe they would see that I have some value. But as it stands there’s not much point. If my own parents don’t see value in me, no amount of substitution can fill that void. Sure, I can make behavioral changes and keep pushing forward, but if my own mother can’t see the person I am underneath the failure then there’s no point trying to expect other people to.
How hard is it to acknowledge a person is doing their best? And no, I don’t mean your best or someone else’s best but their best. How hard is it to not measure other people by your standards but with reason and compassion? If you are a parent with a child of any age, take some note here. Love your child for who they are and not who you want them to be. The more weight you put on them being disappointed they aren’t the magical child you envisioned, the more they’ll carry around that they don’t matter. The more you make them feel bad for not allowing you to live vicariously through them, the more they’ll see less value in their own lives. Being a human being is hard and you’re not making it any better by adding unneeded stress on who your child isn’t. Appreciate them and love them for who they are and what they’re able to bring to the table. It may not be what you want but we all deserve to be appreciated for whatever our best is on any given day. When you shoot down a person’s best you condition them to only focus on their worst and that will stick with them for life.
It’s important to remember that regardless of our circumstances, we’re all just trying to live our best lives and deserve a chance to be the best person we can be on fair terms. But more importantly, if you are a mentor,parent or in a position where you are leading and shaping others remember that they deserve respect and love. That’s not a privilege. It’s a right. If that’s not something you can handle then you need to do less judging and more learning to value people for who they are, not who you want them to be.
But if you’re a person like me who’s maybe having a hard time getting validation from the important people in your life, keep trying. You may not think the world needs you or that you matter but you definitely do. If someone can’t find the courage to love you for the person you are then that’s their loss. The holidays can be a difficult and stressful time but if you’re feeling underappreciated or worthless I want you to know how important it is that you find a reason to push forward into the new year. Find the meaning that you can only find in your own heart and know that no one is allowed to take that from you no matter how cold their hearts are or how cruel their words are. Your best is more than enough and that’s how it should be.
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