It took me 50 years and beyond to realise I wasn’t self-authoring my own life. No matter how successful I thought I was, and what others perceived me to be, I still wasn’t fully in the driver’s seat. The years since I turned 50 the pain started to unravel and I began to steer the ship, one painful moment at a time. It required me to make clear declarations like – don’t tell me I can’t and I’m on my path to a self authoring life. For once in my life I began to let go of old patterns of communication, and begin to step into my own authority.
This is the conversation I wanted to have and didn’t: “How dare you! You have no right to tell me I’m not in that category.” It was at the reunion and he was clearly the star, or so he thought. He put himself on a pedestal. Success was measured by excellence, the perfect body (women’s bodies) and great swimmers. I discovered that night that if you were a woman, a talented swimmer, with a sexy body and an appealing face, then being the director of your own company was the icing on the cake. He revered you.
The Beginning Of Living A Self Authoring Life
Yes I’m angry. Because without anger I’m in resignation and I’m not in the mood for that. And I have every right to experience the injustice of not living up to my father’s standards. But who was he to talk? Look at him! He’s fat, old before his time and sits in his chair judging and criticising people around him. Double standards. He wouldn’t once stop to thank someone for taking good care of him. It’s expected. Somehow he’s entitled and still to this day, he holds the balance of power – or so he thinks.
Righteous Indignation is described as righteous anger on the Internet; is typically a reactive emotion of anger over mistreatment, insult, or malice. It is akin to what is called the sense of injustice. Yes I do feel a sense of injustice, because that’s my reality, my experience of a father figure. It played out like this…
- I could not predict is behaviour and I feared his wrath
- I could not rely on him to take care of the things that mattered to me
- I could rely on him to take care of the things that mattered to him
- I could not rely on him for love and deep care for a daughter he somehow chose to ignore – unless I lived up to a rare standard of sports excellence and performance
His standards were so incredibly high that I didn’t stand a chance. I was pretty good at basketball but not good enough for him. I witnessed my sisters and my mum copping his wrath – in different and excruciating ways.
Was all this abuse? Once I wouldn’t have seen it that way. Today I know it was. Emotional abuse, control, anger, and intimidation – the intimidation in my opinion was the worst. The last time I remembered feeling comfortable in his company was when I was three. Since then life with my father has been unpredictable and often a blur. I can’t pinpoint an event or a day or even a year when I began to feel invisible. It just happened – noticing began that moment I found myself standing by his legs looking up at him with adoring eyes. He was talking to a man. The man was more important that me, we walked away, and he still didn’t acknowledge me. I find myself wondering if mum was also ignored like this. I suspect she was. Such a selfish act. To ignore something so precious as a little child because you’re more important than the child.
Self -Help Gurus Misinform
I heard a prominent self-help “guru” once say that you should thank your father for the positive traits he gave you, that shaped the positive things in you. Well, no. I don’t have to thank him. Because the balance of power doesn’t allow me to get involved in a conversation like that, and feel safe. I get to choose what I say to him and what (if anything) I forgive him for. I get to choose what conversations we have.
I have come to learn there is not much you can do to convince a man who solely thinks of himself and doesn’t take responsibility for his actions, that he did the wrong thing by you. I was 50 the year he told me “I shouldn’t put myself in her category”. Because of her features (yes it was about that as he clearly demonstrated), her talent and her business status, I, his daughter, who was also the director of her own company, didn’t measure up.
Why am I telling you all this? I mean it sounds very much like a resentful rant doesn’t it? Like I am stuck in the past, and old outdated story of a father who was an incompetent parent. Perhaps in part that’s true.
For a long time I was very angry. It’s challenging reconciling bullying relationships, and I took a long time to get past the pain. In part writing is a cathartic beginnings of letting go. Be damned if I will stay silent when there are so many other women in the world who suffer the same wrath and silencing. Therefore, these four main points to sharing this as a public blog are for you:
- The effect it had on my relationships with other men
- How I came to revoke my right to have a voice even as an adult
- How giving away my power and guilt went hand in hand
- The choices I’ve made to progress as a self authoring human being in spite of my father
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The Effect It Had On My Relationships With Other Men
Sometime as I was growing up I learnt that I was the only person who could protect myself from harm and I had no one to help me make important life choices. I intentionally set out to make autonomous decisions and live an independent life as a strong woman. After all, safety, support and nurture was not at my front door. I set about trying to shape the men in my life. I desperately wanted to be loved, so much so that I didn’t observe when I was loved. How could I? I hadn’t experienced unconditional love from a man. He didn’t afford me that right. Therefore I failed to observe it when it was right in my face. I didn’t actually believe I deserved the kind of love that I wanted, and it seemed like such a far reach. I used power and control to prove to men and in hindsight myself, that I wasn’t lovable. I didn’t believe I deserved to be loved.
How I Came To Revoke My Right To Have A Voice Even As An Adult
I came to learn the historical significance of being bought up in a patriarchal society
The historical significance was so ingrained that I didn’t observe I was spending my life in a narrative that many women spend their life in. “I must be everything to everyone, suffering is mandatory and I must suffer in silence”.
Suffering was feeling guilty that visiting him meant bearing his “It’s all about me” conversations, and experiencing confusion because I felt ‘obligated’ to visit and silenced when I did. Suffering was feeling ashamed of my body when I was about 10kg overweight after my third child when he told me my bum was fat – the last straw in a string of derogatory weight comments I had suffered over the years, which resulted in feeling obliged to get the weight off because at this weight I was no longer considered attractive. Suffering was trying desperately to live up to his standards. Suffering was seeking answers to things there were no answers to.
One Last Silencing Moment
One last silencing moment…when he told my 21 year old daughter she was getting a fat stomach. No longer did she measure up to his standards. Yes, I was indignant in that moment, but I didn’t stand up for her. I supported and loved her, and held conversations with her and other family members, but I didn’t once have that conversation with him. I silenced myself.. Other family members held him accountable that day, my middle daughter who doesn’t take rubbish from anyone and my younger sister Sandy, who angrily let him know he was out of line. Mum was still alive and said nothing. Silenced. Silence took away our collective voices. We were taught to remain silent.
I lived in comparisons and gave my power away to the judgments and opinions of others. I made assessments that I wasn’t good enough, and I learnt to live my life not being good enough. The power imbalance lead me to believe these things about myself that simply weren’t true. I was treating opinions as facts, because I gave him authority to judge me. These were declarations, statements that changed the course of my life.
Declarations have a very profound effect on changing and generating new realities, especially when the person making them has been granted authority. Someone says it and therefore it will be. In other words, the words come first and then the world emerges.
As an impressionable child and adolescent I believed the most influential person in my life. His authority and domination silenced me. I was a child and children don’t have the right to question this behaviour right? As as an adult I still gave him that authority.
I didn’t observe the right to my voice. The sad irony of not allowing myself to have a voice, was my subsequent attempts to gain power. Somehow I knew power had been taken away from me. In all my relationships I either withdrew or fought back. There was no in between. I lived my life in relationship with others, mainly men, trying to gain the power I assessed I never had a right to. Yet still I didn’t seek a balance of power with my father. I didn’t see that option.
How Giving Away My Power And Guilt Went Hand In Hand
Whenever he was angry I walked on tiptoes and tried to smooth over the volatile environment. Whenever he bullied mum, I walked away anxiously and silently, in fear. Living in guilt was more painful than putting up with momentary anger. For me I relinquished my right to speak, the right to have a voice, and I smoothed over of every interaction because I simply couldn’t ever win. Little did I know it wasn’t about winning, but I didn’t know any other way. In a lose-lose situation you don’t open up the space to discuss the injustice and you either avoid the conflict, or cause the conflict.
I struggled to gain a balance between power and vulnerability. If I experienced vulnerability I would quickly seek power. When I experienced power, I would hold onto it as much as I could for as long as I could. People described me as successful, strong, capable and caring. The year I began to shift the balance, I felt more vulnerable than I ever had in my life, over much longer periods of time because I had relinquished the unhealthy power and accepted vulnerability and authenticity. I would no longer hide.
What did power look like?
- Being ‘right’
My children witnessed this behaviour. Each one of them also entered into abusive relationships and particular times in their lives. Thankfully they are all chose to take a stance against abuse and are well adjusted wonderful women. The guilt I lived as a result of their pain was excruciating. Vulnerable and exposed.
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The Choices I Have Made To Progress As A Self Authoring Human Being In Spite Of My Father
First I observed I could. I stopped saying I couldn’t, and I said silently to my father; “Don’t you tell me I can’t”.
I chose to observe what was going on as a basis for life learning and healing. That was the first and most important path to healing, and the reason I was eventually able to let go. Letting go seemed as difficult as holding on. I felt completely exposed to a new way of being. For a time I felt as though I was in a cocoon waiting to emerge but not having any idea how that would take place. I felt tired. Really tired. Because I let go from a body and soul level. My body and soul weren’t used to this exposure. They had been my protectors. All I knew was being wound up like a top. This time the top began a slow unravelling. Wow. What a ride it was, and sometimes still is, as I learn to adapt to my new self authoring coherence.
Self Authoring Declarations
Recently I made several self authoring declarations. The relationship with my father would now be on my terms. Finally letting go of his power and control. I realised I was the only one holding on tight. He had no idea, and to this day I still haven’t had the conversation with him. I may never. Why? Because I’m taking care of what matters to me. I’m finally okay with the relationship on my terms. And I’ll be damned if do things according to what he needs. For the first time in my life, my needs come first. It’s a very liberating position to be in. If he passes away before I decide to step back into his life, I’ll live with that. In the meantime, I have the balance that serves and takes care of me.
I’m allowing vulnerability and uncertainty into my life as welcome guests, and I am empowered to decide my future, how I view the world, and my place in it. I no longer accept manipulation and I no longer manipulate. I hold other people as legitimate. I live a dignified life, which requires me to observe my way of being and notice when the old unwanted patterns creep back in, the times when I relinquish my authority. Declarations are such an important part of learning and moving on. This handout includes some pre written declarations, and spaces for you to write your own. It’s a handout that you could stick on your mirror or on the fridge or anywhere else to remind you of your declarations.
Have you grabbed your FREE declaration handout yet?
My Personal Relationships
I’m also working on the very important relationships in my life. It’s vitally important to me to open up spaces for conversations. Healing conversations. Conversations for clarity and to listen deeply to the pain my family has experienced. This is a road that I’m really proud of taking. I’m calm, confident and ready at 53 to take on the world. I’m ambitious about the future and I know deep down that all I’ve experienced and all I’ve learnt positions me as a deeply caring coach.
Most importantly for my future and the future of the women I support, I say: “Don’t you dare tell me I can’t, because I no longer take that from you or anyone”.
My Declarations As A Gift To You
I will no longer live in my father’s assessment that I don’t measure up
I will no longer live in the outdated narrative that it is mandatory to give him authority and live in guilt in the meantime
I am the author of my own life and I choose to have a relationship with him on my terms
I will take as much time as I need and prepare myself for any future conversations with him in my own way
My life, my terms, I choose
I choose to accept my father’s choices and take no responsibility for how he’s living today, therefore, I relinquish all guilt and responsibility for his demands
I hold myself as a legitimate person and my body supports this new coherence
Once you’ve decided upon your declarations, stand in front of a mirror, arms wide, upright posture, forward momentum. Then state them with a strong voice. Repeat as many times as you need to.
I want you to know you are not alone in your silence. I want you to know you have a friend, a coach, a mentor. A place and where you can share your guilt, shame or whatever pain you experience. If you are ready to make declarations, I can help you with that.
Grab the FREE handout here ..
I wish the best of care for you this day and every day.
Do you have any questions? Comments? Insights? I’m here to listen! Let’s chat below.
P.S. I also have a Facebook page where I’d love to chat with you and answer your questions! Click here and like my page.