A reader asks: I am 35-years old and since childhood I have this fear that if I do something wrong I will be given a very hard time by my father. My dad is a short-tempered man and even on small, small things, like forgetting to buy something from a supermarket, he would start cursing and criticizing, which is unbearable.
From the very beginning, I had issues with my father. We used to shout at each other and every now and then had some sort of conflict. Whenever, I go out with friends he calls and asks me when I would be coming back home, he always want a specific time. My dad even calls my friends to know when they will be back with me. My friends laugh at me for this, saying that I am a baby. It was really embarrassing.
My father has a roaring business and I tried to be part of it, but he never let me in. Actually, I had some issues during childhood. I was born with a problem in my brain that impacted my memory and ability to perform tasks. I kept forgetting things and I tried to overcome the difficulty by jotting things down.
My father always compared me with my younger brother and if he sees other children he gets very impressed and compare them with me as well. I hated that.
Even now, if a very small task is given to me, like buying bread or something, it seems like a very big task for me. My mother worked as a teacher. She is now retired. She fought for me, but never took a firm stand.
Now, I am married and have a six-year-old child. I am working at a call-centre. Please tell me what I can do to lead a peaceful and successful life, like others.
Carey Kirk (M.Ed, Counseling Psychologist at The LightHouse Arabia, Dubai) replies: It sounds from your letter that you are aware of where many of your self-confidence issues have come from. When we are raised in an environment where our personal boundaries are intruded upon (such as when your father would call your friends) and where we perceive constant criticism and unfavorable comparisons, we can often develop a belief that we are not good enough. We can then carry this type of belief with us throughout our lives which can lead to stress, depression, and feelings of failure.
Additionally, you report that you were born with a problem in your brain that impacted your memory and ability to perform tasks. I cannot tell from your letter the extent to which this brain problem has impacted your life, but feeling different from others and being made to feel inferior to others through criticism and comparisons can also greatly impact a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
Self-awareness is the first step in making a valuable change in life.
The difference between self-awareness and self-victimization is the focus we adopt. When we self-victimize, we identify the origins of our suffering and then focus on blaming the perpetrators or contributors for our misery and difficulties.
We focus on “If onlys”: “If only they had done something differently, then I would be different/happier/more at peace,” “If only this hadn’t happened then my life would be perfect.” When we adopt this focus, we give our personal power away and are often left feeling vulnerable, resentful, and stuck.
When we utilize self-awareness, we also identify the origins of our suffering but our focus then turns to acknowledging these events as part of our lives and doing what we can to move our life in the direction we – not our past experiences – dictate.
In order to work towards a more peaceful and successful life, I encourage you to work towards acknowledging the painful reality of your early experiences and relationships. Sometimes we can do this work on our own, but sometimes it can be helpful to go through this journey with a licensed counselor or psychologist. In this process, I would also encourage you to recognize that you are not a child anymore who needs to be subject to the criticism of your father. You are an adult and a parent yourself. And as an adult, you have your own strengths, abilities and potential. You are unique and do not have to be measured against or compared to anyone.
Once we are able to come to peace with our past experiences, we have the power to acknowledge that they are what happened to us – not who we are. Who we are is so much greater than the sum of our experiences. I would then encourage you to define yourself and success in your own terms. What does success mean to you? Your father’s definition of success, your best friend’s definition of success, your partner’s definition of success may not apply to you. Once you can define this for yourself, you will see that it is possible for you to move towards living a peaceful and successful life of your own.
If you find it difficult to come to terms with your past and to define these factors for yourself, I recommend contacting a licensed counselor or psychologist who can assist you in exploring these areas and developing your personal definitions.
Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of psychiatrists are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.