Aunty Bella is our agony aunt column on BellaNaija. We launched this column in the early days of BN and periodically feature issues sent in by BN readers.
We hope the BN family can offer insightful advice.
I write this with tears and mixed emotions in my heart; on one end, they are tears of pride at success at the person I have become. On the other hand, they are tears of resignation because at the end, it is what it is.
Let me start by saying this: I was the ‘it’ child growing up; smart, tall, beautiful and complete. The type to represent the school in competitions and all; the child that would go places. I was also a bit of a tomboy, I was pretty and all but in the end, I was always in the midst of guys, I was the typical guys girl.
Getting into the university, I was the girl with a sign on her head ‘ask her out’. I was pursued by guys and being a tomboy, I just was friendly with them. I later heard that the gist about me was ‘speak with her for 5 minutes and you’ll want her badly’
I stayed with my elder sister at the time and she was always screaming at me, shouting at me and saying all sorts. I took it as her way of being protective. I was the sanguine type never to take anything to heart. People said she was jealous, a fact I do not believe. She’s just a product of her mother’s upbringing.
You see, my mum is someone who due to her temperament, rehashes every slight and negative thing done to her. She’s also very unteachable. She believes the world should conform to her rules, heaven forbid that she adapts. My mum believes that she sacrificed for her younger ones and they took her for granted so she would speak with my sister on the phone and tell her not to allow me disregard her, that I shouldn’t take her for granted and so when my sister screamed and shouted, I just ignored her, because I understood the root. Besides, my sister had challenges getting into the university so I didn’t want her to feel bad; this was my 1st error – see in life whether with family or friends, you need to set boundaries. My sister began to take things too far, she’ll take money from my purse etc.
After my 1st semester, I began to discover my fashion side. I changed my wardrobe and generally became more girly and I faced issues with my mother; she’d burn my clothes, spit on me and call me a witch.
Let me give you another background to this.
My father was a successful man, until life happened and he lost his wealth. He began to experience treatment given to poor people and anger set in. Morning devotions in the family became playbacks of each slight and negative treatment; my mother would go out and feel bad because she didn’t have clothes. She began to propagate the theory that the way we dressed didn’t matter and we should walk alone; now these are good ideologies but the spirit behind them was wrong.
To please my family, I began to lie to myself, pretending I didn’t like fashion and cultivating ways to repel guys. Looking back now, I think her attitude was a defense mechanism out of fear that I would sleep around.
I began to suffer identity crisis because lying to yourself causes that and then a mild depression set in. People noticed and spoke about it, but my mum didn’t notice, she was all about replaying the evil done to her. A part of me feels she enjoyed seeing me that way; my mum loves solving problems and being needed, someone told her that she liked relating only with poor people and I think it’s true.
Every evening and minute was spent berating me, mentioning my faults and putting me down. I became a joke to my family and one day, I snapped, I lashed out and decided enough was enough- this was especially when I noticed I was becoming a laughing stock in the real world due to my low self esteem. I wrote my parents a letter and poured out my heart. I told them their choosing to cut themselves out of the world was making them hermits and frankly the world didn’t care. I told them I loved fashion and make up and they’d have to live with it whether they liked it or not. I told them my sister was a joke in the real world, she practically smelt and no one wanted to relate with her. My mother told my siblings that I insulted them etc but she never showed them the letter till date, she said the insults were too much, she had to tear it.
During my youth service, I had a heart-to-heart talk with my mother. I remember telling her ‘if there’s no one else to take you for granted, you’ll say the chairs are despising you’. It was my way of talking to her to get to see her deciding to play victim and being angry with the world was costing her a lot. She told everyone I called her a witch eating her children’s destiny. To be fair, I told her that what she was doing was stunting her daughter’s progress, that the only child who listened to her every word was the one who couldn’t find her way but I meant this in terms of her attitude and the things she tells us.
Youth service was a trying time because the family cut off all support but I survived, fought for the person I wanted to be and with prayers and a lot of the word of God, I became a much better version of myself but it was hard trudging on without the acceptance of family. When I experienced setback, my mind played tricks on me replaying every negative word I heard but I kept moving on with a smile on my face. There were times I’d walk into the company restroom and pray for a while. Joyce Meyer’s books and messages were also helpful.
My brothers had their challenges too. My elder brother battled insecurities which I noticed though he covered his by being a braggart. He even had counselling sessions with one of our student pastors but he handled his by staying away from the house. He moved away from home asap and when he came home, he only mentioned stories of successes and left not too long after.
I stayed home. I couldn’t afford to move out of the house but I asserted my independence and got it. Now my mum asks me to buy her make-up, buy her clothes, pay for her spa sessions; this I do with joy but there’s a tiny bit of resentment when I remember how she used to lie to herself and force us to lie to ourselves too.
My elder sister is a story for another day, her insistence on not moving forward and learning certain things is amazing.
I am the family black sheep, the outcast and for a while I thought it didn’t bother me anymore untill yesterday, something happened and I had a quarrel with my sister. After that, I told my mum in clear words ‘for 10 years since the 1st day I carved my eyebrows, I have begged you and pleaded with this family to accept me, I have battled depression, dealt with identity crisis and in various ways, I have begged for acceptance but you have refused to give it to me’. My mum just kept singing, ignored me and started laughing. Did I add that she was speaking in tongues and singing ‘the blood of Jesus sets me free….’ as per I’m a demon.
My elder brother was about to go into his room but he stopped for a while, looked at my mother, looked at me and looked at my mother again. He wanted to say something but he went to his room instead. He understood, but of course he will say nothing. I am the black sheep and I bear him no ill. My mother loves to be told lies both in words and actions but I’ve never been good and that. I am who I am and I’m proud of it. You will never know how many times my mother told me I’m possessed. Infact she insists that anytime she finishes her fasting, the devil uses me to distress me.
I feel a range of emotions for my mother ranging from pity to disappointment to resentment.
– Pity, because she is in a self imposed prison and no one can help her. She has legitimate hurts but her reaction to her pain worsened it. She alienates people and then pretends she doesn’t need people in her life. Even if she changes which I hope she will, I pity her for the years she lost in a self imposed prison.
– Disappointment; because every child expects the mum to prepare her for the world.
– Resentment; both at her and myself. At her for everything I’ve written and myself for not responding differently. I also resented some of teh advice she gave my dad. My dad sorted out his resentment after a while and began to smile. He will talk to her about being a bit nicer, smiling more and behaving in ways that endeared people to her but she will refuse and make so many statements that are idealistic and don’t work in the real world. I remember one day my dad goes ‘you need to make friends, human beings are relational, there’s a way to behave that endears people to you’. After arguing he just had a smile and said ‘sometimes, talking here is like throwing pearls to Dogs’. My mum believes what she believes and if you try to think otherwise, you are her enemy.
I’ve tried everything to deal with this;
1. Being grateful and counting my blessings-
– I’m extremely good with people and younger ones because of this,
– I am a very personable and adaptable person (from my write-up, you’ll notice I have a bit of my mother’s temperament. Watching her has made me maximize my strengths and fight the negatives),
– I am extremely self aware; anytime we attend office training/take personality tests, I will always state clearly where I fall in no matter how new the test is.
2. Being thankful for her good sides
3. Putting myself in her shoes
But yesterday, I realized that I really needed the acceptance and to be frank I don’t know why I’m begging for it. If somebody doesn’t like you, it’s not by force.
I am not a misfit in any way, even the time I was battling issues, most people claim not to have noticed. I am someone many would wish for a daughter; beautiful, successful, warm, great sex appeal, multi-dimensional and creative’. People go out of their way to be friends with me (please this is not pride, I’m reminding myself of a good sides because I know going by the child I was, I haven’t lived up to my potential; I haven’t turned out the way my mother hoped and she is disappointed in me)
I need healing because a part of me is afraid that because I don’t want any of my children to feel unaccepted, I will be a permissive parent and that scares me. Infact, the one deciding factor of who my husband will be is that he accepts me flaws, warts and all and that he’s fine with his upbringing so he can put me in check if I become too permissive.
I need acknowledgement of hurt inflicted from my mum but I know it will never come so please advise me on how to get over this gnawing desire. I respect my mother and speak so highly of her outside.
PS: Forgive me if I rambled on, I have a lot on my mind and I really need release.
Photo Credit: © Andrii Kobryn | Dreamstime