What it's Like Growing Up Verbally Abused

"Altruism means that we should not be exclusively preoccupied with our own welfare. This does not imply that one should become a martyr!" - His Holiness, The Dalai Lama (tweeted on March 7, 2011)

One of the most famous sayings that echo memories of my childhood is, "I go without so you can have - you ungrateful little bitch."

For real.

I know that saying is a pretty harsh thing to hear from your mother repeatedly as a little girl and I know nobody in their right mind would utter those words to their babies, but by now you should know my mother is far from being in her right mind.

I can't count the number of times I heard my mom tell me that throughout my life because it happened with such frequency. Seems like anytime she had to spend money on me when I lived at home - on school clothes and cheerleading outfits and cell phone bills and car insurance - she just couldn't help to let me know that the money wasted on me could have been spent on a new outfit for her - an outfit that she'd never wear because she only feels comfortable in baggy sweatshirts and jeans - or a useless clock to add to her annoying, ticking, chiming collection (which, by the way, are all clocks set for different times - none of them telling the correct time) or a special 'collector's coin' she could have bought for hundreds of dollars because someday that coin was, "going to be worth a lot more money than it's worth now - and it'd be a good hand-me-down."

A lot of the attitudes I have towards money and material possessions comes directly from having heard and experienced those things as a young girl. Today, I hate when I need help in financial areas of my life - because I hate the overwhelming feelings of guilt I combat when I know the help I receive is genuine and well-intentioned and not thought of as a burden in anyway. But, I just can't help thinking it's too much money, or the help is too generous and I have no way to show my appreciation in return other than saying thank you - and at least while I was growing up, a simple thank you was never good enough.

But, if one positive can be salvaged from such a verbally abusive upbringing, it's that I've become a very appreciative, grateful, and aware person - for I recognize and deeply value every single effort others make for the benefit of me. And sometimes, it makes me so grateful that I'm now surrounded by such giving friends and family that all I can do is cry and thank the heavens for the unconditionally loving people in my life. 

You all know who you are and you know how much I truly appreciate and love you.

I know the loving people in my life are displaying their support for me through a little thing called altruism - and I'm so happy I have such great examples of what altruism is so now I can also do the same for my little bumpkin.

If you're a good mother, you don't need to know what altruism means because you do it every day: selflessly give of yourself for the benefit of your family's well-being.

To me, there is absolutely no higher gift you can give of yourself than altruism - and mothers who do this day in and day out and feel good about doing it should applaud themselves over and over. Because your children are going to recognize it one day. And not only are they going to appreciate all you have done and continue to do for them, but they are going to be healthy, thriving and happy adults.

And in the case you don't do that for them, they'll recognize that one day, too. And the repercussions of your actions today will have a negatively lasting impact on that baby when they're grown. I'm just sayin'.

I think a large percentage of mamas out there struggle with the fine line between altruism and martyrdom - that line where giving so much to others leaves you feeling like you have nothing left over to keep for yourself at the end of the day. And it's this fine line that, when allowed, can grab the better part of you and make you feel like you're just slaving away and that nobody gives a damn and you always get the short end of the bargain and you end up allowing those feelings to put you in a foul mood. It's then that you become a martyr.

I know it's that feeling of being a martyr which drove my own mother to feel the need to tell me over and over how she felt towards me when I was too young to recognize or appreciate what she sacrificed to provide for me. And I know that the cure for her feeling that way could have been simple: she could have went to work more often than allowing her depression to keep her in bed for many days out of each month. She could have started a little savings account for herself to spend on things she really wanted after she had the money to do so. She could have made friends to go out with instead of being a hermit in her own home and she could have simply kept her negative feelings and thoughts to herself instead of unloading them on a young, undeserving little girl.

Could've, should've, would've.

While I know my mother's past actions were not right on her part, I forgive her. Eventhough I know she doesn't deserve it and I'm fully entitled to remain pissed at her for as long as I want. I have to forgive her. Because my happiness is more important than holding on to my anger towards her. And besides, even with her dysfunction surrounding me, I turned out normal. I understand what altruism is and the positives it can bring to your life - and I know she can't. And because she can't understand, she will forever view herself as a martyr.

"Altruism means that we should not be exclusively preoccupied with our own welfare. This does not imply that one should become a martyr!"

Reanna writes at: http://www.greenanswers.com about eco-friendly solutions and at: http://www.bumpkinandme.com about her spiritual transformation from happiness to sadness via the Dalai Lama's twitter posts and what family life is like living abroad.

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