Dear younger self,
When you’re older, you will learn all about the family rules in your house. Its not the kind of rules that your teacher will tell you before class starts, or at the beginning of a test or assignment, those are spelled out for you. These family rules I’m talking about are largely not spoken, they are more assumed or expected. And some of them affect your thinking in a big way, negatively. Unspoken rules aren’t always negative, but many are, and I’m talking about the negative ones.
Just be aware of these unspoken rules. You don’t have to try and change them necessarily but being aware of them will help you find your self-worth, instead of believing these negative rules are true. For example, one of the unspoken messages you receive is that your body needs to be thin to be loved and accepted. You will start to feel that your body size is something that matters to your mom and dad, and you will think they will love you more if you are thin. And really, it might be the truth to them, and if so, it won’t be a conscious choice, and it is all their own issues. with their own body image. They really love you, they just don’t fully understand how them going on diets and trying to change their bodies, affects you. The truth is that your body size is just a body. Body size is not a good or bad thing, it just…. IS. And your parents have gotten caught up in the “diet culture” from the 1980’s and tried to diet and stay thin so they could be healthy. And unfortunately, this rubs off on you. Please just remember that you are of worth and any body image issues you will have, isn’t your stuff. So, go and enjoy the body God gave you at all the sizes you will be throughout your life. Oh, and don’t start dieting, it really doesn’t ever work, and it only leaves you worse off and emotionally drained. There’s a lot more I could say on that topic, for another post.
Another family rule you learn is that feelings don’t matter and that feelings can be controlled at all costs. This is a message that is both verbally spoken, but mostly unspoken. Sometimes you will hear your mom say to you and your siblings, “you get to choose your feelings, so just choose to be happy”. As an adult now, I am telling you this is completely invalidating and dismissive of your real feelings (there is a strain of truth in this message in that we can choose our thoughts, but feelings are a whole other issue). Its unhealthy, hurtful and not helpful to tell someone to just choose to be happy. You learn to not show all your emotions unless you’re happy, and if you do show them, your mom and dad just tell you all the reasons you’re not supposed to feel that. This message is not true either. While it’s awesome to be happy, we are meant to acknowledge and feel all the ranges of emotions. That’s emotionally healthy to do so. Please trust me on this. When you are older, you’ll go through a period in your life where you’ll need this. It’s hard. I wish I had learned this when I was younger. I wish I had learned that my feelings were always valid and had a reason. It would have helped me to trust myself a lot more. I would have known how to be a better parent too. Validating someone’s feelings doesn’t meant that it’s a global truth, it just means it’s your own truth and there is a reason for it. We all need to talk about how we feel, rational or not. When feelings are validated, they start to dissipate and go away. Remember that please, its important!
So, be aware of these family rules as you grow. Seek out truth and don’t be afraid to talk to others and share your pain and experiences. Happy experiences are awesome, but the ones that affect you negatively, are important to talk about. You matter and your feelings matter. Maybe I’ll have to write about all the other unspoken rules that are not true. I’d love to help you out more.