I recently came across an article entitled: 11 thoughts that the daughters of unloving mothers carry with them. This article happened to show up in my Facebook news feed. Curious, I read through the brief article and became fascinated with the quick breakdown of symptoms and prescription related to these thoughts. As important this is to understand, I believe that these also related to men who grew up with not only unloving fathers, they also may exhibit these thoughts because of unloving mothers.
1. I am not trying hard enough
Growing up, I personally felt compelled to seek my father’s approval. Seek his support and fatherly advice. On certain occasions, my father did provide some insight, wisdom, and some guidance. However, I have later come to realize he was detached from me and that those occasions were more exceptions to the rule. I never felt good enough. This become more of a reality later in my life when he was ever critical of my success in completing a college education and getting into a field I’ve always wanted.
For men, we desire to seek the approval and affirmation of our father. We see movies where the dynamics of a father and son relationship play out where the son is praised, encouraged, supported, and given some guidance. As a moderate counselor, in the field that addresses substance use disorder, I have met a handful of men who feel detached from their father, or have had no healthy relationship with their father. Other men grew up in a home where there were no father figure present and may have experienced the thought of never trying hard enough to seek the approval of their own mother.
The challenge is to see us for who we truly are and surround ourselves with men of integrity and receive the mentorship, love, encouragement, and support we may need. This is where recovery based support meetings come into play. If you are of a faith-based community, getting plugged into a men’s ministry group, and be active in being around men of faith.
2. Saying “no” is difficult
Growing up was difficult because most men were not allowed to say no, or to express any form of assertiveness. For me, growing up with a Vietnam Veteran, recovering alcoholic, to say no in an assertive manner met certain disciplinary actions. This is also true if one were to say no to their mother.
Now, I am not referring to that child-like, or adolescent, angst and defiance of saying no. What I am referring to is saying no in relationship of wanting to do something for yourself that you may find enjoyment. “No, I want to be able to participate in that play.” or, “No, I want to be on the basketball team.” This becomes a struggle later in life due to the developed and inherent fear of potential punitive reaction.
Through recovery, we develop a sense of well-being when we are not only assertive, we establish those healthy boundaries and realize that it is okay to say no without any suffering adverse reaction.
3. I just can’t get anything right
In family dysfunction, with or without substance use, there is various roles individuals tend to fulfill. One of the roles is the scapegoat. Something goes wrong, you are to blame. Even if you were not even around.
As men, we tend to fear failure because we may have grown up with an unloving father, and/or mother, where we carried the blame of all the wrong things happening within the family dynamics. We become broad shoulders in taking on, not only the blame, the responsibility. In which, through our own frustrations and anger, lash out because of our own emotional dysfunction. We view ourselves as unable to do anything right.
4. I am too ____
This aspect is more personal. For me, growing up in a home that was dysfunctional, I personally felt too much of a bother. Felt like I was more of an inconvenience. For men, this appears to feed into the idea of our sense of failure. We do not measure up, we are not able to do anything right, and at the end of the day, we are just a mistake.
We need to remind ourselves that we are not too much, too emotional, too weak, too – whatever. We are who we are and we are a work in progress where the goal is to transform our lives in a manner that is healthy and meaningful for us. As a man, I am personally on my own mission to continue to walk in my own authentic meaning and purpose. Through my own faith and relationship with Christ, and aligning myself with good people.
5. No one really cares about me
The most honest thing a man is capable of admitting is that he grew up in a home where he did not feel cared for, his emotional needs were not met, and believing that others do not care enough about us as individuals. Again, this comes out of not feeling good enough, being too weak minded, believing no we do not matter. It creates thoughts and emotions of distrust, anger, resentment, and (at least for me) keeping other people (including men) at arms length.
I, personally, believe this also comes out of our own experiences of fear of rejection and abandonment related issues. However, the reality is, being plugged into a healthy community of other men – one soon discovers that they do matter, and that men do truly care about you.
6. I’m just not good enough
As mentioned before, this thought comes from personal experience where we develop this dysfunctional perception. A perception that because we are trying hard enough to receive that prized accolades, that we feel we do not matter, that we are just too emotionally bankrupt and broken, and that our illusion of people not caring for us.
We struggle with our own insecurities, our own inadequacies. As men, we tend to have relational conflicts and blame ourselves for those conflicts. We are left feeling we are failing our relationships, failing our families, and failing our own sense of manhood. We, in essence, emasculate our own masculinity.
The reality is that we believed the illusion of someone else unrealistic expectations and taken on those unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a man. Society does not help with the social justice emasculation.
7. I wish I were different
I recall those nights, alone, and my youthful prayers were cries to God to take me away and give me a different life. We desired to have those relationships with our fathers, and/or mothers, our fellow peers had. I remember being upset at times that my father would not want to spend time with me. I remember being jealous of hearing my peers say how they enjoyed going camping with their father, or going out and throwing the football around, playing basketball, or doing some type of activity. No, my youthful experience focused more on helping Dad either gather wood or work on the family car.
This isn’t to say I did not do any fun things with my father. One of my best memories of spending time with my dad was going fishing, however, it never really was just Dad and I.
This, I have come to realize, was where I felt incomplete. Missing something in my life. I felt I was missing out on that relationship with my father. I have now come to realize he, and not I, missed out on that relationship.
8. If I were anyone else, I’d fit in
This goes hand in hand with the previous thought. As we desired to be different (because we grew up with the illusion and belief that there was something wrong with us) we wonder if we were different, how well we’d fit in.
Working with men in recovery, there is this sense of not being able to fit in, feeling alienated from other people. We may tend to go through the motions, have superficial relationships, and do our best to preform at our work and at home. Yet, underlying our angst and despair is this idea that one still feels alienated from everyone else. This includes feeling alienated from other men.
I believe that this prevents men from having real authentic relationships with one another because of the alienation we feel and have experienced. To overcome this, we stretch ourselves to work toward developing those real authentic relationships and brotherhood among other men.
9. I just don’t deserved to be loved
Part of recovery is radical and rigorous honest. If we are honest with ourselves, most of our emasculation comes from our own false belief we just do not deserve to be loved. Growing up in a home with family dysfunction, where there does not appear to be adequate love from our father, and/or mother, we develop this sense of not deserving to be loved.
I see this in my own life, and here it in the men I sit in counsel with. We push significant relationships away – not because we do not want them, because we feel we do not deserve them.
Think about the past few relationships you have had and be honest with yourself regarding how you may have pushed a significant other away, or even children away from you.
10. I don’t belong anywhere
As we struggle with the false belief that we do not deserve to be loved, that we do not fit in because of our sense of alienation, we also feel we do not belong anywhere. This moves us to our own solitary confinement.
I have struggled with my own isolation due to my own false beliefs that because I am not loved, because no one seems to care, and because I feel so alienated, that I have purposely kept myself away from any type of social gatherings and activities. We end up becoming even more despondent because we have this illusion that someone will magically call on us, check up on us, and then become resentful and bitter towards others. We keep ourselves emotionally and socially isolated as a defense.
The challenge is to really allow ourselves to experience some vulnerability and realize we have to work toward finding where we have a sense of belonging and doing things for ourselves to experience our own sense of peace and belonging.
11. I always have to be perfect as possible
Here is the core of the issue. For me, I am ever proving myself. I always have to be perfect in everything that I do. How come? Because of all the other thoughts and emotions expressed above.
When you are a man, and are growing up in an abusive, toxic, dysfunctional home, you have to always prove your manhood to other people. Prove other people wrong, force yourself to work hard – at the expense of your relationships.
And, when you fail at your relationships, you find some type of replacement to prove you are able to be a good father, prove yourself to have a successful relationship. This is a dysfunctional aspect of our masculine competitive nature.
There is nothing wrong with healthy competitive nature. However, our own toxicity, present belief and values, generate a sense of “I’ve got to prove myself that I am a man”.
What I have come to realize is this simple truth: By God’s divine sovereign Grace, I do not have to prove myself to be the man I know God is shaping and molding me to become.
Overcoming childhood trauma, family dysfunction and toxicity is not something that happens overnight. However, when we engage in the steps toward changing our perceptions, our believes, and break free from the chains of illusion: we begin to find our real authentic and genuine sense of masculinity. Not what Society may portray as masculine – what we define and grow into that is a healthy strong man of integrity and character.
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