Updated: May 30
Trailing behind, my eyes stayed leveled with the concrete beneath me as I fumbled with the bulky Discman in my hand. My braided coils draped over my face, veiling me, protecting me. Every so often, I'd look up from my lowered gaze and catch a glimpse of my mother's dramatic hip swaying and confident long strides. Men gawked and called out to her body in desperation and she, with a smug smile, lived for the attention. With disgust, I'd roll my eyes and shuffle to the angriest loudest track on my discman. Mother of the year had just finished stomping my confidence into the dirt and was now reveling in some unknown competition she had fabricated between us. One that she clearly won in that moment. Between my lowered gaze, the curtain of hair hiding me from the world and the comfort I found in clothes too big for my body, it became apparent that the psychological prison she built for me was indeed doing its job. It didn't help that her ability to garner the male gaze with little to no effort reinforced this idiotic belief that she was a better woman than me.
While men threw themselves at her feet, she'd glance over her shoulder with an air of condescension and in her spirit I sense she felt victorious. As if behind her soulless eyes held a demon that would purr,
"Good, know your place." She had maintained the hierarchy where I remained the ugly golem that no one will notice and she the long legged creature that men would risk life and limb to be with. Hatred sat at the pit of my stomach and I wanted nothing more than to slap that smug grin off her face. I hated the men who couldn't see her for the monster I known her to be. I hated my family who refused to hold her accountable but would demand I, as the child, be the bigger person and sacrifice my confidence, my womanhood and self respect on the alter of jealous narcissist motherhood. Most of all, I hated her. I hated my mother for taking so much from me when I did nothing to deserve it. However, as the years dragged by I learned something...
All she did to communicate who she thought me to be; Ugly, misshaped, and undesirable were not things I truly was. It was who she needed me to be to escape her own feelings of inadequacies. I, as a darker skin unambiguous black girl, was just an easy enough target to brainwash into believing such horrible things. Between her hurtful comments and abuse, the hurtful comments and abuse within my own community and so on, it was easy to distort my own perception of myself. I write about this often both here and in my projects. Stories of young women completely disillusioned by their envious mothers. I've talked about that enough. Today is a shadow work day. This post is about my next stage of exploration and self discovery. I want to explore a fear of mine. That fear being this...
I am deathly afraid of being a narcissist like my mother. The fear itself is primal in nature. I hate the things she's done and the emotions she created within me and I am terrified that I could ever make someone feel anything like that. I also find her desperation for men's validation repulsive. How she allowed herself to become not only a slave to the desires of men, but also an empty vessel that thrives on excessive sexual gratification. One who utilizes sex and attraction for her own personal gain and validation. However, I fear the way I fawn when presented with sexual expectations may be a red flag in its own way. I am fearful of the way my insecurity may come across as a more covert form of narcissism compared to my mother's overt hypersexual and narcissistic demeanor. This fear leaves me stuck between a rock and a hard place and I am determined to establish balance. I don't want to be a mindless puppet that thrives on men's validation. But I also don't want to be in this state of childlike regression. Nor do I want to be the a woman who is in constant need of reassurance. However, it is hard to find the space in between where I sit comfortably in my womanhood and sexuality. It is hard to not ask for reassurance when I am completely ignorant of my sexual self.
This is why I am allowing myself to do things that are uncomfortable for me. To challenge the seedlings planted in my head by my mother and community that grew into those cruel unforgiving voices in my head. The ones that tell me that I am the foulest of things and that no one would ever want to touch me or have me close to them. Let alone fuck me. The voices that echo the many cruel comments my mother would spew on a regular basis in order to keep me stuck in a state of perpetual girlhood. Never to actualize the woman within. I won't repeat those words here because this is my space and I will not give those words power nor will I immortalize them further. The goal is to destroy them completely. They must be destroyed. I cannot do this without placing myself in uncomfortable situations and unfamiliar places. I have to try, fail, try and fail some more. But I still struggle with finding balance. I struggle with finding a place between the unhealthy representation of femininity that my mother exuded VS my dysfunctional uncertain and insecure version that cannot seem to internalize the positive reinforcement I am given. It often feels like a lie or a pity party even if it's genuine.
But that's changing. Ten years ago a compliment would have felt like nothing or like a knife to the heart. These days, it feels more like a lukewarm embrace. Not quite validating but enough to settle in some spaces in my mind where the bad thoughts live. I am finally understanding that all the put downs was a desperate attempt to brainwash me so that I remain blind to the truth of who I am. It was paramount that I remained ignorant of my worth as a woman so that a failed one could thrive. It was paramount that I not know my worth as a woman so that others have access to my abundance. I am learning... Finally. The next challenge is just finding that sweet spot. That place where I don't have to ask for reassurance because I am so unsure. But also one where I am not delusional and absent an identity beyond an overtly sexual hallow shell of a woman that has nothing else but her sexuality to offer. I refuse to be my mother. But I refuse to be the version of myself she created.