Fathers Day #Triggerwarning
My parents separated when I was around 5 or 6 years old. Before then, my father adored me. He created a photo album of all my baby photos and made a bracelet with my middle name on it. I don’t remember returning his affection though. I remember the sloppy kisses that smelled of alcohol and must have blocked memories of him being physically abusive to my mother. I only remember the one time when he threw a small radio at my mom and it hit me in the mouth and I still have a scar to this day. That’s just the physical scar.
Other scars are not physical but they did create a limp in the way I related to people. My father abandoned me and left my inner child creating this narrative that I am unlovable and therefore I should be what people want me to be so they won’t leave me.
It also meant that I was scared of being rejected so I struggled with putting up boundaries and speaking up for myself. I was scared of conflict because it might mean that someone might leave or not like me anymore and thereby trigger the wound of abandonment and rejection that I felt as a child. If my father whose seed formed me wouldn’t stay and love me, what more a stranger. This meant that at my workplace I couldn’t be assertive and show that I was ready for leadership because I was conditioned to please. It also meant that I left jobs rather quickly before anyone could find out who I authentically was.
It meant that I kept people at arm’s length so that I don’t feel any pain when they leave. It meant that I didn’t trust men and therefore rejected mentors who were wanted to help me on my journey. I ran away from successful people who wanted to get closer to me as well. Part of me figured the emotional burden of constantly meeting their expectations is going to be too hard a price to pay.
My father leaving meant that I couldn’t trust anyone to stand by me and had to rely on myself so I struggled to ask for help and when I was in management struggled to delegate. I couldn’t believe that I was good enough for someone to help me. It also meant I had to rely on myself and delegating was the same as asking. I couldn’t use and leverage the power of networks to advance my career because I was protecting myself.
It meant feedback and constructive criticism was a painful process because if people are not happy with me that equals rejection. It meant that even though I acted and it was in my personality to be extroverted, I was always guarded. I overworked to prove myself, I craved approval and sometimes lacked the attention to detail because I needed the feeling of submitting something so I can impress again.
It meant that I couldn’t be honest with people, that if people were in conflict around me, I would be the only one that both parties were speaking to. Meant that I broke people’s trust because I needed to please everyone and therefore could never stand in principle.
It is in this journey of healing that I learned how deeply my childhood wounds have affected my career and often delayed its upward trajectory. I created the Re-imagined workplace program for black women like me who have finally realised that they bring all of themselves to work. The parts that make them competent and successful, and the ones that hold them back.