How to get a boyfriend: the third therapy session

I had never realised that my mother was obsessed with the worry that I was going to be raped.

After unexpectedly bursting into tears the week before, today we were going to do a deep dive into my mum, since so many of my negative thoughts are basically a reflection of my parents’ criticisms. I think the idea is to understand why they behave the way they do, and that even though my parents’ execution of what the mean is bad, doesn’t mean that their intentions are bad.

I think my therapist (MT) is trying to prove to me that my parents do love me unconditionally lol.

However, I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser (had to). No, I have this thing where getting my parents approval feels like a loss. I don’t know how to describe it, but I believe that most of the stuff my parents tried to teach me is wrong. If I followed their ‘recipe to success’, I would be wildly unhappy, just like I was under the age of around 15. Living under their thumb and rules is one of the most unhappiest states to be in. Every time I have had to move back in with my parents after the age of 20, I also get very upset.

I feel like if I had listened to my parents, I would be a meek, shy, teacher who doesn’t wear makeup, contacts, jewellery, nice clothes or have really anything that brought me joy. The success that I have found, such as getting an academic scholarship for uni, going to America and the essay I wrote while over there becoming published and coming second in a US writing competition, travelling overseas, moving out and now buying a house on my own was all fuelled by their negative commentary telling me NOT to do those things.

Getting their approval feels like a loss. The feeling of them being happy with me feels wrong – like I have given up part of myself, that they’ve gotten me to listen like a child, that I have lost a battle that I have spent my whole life fighting. So I HATE exercising and eating healthy with their knowledge and approval. I would prefer it if they thought I was a junk food eating, lazy slob who they could not tell to do shit.

MT tries to ask me to remember a time where my parents have found me interesting or pretty and I literally shudder. Their approval?? Gross.

And yet their criticisms drive my inner critic. 

My mum grew up in a poor village during communist China and the cultural revolution, where food and healthcare was scarce, noone had any money or education, and money and education were seen as a bad thing (why? Because Communist tings). The last of 8 kids which only 6 survived to adulthood, she spent her childhood running around with her friends with no adult supervision. My grandmother was illiterate, and my granddad grew up in a poor, broken home where the breadwinner (my great-granddad and his father) had died in the Napier earthquake when he was 7 and so the rest of the family never could make it here. Real peasant stuff!

We compile some messages that my mum wants to convey:

  • Me being safe
  • Me being healthy

And however, this gets delivered as:

  • Constant fear of me being raped
  • Constant fear of me getting pregnant before getting married
  • Constant image of me being morbidly obese
  • Constant fear I’m going to be forever alone and never have children (this only developed after I turned 25 lol)

What I really like about MT is that she validates my pain. Even though my mum definitely had a tougher childhood than I did, MT says that still, how I felt in my childhood and the trauma there still exists. 

I’m so used to fighting fire with fire for so long, that people who have a ‘tough love’ approach normally get me rarked the fuck up. But people who are soft, empathetic and listen make me unravel. That’s what makes me let my walls down, have a massive cry and actually listen and do what they say. Basically the opposite of what I had as a child /childhood trauma pops up again/. So that’s why I really appreciate MT – she makes me feel very safe, she is very soft and gentle in approach and she listens.

Those fears manifested in:

  • My mum telling me not to be alone in the same room as my male teacher when I was 11 in case I got raped
  • My mother barging in during a job interview at like, 2 in the afternoon when I was 21 thinking I was getting raped
  • Constant lectures and criticisms that I am super, super fat
  • Judging and not letting me eat anything that I want, when I want: huge control over food
  • Constant lectures and criticisms to get married and have children: to a point where I feel like she just wants me to shack up with any virile male who will have me like I’m a cow that no one even wants for free

I guess understanding where all these criticisms come from is helpful. I do see how this is all interconnected – surely my mum telling me I was going to get raped and to not talk to boys for the first 20 years of my life is related to why I am so shit at talking to boys now. Surely the criticisms of my weight, and the lack of interest in anything else about me drives my inner critic which constantly tells me I’m not pretty or interesting enough.

(Sidenote that MT asks: perhaps my mum has probably witnessed some sexual assault in the past?)

I really want to make my inner critic not so influential. However, at the same time I feel like so many PoC women have the same background – parents who do a whole 180 on boys once they hit 25. Parents who are even more stricter than mine were – and so many of them are in meaningful relationships and are able to laugh off their strict upbringing. For some reason, my childhood and criticisms still hurt me so much, when I don’t even want my parents’ approval. Their criticisms have become my inner critic, when the thought of being so still so linked to my parents makes me feel sick. I just hate the dependency, I hate the association. I am super ungrateful about my mum’s worries because the way she’s delivered it is so upsetting to me – there are many times where I literally want to say ‘worry about yourself – don’t even think of me’. 

Their ‘thinking of me’ is just like my inner critic coming to life, determined to get me feeling shit about myself and like they want to rub my ‘failures’ against my face. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

I don’t know if this is progress. It’s definitely nice to talk about things that I have spent years only thinking about, and that I have a person that is listening to it. 

Make sure you read the other posts in the series (scroll down) to get the background!

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