“What were you thinking?!” My mom would scream at me. The vein on the side of her head popping out, her face flushed red.
It didn’t take much to get her like this lately. This time around I was attempting to exit the room while my step-father was being his usual, egotistical self.
“I…” I start to force out as she seemingly waits for my answer.
I couldn’t get much more out past that because she interrupts me by screaming at me more. For what seems like hours. Actually, I think there had been times where this would go on for 2+ hours. Especially when I would do the slightest thing to cross her husband. See, his temper was worse than hers and she didn’t want to have to deal with his emotionally abusive tendencies. So she screamed and yelled until, in her eyes, I hopefully got the point.
Fast forward to my adult years, I find a relationship with someone who would verbally express their pride about how they could “Walk up one side me and down the other”. To me, that’s what loved ones do. My partner at that time didn’t yell, or so they claimed every time I asked them to stop. Every time words would try to escape my lips to form a rebuttal or explanation, I would freeze. Shut down. The words I could get out were interrupted or overrun with more things my partner had to say. My words must not have been important.
This was different though. Unlike when my mother would scream, yell and lecture, when my partner would do it, I would hit a point of being interrupted that would cause me to need to take control of the conversation. By the 7th interruption in the span of 5 minutes, I would scream. Crazy levels of scream. I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to be heard. Once the adrenaline wore off I would feel embarrassed and ashamed. I hated getting to that point, but they always knew the right buttons to push to get me there. My partner would give me this look of amusement. Like they thought it was funny. Like they couldn’t understand why I would get to that point.
I touched a bit on my confidence issues in my last post, which have improved dramatically in the last year. While there are many factors that can affect confidence, I feel as though having two of the most important people in my life (at the time) not care about what I had to say definitely contribute. I used to love public speaking. I would compete when I was in school. I used to get excited to do improv. I wasn’t amazing at it by any means but I thought I was pretty good. Then slowly after years of interruptions, raised voices and ridicule from the things that I would manage to vocalize, my confidence was shattered by the time I hit adulthood.
I don’t want to say my problems were solved by a man, because even according to him, they weren’t. My long time best friend (and now partner) has been working on things with me. I have very strong views on a plethora of subjects that I generally keep to myself. If I attempted to discuss these things with people, I freeze up, can’t get my point across and then get even more anxious that I sound stupid. I subconsciously assume I’ll get interrupted. Yelled at even. While he never makes me have these debates with him, he strongly encourages it. When I start to panic, freeze, trip over my words and inevitably put my hands on my face, he doesn’t tell me his side. He doesn’t laugh. He tells me to pause, collect my thoughts, take a deep breath and keep going. He intently listens as I spit out my view on the things I’m passionate about.
I used to dumb down my speech too. I wouldn’t even try to use words that I wasn’t comfortable with. The times I did, specifically in arguments with one of my ex partners, they would tell me to “spell it”. This cut extra deep. I learned the majority of my schooling in French so my spelling isn’t fantastic.
My current partner will encourage me to use bigger words.
“From what I’ve been told there’s… speculation? Am I using that right?”
He proudly tells me that I did. Even if there’s a time that I don’t use a word correctly, he calmly explains how to use it properly by example.
This has been one of the hardest things to overcome. I’m slowly and painfully pushing myself, with help from my partner, to undo 26 years worth of damage caused partially by being screamed at. I make a very conscious effort to not raise my voice when my daughter is misbehaving. I don’t want her to think that’s love. She’s a confident child and I don’t want her to lose that. She will have her own struggles, I know this, but feeling like she doesn’t have anything important to say will not be one of them if I can help it.
Comment your experiences, if you’re comfortable. What are some of the ways you’ve tried to combat confidence issues?
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