“Everyone is the hero in their story, according to them.” my dad says to me while we’re in the car on the way to the gun range this morning.
I look over at him, intrigued. “Elaborate.”
“Everyone thinks that they’re the hero. Even the bad guys think what they’re doing is right, in their eyes.”
My dad and I don’t always get along. Not in the way my mother and I don’t. He’s always been there for me. He’s supported me through every heartbreak, career change and every other life changing event. He’s held me when I’ve cried, rescued me (on multiple occasions) when I’ve locked my keys in my car and walked me down the aisle on my wedding day.
We get into disagreements over nothing sometimes. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re both fairly stubborn or if it’s strictly a generation gap (or both), but we can sometimes easily transition from a small debate to a heated argument fairly quickly. Regardless of what it is, we are mature enough to know when to back away from a topic when we’re getting too frustrated with each other. However, this time there was no arguing. He wasn’t wrong.
At what point do we stop thinking that what we’re doing is right, and start questioning what behaviours and traits need work? How can we identify those behaviours and use necessary means to correct them?
Generally, like I mentioned in my first post, toxic traits stem from traumatic events and childhood environment. Depending on the situation, it can be a continuation of a cycle, a trait learned as a reaction to certain behaviours, or even a defense mechanism.
I was a young teenager when I was living with my mom. Once I had hit high school, I had lost my virginity fairly quickly. Due to the lack of positive attention I would receive at home, sex became my vice for validation, love and attention. This has carried on into my adult years.
In past relationships, the men I would sleep with would want it all the time. There had been a few cases with some of them where, if I wasn’t in the mood, they would resort to emotional manipulation, or sometimes worse, to coerce me into satisfying their needs. I always ended up blaming myself because subconsciously I thought they were trying to show me love. They want me and are giving me attention in a ‘positive’ way, so, why didn’t I want it? Was I broken? That’s just how men express their feelings.
It was an interesting and somewhat bumpy transition to go from relationships where some men felt entitled to my body whenever they wanted it, to my current partner. He views me as an equal. Sometimes, much like myself, he isn’t in the mood after a long day of work or, dealing with his own mental ailments. During that transition, if my partner wasn’t in the mood or was too tired, my brain immediately jumped to thinking that I wasn’t good enough. I would question what could possibly be wrong with me. My immediate reaction was to get snappy. Looking back, that was not okay. The more I had time to reflect on previous relationships, the more I questioned why I dismissed some behaviours, both from myself and significant others, as if they were acceptable.
The way I’ve been attempting to identify toxicity towards myself is by asking the question “Would I feel comfortable knowing that my daughter is being treated this way by someone she loves?”. Alternatively, if I had a son, would I be okay with him to be spoken to, by his significant others, the way I’ve spoken to my partner in the past? Absolutely not. Then, why is it reasonable to allow myself to be treated or to react in these undesirable ways.
This method works great with many things, even parenting itself. I make a solid, conscious effort to avoid raising my voice. I do a fairly impressive job at it… most days. No one is perfect, I know this. While there is a substantial amount of pressure and expectations on mothers, we have to stop holding ourselves to such high standards. But, I digress.
When my anxiety is bad, I can easily get overwhelmed. Like a pot boiling over, the effects can spill onto the people around me. Mostly my partner, but sometimes (very rarely) my daughter. When I’m running from room to room, trying to navigate through construction, or when I’ve asked her to do the something for the fourth or fifth time, there will sometimes hit a point where I boil over and yell. I don’t like doing it. I feel instantly guilty on those days where I slip. Why? Because who likes being yelled at? I don’t. I apologize and explain myself in a way she can understand; something my mother never did. So now, because I’ve been able to acknowledge my toxic traits to my daughter, she’s learning from that. She’s learning that although we’re human and that we make mistakes, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work on them.
So yes, everyone is the hero in their story but, even heroes have flaws and toxic traits. Identifying and attempting to correct them is what will separate you from the villains.