When my first book was published, some fifteen years ago, it didn’t mean much to me… At least, until I held a copy of it in my hand.
Why was that?
It was never going to be a book that would set the world alight; I knew that. It was of interest to, at most, some 300 people in the Whole world who shared my interest in an obscure academic topic.
Holding that book in my hand, and seeing my name on the cover, gave me something I didn’t already have: it put me on my own mental map of the world.
At the time, I had a young child, so I was struggling with a severe case of “mummy identity”. But, more importantly, being in an abusive relationship had led me to be, at best, “a bit player” in my abusive husband’s life; I was nothing in my own.
I had, more or less, fallen off my own radar.
Like all abused women.
As far as I was concerned, I was simply that unworthy being who shuffled along in my husband’s shadow.
The book I held in my hand reminded me that I still existed.
I wish I could say that it did more than that, but it did not. Because that is what happens in an abusive relationship: you disappear from your own map of the world.
You only have to listen to an abused woman. You only have to listen to yourself.
You have your list of priorities: your partner, your children, your pet…
And then nothing…
Look down far enough and you will eventually find yourself, at the very bottom of the heap: the Woman Who Believed She Didn’t Matter.
The Woman Who Did Not Matter To Herself - Because She Did Not Matter To Her Abusive Partner.
It would be terribly, terribly sad – I’ve no doubt that you have experienced it as being terribly sad – were it not for one thing:
Your partner does not have the power to decide whether or not you matter.
Only you have that power.
Until now, there has been a problem – let’s call it a ‘belief malfunction’: nobody taught you to believe you had that power, so you never learned that you had it. You didn’t know even that you were allowed to have that power. That is why you haven’t been able to claim it for yourself.
Your first experiences of not mattering – or not mattering as much as you would have liked – came when you were a child, did they not? Naturally enough, that young You did what all children do, and generalized. The child could not say to herself: “This adult is too focused on their agenda to be sensitive to my needs. The fact that they have prioritized their agenda is all about them. It is not a reflection of my worth.”
Honestly, has there ever been a time when you have been so hard pressed that you have given your children (or friends), a lower priority than you might have wished?
When you were a child, that adult (those adults) did not put you center stage, for their own reasons. But there is nothing to stop you now.
You can start to put yourself center stage now.
How do you do it?
Don’t even attempt to do it the hard way; that is, by getting out there and trying to do something that is so foreign to you. Instead, start running a new scenario in your head. Go back, if you like to when that young You did not feel she mattered.
When you get to the point at which she is overlooked, change the scenario. Have her successfully attract the adult’s attention. If necessary, have her explain to the adult why this so important to her, and make sure that the adult understands, and responds appropriately.
See that she gets her needs met. See how good it feels for her.
Do that several times. In fact, do it as often as you feel like doing it. You can do it with several different scenarios, if you like.
That’s all you need to do.
The worst that can happen, is that you have spent time daydreaming in a more constructive way than you do when you focus on old hurts, or making someone listen to you in the here and now.
That’s the worst that can happen. More likely, you will start to make a mental shift without even being aware of it.
You might find yourself spontaneously edging onto your own stage. You might even find yourself heading slowly but surely towards center stage in your own life.
That place is yours, by right.
Are you willing to own it?