I grew up believing I wasn’t a real person. I believed I was a thing, an object, something to be used. I was taught not to have needs, wants, hopes…objects don’t rise to the status of having innate value and therefore they don’t have the right to need or hope or dream. They are not a being with a soul. Only those who have worth are allowed to hunger and yearn. I was treated as though I was nothing, squashed into a tiny box and ground into a million, zillion, katrillion pieces. And so, I learned I WAS nothing. I existed only to perform and to fulfill the wants and needs of others. If I was useful, I was allowed to continue to exist. If I pleased my parents, I was allowed to continue to be. I was an object. I still think of myself as an object. I struggle to believe I’m a person. I can’t even comprehend that I could possibly be a person like other people are people. If I’m a person, it’s some lower level of the life form. Not one with full rights or membership in the human race. The problem with being an object when you are “alive” is that you cause problems. Sometimes you don’t feel well. You fail to get your chores done. You have those feelings, the ones you are not supposed to have: hurt, frustration, despair, confusion. You fail to perform up to standard. If you were a knife and you didn’t do a good job cutting, you would likely be thrown away and replaced by a sharper knife (does anyone sharpen knives any more?). If you were a cell phone and you stopped working the way you were supposed to, you would be tossed aside for the latest technology. If you were a car that failed to start, you would be put in the shop and be repaired. If you failed to start too often, you would be replaced with a newer car. But when you’re a breathing object, you can’t as easily be thrown on the trash heap. You can be neglected, beaten, made to feel like crap for having needs. You can be scolded, belittled, slapped into shape. You can be yelled at, rejected, mocked, battered (emotionally and physically). But throwing you out brings unwanted attention from authorities. So you suffer, trying to survive, trying to find a way to navigate, trying to please and fulfill your duties. You learn that your value is totally dependent on your performance. You learn to perform to the best of your ability. You learn to feel horrible when you fail to perform. You apologize to your master(s) for your failure. And you try harder. When you’re young, you have more energy. You can often do a halfway decent job of living up to expectations. But as the years fly by, they tend to weigh heavily and take their toll. Time breaks you down. Energy runs out. Your ability to meet demands falters. Your value plummets. You try harder, but your attempts are not as exuberant or effective as they were in the past. You beat yourself up more and succeed less. The more you fail, the more you feel your lack of worth. The knowledge that you are a failure, and thus worthless, is your constant companion. It eats at you, further draining your energy. This is a painful spiral. It’s difficult to begin to change a perception when you have grown up and grown old thinking of yourself in this way. The older you get, the more similar rejecting experiences you have with others, the more you realize you are nothing but a thing…and not a thing that is special or worthwhile or desirable. A thing that is mostly unwanted and defective and barely tolerable. You work hard, but find yourself able to perform barely enough for others to keep you around. You’re getting close to being obsolete. And that’s terrifying. This kind of thinking runs deep in me because it was hammered into my vulnerable and innocent brain. It was demonstrated a thousand ways over years and years. It WAS what was. It was reality. The place where I lived. The truth my parents taught me. The first lesson started when I was a baby and needed my diaper changed at an inconvenient time. When I had colic. When I didn’t look cute for their friends. There was a price to be paid for failure and the price was steep. You see, when you are an object, your parents can treat you any way they please because you exist only to please them. If you don’t (please them), you deserve whatever you get. In my case, what I got was abused. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, emotional and verbal abuse, rejection, manipulation, demands that I take on adult responsibilities as a child. I tried to please, but never could. Later in life, I tried to please my husband, but again, never could. I was not what he wanted. He didn’t love me. Most of the time he didn’t even like me. Nothing I could do could change that. I was not acceptable, so I accepted his tolerance as the best I could hope for. Until he threw me away for a newer, better, much improved model. I’m still paying the price for failing. I’m alone now and I hate it. I’m afraid of connecting with people…don’t even know if I know how to do that any more. I have no idea who I really am, but I’m totally convinced who I am is unacceptable. Well, let me rephrase…I do know I’m an object. That much is certain. And I’m not an object of worth or value. I’m an object without a purpose. One that no longer pleases. One that no longer has the ability to perform as required. Junk. Ready for the trash heap. That’s me…and it hurts.