I knew absolutely NOTHING about Whitney Cummings before I listened to this podcast yesterday. I mean, a face popped into my head from a sitcom I only knew from commercials, I think named after her? But that’s it. But holy SHIT if that podcast didn’t leave me thinking ALL OF THE THINGS.
Long story, short. She had a strange childhood where her parents abandoned her in very real ways and it led her to a therapeutic/recovery process mainly through al-anon which I’ve had my own experience with but that’s another topic for another day.
She talked about a lot of “realizations” through her journey but one of the ones that hit me the most was her talk about being a martyr. I have always known I have those tendencies, but I’ve had people in my life who are – what I now call – Miserable Martyrs. Those people who whine and complain about what all they do all the time because they want everyone to know how hard they have it.
But the kind of martyr she talked about – what I’m now calling the Caregiver Martyr – hit a little closer to home. The person who does things for people even when they don’t ask and then gets upset when the person doesn’t acknowledge that.
I felt the burn on that one.
My case is a little different from hers, I think. It sounds like she did it seeking approval/love. Mine is a little different, I think. I do a lot of my Caregiving because I adore being cared for. The problem is, I have determined, is that I also long for someone to be proud of me. And I can’t handle if – for one moment – they’re not.
OUCH. That’s so embarrassing, it hurts.
I’ve been thinking about this since the podcast. I think it comes down to the fact that I made my Dad angry – A LOT – growing up. He was a great Man and a great Father but he had some anger issues and while he never laid a hand on me, he did sometimes call me insulting names when he was angry with me. The kind of names that still make me flinch when I hear them used on other people on TV and movies. And those wounds dug deep, I think. So deep that for each one, I think I needed 900 compliments to heal them.
My Dad was not stingy with compliments, I do have vivid memories of him praising me as I do him insulting me. But you know how it is, 100 people tell you you’re smart and then one person calls you a dumbshit and the other 100 never existed.
So. I can go about caring for my family and be mildly okay without compliments or thanks. (MILDLY.) But the second a criticism is thrown out there? AND MY EMOTIONAL TRAIN WRECK BEGINS.
A perfect example:
I’ve been working 40 hours a week with a 90 minute commute every weekday for the past 2 weeks now. Counting my sub 1-hour lunch break I’m gone from the house at least 9 hours every day. All of that and I’m still dealing with all of the after school activities for the kids, making sure we all have dinner, packing lunches, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, moving the grass, all while Donnie uses his non-work time training for his Ironman and playing video games.
And this is fine with me with the periodic praise/thanks…UNTIL THERE IS A CRITICISM.
Then all hell breaks loose.
He walked into the office Thursday night and said, “Do I smell pee?” We are dog sitting, so I think that was his worry, but I freaked out because I work my ass off trying to keep our house smelling good and checking every corner for treasures from any animals. I stormed around mumbling, mopping floors, cleaning, and then I went to the kitchen and stuffed my face.
One subtle, not even directed at me, criticism – and I lost my shit.
I tell Donnie all the time, I would be 100% okay with this balance of responsibility if he gave me 15 compliments/thanks for every ONE criticism. I’ve kinda always known that, it’s less about me wanting the praise than it is me NOT wanting criticism. One negative note and I’m falling down a pit of despair feeling worthless and depressed.
I’ve kinda always known that, but listening to her relate it to her childhood forced me to relate it to mine and I thought: Holy Shit. It was like that with Dad too.
After he would have his fits of anger, and would say horrible, soul-crushing things to me, he would always find a moment to sit me in his lap and offer a very sincere apology followed by praise. Some nights I’d lie in bed just waiting for him to calm down and offer that reassurance. He didn’t get that angry often (as a parent I now know once is too often) but when he did, I just got through it knowing he’d give me my praise and compliments soon. JUST BE PATIENT.
So I think my issues with not handling criticism well is that, in the rest of the world, they’re not followed by mounds of praise and apology. So I don’t know how to handle it.
I think I need to work on giving myself the praise and apologies. If no one every criticized me about my domestic existence? I’d keep this balance of work no questions asked. I only seem desperate for praise if a criticism has been handed out. So my issues relate less to “WANTING ATTENTION” and more to “NOT BEING ABLE TO HANDLE CRITICISM”.
Isn’t that fascinating?
Okay! Now I’m off to clean toilets so I can hopefully squeeze in a run before Nikki’s soccer game today. If anyone has any recommendations about How To Handle Criticism Gracefully And Without Losing Your Shit, please let me know.