Saturday, February 18, 2017

What's Your Self Image Worth - A Bowl of Onions?

Is your self image worth the lies or the victories?

No one escapes the messages they received about their self-worth, their personhood. Messages come in all forms such as praise, edification, guidance, uplifting or perhaps destruction, lies, invalidation, tearing down, to name a few. Some messages were blatant while others were disguised.

Messages can be misleading. Perhaps they suggest that looks helped us to succeed in life, a job, a relationship, while others said we'd never make it, who'd want you, I disown you, you're stupid, too thin, too fat, too pretty, too ugly or you're trash.

The messages we receive, good or bad, often become the filter on how we see ourselves, the world, our job, our family, our friends, and perhaps even God. Some people know the message they received while others aren't sure or claim they don't have one.

For me, it wasn't until I got older and began asking questions about my past that I began to unravel some of the lies of my abuse. You might ask, if the abuse was real, how can it be a lie?  Well, the abuse was real. What wasn't real was the messages that I received from the abuse that imprinted a lie about my self-worth. False lies that will continue to skew my view of my life, if I let them. So instead, I choose to keep asking questions one step at a time in search of a different view.

Unraveling the lies is like climbing a 4,000 footer in the White Mountains. It's a lot of work. A simple 5 mile hike can take 8 hours roundtrip. I've gotten blisters, twisted my knee, been eaten alive by black flies, but then I find the cold mountain stream and soak my bandana in it and wrap one around my knee and the other on my sweaty head for relief. Finally I think I've made it, but then my husband says, "No honey this is what they call a false summit." 
False Summit

Tired and worn out I want to turn back, but I refuse to and I refuse to cry. I'm in the middle of nowhere. About another hour of hiking on granite trails the shrubbery begins to change and the air feels cleaner and the sound gets even quieter, if that's possible.

part of the trail
Often it seems that it is steepest before the summit. And just when I thought I couldn't take one more step, there it was, the top, the summit. The view. We high five, take our packs off and eat our lunch while we soak in the breathtaking view of the White Mountains. What a victory!

Real Summit!
Had I let the pain turn me around, the only view of the mountain I would've taken with me was the false summit.

Here is an excerpt from my book. Chapter titled: A Bowl of Onions  (age eight or nine)

"Finish eating or else, shouts the kitchen table command." I chide myself; keep your head down, avoid eye contact and remember the code.

"Eat everything on your plate, there are starving kids in China.”

“I work hard to put a roof over your head and food on the table.”

“If you don’t eat your food in the next five minutes, you’ll get more.”

If I’m lucky, I’ll get through supper without my parents chastising glare. But when they decide to wait for me to clean off my plate, the timer gets set. The race is on. The air is thick as I face off with the plate of food I already hate. The longer I stare at it, the colder it gets, making it taste more vile then when we first sat down to eat. Hastily I try choking down the cold and unwanted food, but at this stage, nothing can make it taste good or slide down easy because the tension is shutting down all my internal systems. I cannot cry because it won’t help. Nobody will care. And should I cry, they will give me something to cry about.

Many suppers had been thrown on the floor and across the room. I guess those meals were different. They must’ve known starving kids from China wouldn’t eat that food.

During a typical meal the wooden salad bowl was filled with iceberg lettuce, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes. I was creative in how I navigated through the explosion of onions, making sure to avoid those smelly white chunks that made my eyes sting and water. Satisfied with my selection, I continued eating. When supper was over, Mom and C.J. rose and cleared their plates from the table so I stood and excused myself to join them. As if on cue, Dad said, “Sit back down.” With an even set jaw and stern tone he stated, “Now finish eating what’s left in the salad bowl.” I looked at the bowl then back at him, but he wasn’t kidding. 
I sat in my chair, turned away from Dad and faced the salad bowl. I reached my arms up and into what seemed like a bottomless pit of onions. While he glared from the head of the table, I ate one onion after another while stifling back tears and onion stings. I was made to eat all the onion chunks that had found their way to the bottom of the bowl. The same onions the rest of the family had dodged. 

age 8 or 9

I never received my fathers’ love in a way that would make a little girl believe she was wanted, loved, pretty or approved by him. What little girl should not want that from her daddy? 

And I knew I wasn’t his Princess because Princesses are not forced to eat a bowl of onions.

 The End


The rejection of my father's affection often made me feel like I was insignificant, in the way and couldn't do anything right. That lie followed me into my adult years until I learned that I do matter regardless of what my dad thought of me because God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
If you received a negative message, are you stuck on the false summit of that lie or have you climbed past the lie, determined to reach the summit?
How was your view changed?
Mini series on - What's your self-image worth?

My disclaimer: I share my stories in hope that they speak to someone who might be stuck on a false summit. I'm not here to split hairs over the difference between self-image, self-worth, self-esteem or self-confidence. I believe they're related in varying ways and/or feed/affect the other. I'm suggesting that discovering the message behind why we do or don't what we do is perhaps the beginning of discovering a new view to our value which helps define the gift we have to share with the world. My focus is on the false messages I received about my worth.  
NOTE: NO I wasn't forced to eat whole onions! I just wasn't going to cut up onions and make my eyes water for the sake of the photo.


Linda Loegel said...

This is a well-written, thought-provoking article. The way you weave a hiking trip into the journey to self worth, is pure genius. The image of a false summit as compared to the actual summit is one everyone can understand and therefore "see" how the external trek relates to the internal one. Well done, Tammy Sue.

Anonymous said...

I just read your excerpt from your book titled A Bowl of Onions. It made me think of my Dad and how I received mix messages from him! It also made me grateful that we have a heavenly father who loves us unconditionally and we have a new identity in the Lord!
Thank you for sharing your story!! Be blessed xoxo (D.N.)

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.

Carol Hare said...

Love that you share your personal stories that we can all relate to in some way. Uplifting and well written!