I recently came across a letter that my 5th grade teacher wrote to my mother. I was stunned by the force of negativity lying inside. In it she wrote how there were severe gaps in my knowledge and how my answers in class were extremely bizarre, incomprehensible and irrelevant to the topic at hand. She then expressed how I never seemed to remember whatever it was she taught the day before. Then, while lamenting her “concern” for my intellectual deficiencies, she explained that she was trying to help me but didn’t sound too hopeful for a positive outcome.
My experience of this teacher had been terrible. She was stern, cold, and lacking in empathy for the children in front of her, using her power on earth to discourage rather than encourage a child with a mind capable of critical thinking. She failed to nurture a sense of uniqueness and therefore discouraged any sense of the value of a positive self-image. Rereading this diatribe from her brought up so many emotions from that time in my life. What struck me more than anything was how strongly I had internalized the belief that I was stupid, incapable, worthless, insignificant, and most of all a loser.
When one is a child, and adults are telling you who and how you should be, the wheels are set in motion of feeling immense pressure that has no way of being put in perspective. This incident, among many, culminated in such powerful feelings of self-loathing that it inevitably formed how I operated and navigated the world in front of me.
All these years later, as an adult in my mid-thirties, I still question my own value. I think of myself as a very self-aware person who lives and breathes honesty and authenticity about my life; however, it’s incredible how being a sensitive empath who feels the emotional pain of others when confronted with it can send me back to being that scared, wounded child who had no control over how I was being treated. If I knew then what I know now I would have stood up to this teacher who cruelly, but probably unintentionally, had no clue how her words would be absorbed by a ten year old kid just trying to survive and make it into adolescence with as much ease as possible.
We’re all hurt as we walk along on our journey, and even though time doesn’t stop for us, we must stop for it. Really realizing that whatever I spurned in this woman had little to do with me, and more to do with her, is understandable, yet, the hurt becomes lodged in the psyche until hopefully, one day, it ceases to have the same powerful effect it once had.