Dear Mama, I Need to Get This Off My Chest

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When I turned 18 I didn’t feel like a woman and I sure didn’t feel like an adult. I felt like the same little girl who was punched in the face by her mom in the 5th grade, for having a messy desk and for writing a love note to a little boy in her class. I felt like the same little girl who cowered in the presence of people who were outspoken and more confident than her. I felt like the same little girl who lived in silence for fear of offending, upsetting or disagreeing with someone else’s opinion.                        

Despite growing up in an abusive household, I thought that when I turned 18 something magical would happen. I assumed the world would naturally respect me and treat me like the adult and woman, I longed to be. After all, I was 18.

But they didn’t.

It was my sophomore year of college and I was stressed. In addition to staying on top of my academics and trying to find money for school, I found myself driving home nearly every weekend, to take my siblings to church or to drive them 4 1/2 hours to visit my mom in prison. One weekend while I was home, I got a call from my mom. She called asking if I could bring my siblings to see her, call one of her friends and do a few other favors.

All my life, I’ve always been scared of my mom. She is the definition of a strong, black woman. Although she had stopped being abusive when I was an upperclassman in high school, her words were still powerful and captivating. Enough that when she spoke, positive or negative, her words could either mend a heart or pierce it.  

After my mom asked me to do a few favors for her. I responded in a way that was foreign to me.

I said “No.”

With endless tears streaming down my face, I whined “No, I don’t want to bring them up and I’m not going to. I’ve done so much and I have so much on my plate. I don’t feel like it mom.”

I couldn’t believe it! These three seemingly small sentences, were the biggest sentences of my life! I finally said no!

I’ve always been a people pleaser, a push over, a hopeless chameleon who conformed to the views of others. As a child, my opinion never mattered and the abuse magnified my unworthiness. I felt like I didn’t exist. I was merely a reflection of everyone that I encountered. I had no opinion, I had no thoughts, I had no mind of my own. However, the day that I said “No” to my mom, was the day that I started fighting for myself. It was the day that I felt like I was finally becoming a woman.

My mom sounded shocked and disgusted by this new word that I had learned. She abruptly ended our phone conversation. I cried in my grandfather’s arms hysterically. Although I was vulnerable, I felt like I was finally on my way to becoming a big girl. I followed up that prison call with a long letter, explaining to my mom how I felt.

dearmama

Writing to my mom

One of the most significant paragraphs from that letter was:

“Mom, you are a strong black woman. You’re outspoken and independent.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t given the opportunity to be this way.

Always being shut down and suppressed, I never had my own opinion because I was so used to agreeing with you, in order to avoid conflict.

I never know if I’m sad, mad or happy because I denied my feelings for so long, that when I feel a bad emotion, I feel guilty and suppress it.”

Whew! I’m getting emotional just replaying these events! I don’t remember how my mom responded to the letter, but I do know that after the letter, we didn’t talk for some time. It took us a while to rekindle our relationship, and when we did, it was like meeting each other for the first time. My mom had a new found respect for me and I for her. During our time apart, I focused on forgiving my mom for her mistakes. It was a painful but very necessary prerequisite to healing. I also began reinventing myself. 

I had conformed to those around me for so long, that by this time in my life, I felt like a baby. I felt like I was starting from scratch. It was challenging but sobering. It gave me the opportunity to figure out what womanhood meant to me along with identifying what kind of woman I wanted to become.

Some of the characteristics I wanted to possess were: confidence, humility, determination, assertiveness, independence and positivity. Over the last few years, I’ve been able to transform from the timid and fearful young girl that I once was, into a strong black woman. Who would have ever thought?

Today, my mom and I have a great relationship. We have our ups and downs but we love each other, we respect each other and I admire her!

It’s crazy how generational cycles poison families. After a series of “girl talks” with mom, I learned that she had some very traumatic experiences of her own that contributed to the decisions she made as an adult.

If you’re going through a tough situation with a parent or loved one, there is hope. Things can get better.

Regal Resource: Identify What You Believe About Yourself Exercise courtesy of Mocha Girl Pit Stop.

I Want To Hear From You:

  • Have you had a similar experience coming into your own as a woman? Please Share!
  • What person do you need to write a letter to the most?
  • What influence has your mother had on your development?

Terri Lomax is the founding editor of, Mocha Girl Pit Stop. Of all the obstacles that Terri has faced, her greatest victory is overcoming a negative self-image. It took her a long time to find the value of self-love and self-worth. Now that she\’s found it, she\’s dedicated her life to empowering other young women to find their unique brand of beauty. Terri is a Blogger. Optimist. Higher Education Professional. Motivational Speaker. Lover of all things PINK. But most importantly, she\\’s passionate about leaving a legacy!

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Comments

  1. GIRL.

    I read this and did an immediate self-check. Although I wasn’t physically abused as a child, I went through some emotional and mental trauma that left me in the same place: confused, afraid, and silent.

    Thank you so much for being willing to share your testimony! It’s helped me to shed off the last scars of my childhood and not be afraid to be the woman I know God created me to be.

    xo, Janicia

    • Janicia,

      Thank you for your feedback! It’s always difficult sharing personal stories like these. Sometimes you don’t know how it’ll be received. Other times you don’t know if people will understand. It’s encouraging to know that others have been through similar experiences .

      I wish you the best on your journey as you find your God-given voice, I’m still working on cultivating mine!

      XOXO

  2. Reading this was like reading a page out of my own journal. While thankfully my mother was not abusive, being a child of divorce forced me in to being a people pleasing, weak, overly humble, depressed person with a smile on my face to avoid conflict. I was an award winning actress for almost 15 years adjusting to people’s views, environments, and acting meek and nearly opinion-less so that others around me were empowered or ‘protected’ me. I was taken advantage of quite often and a very forgiving doormat. The only thing that seemed genuine was the love I had for friends, family, and my long term boyfriend…but not myself. I As post-graduate life took its toll with health and financial issues in addition to several deaths, I thought my life was cursed. Then it was time to decide whether I was going to continue to be a victim of my own charade or be the woman I was meant to be. That decision birthed my Alicia Keys-Brand New Me moment to change my life. I got involved with various projects that ultimately led me to my true calling, being a writer. Finally embracing who I am changed everything for my spirit. My confidence is through the roof, my drive to be successful and humble is a consistent effort, and my love changed. It got stronger for those who deserved it and fled those who were bad for my spirit and I finally loved the woman I look at in the mirror. It has surprised some people, but the truth is if they don’t like who I really am deal with it or walk away. Thank you sharing this story. It let me know that I did not walk this path alone.

    All the love!

    • C.B.,
      Girl, the first four sentences you wrote, was me all the way! It’s a beautiful thing to embrace who we are fully. I’m happy for you :) Isn’t it crazy how our upbringing and the decisions of others during that impressionable time, impacts us for the rest of our lives? I’m happy that we were able to become better and not bitter from our experiences!

      XOXO

  3. I could have written that letter, not to my mother, but to a family member. Thanks so much for sharing. This was powerful.
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  4. Thank you for being so open and sharing such a personal side of yourself. This post is one that can help so many women who have been abused verbally or physically find the courage to find their own voice and say, “NO!” I admire your courage and I am glad that you and your mother have a stronger relationship today.
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