My parents divorced when I was young. My two brothers and I grew up with my dad. Ever since I can remember, I felt my father always preferred my brothers over me. No matter what my brothers do, my dad always praises them to others. No matter what I do, my father talks bad about me to others, or simply does not acknowledge me at all. He never says anything negative to my brothers, no matter what they do, while he cannot seem to say anything positive about me.
I have always tried to please my dad. I got an education. I got married. I became a mother. I always try to be respectful to my dad, even when he is being disrespectful to me or my friends. I always try to be available to help him in any way he needs me.
Even though my brothers have not accomplished anything and barely even visit him much less do anything for him. My father still praises them all the time but never says anything good about me.
I know it is my responsibility to take care of my father but it is getting harder and harder for me to have patience with him when all he ever does it put me down.
What should I do?
Dear Desperate Daughter:
I am so sorry you are experiencing this. I know it does not help to hear that this is actually more common than you realize - both the parent that has a child he or she simply cannot see in a positive way, and a parent that demonstrates an extreme preference for boys over girls.
I heard a saying many years ago that within a dysfunctional family, which are most families these days (to some extent), the least dysfunctional child gets picked on the most by the entire family. There may be some truth to that.
As I do not know on what you are basing your belief that it is your responsibility to care for your parent (religion, ethics, moral code, upbringing), I will not address that. I will simply say it is commendable for any child to care for their parent. I will also say that it is very difficult to do when the parent is not only unappreciative, but out-right mean, to the child taking care of him or her.
It really comes down to how you look at it. If you are doing it for your own satisfaction (personal expectation, religious moral code, etc.), you simply must get completely on-board with that decision - that you are doing it for your own reasons, not for their appreciation.
I can tell from your question, however, that this is really about you feeling your father never treated you as his precious baby girl. You obviously have spent your entire life trying to win his approval. You have also failed - or at least that is how you feel.
It is possible that your interpretation of his actions are not a reflection of his intentions. It may be that you expected him to show you love in a different way than he is capable - due to his own upbringing, culture, or generation. I do not have enough information to tell you the answer, but it is something for you to consider on your own.
It is also possible that your father really does prefer his sons over you. It is possible that too is due to his own upbringing, culture, or generation.
I realize it hurts, but you cannot change your father. The only way to change your relationship with your father, or at least your feelings about your relationship with him, is by changing your thoughts, feelings, and attitude about it.
I can tell you for sure that your negative feelings about the relationship with your father will negatively impact your relationship with men, and women, if it has not already.
You will either try to get the love and affection your father denied you from other people, which is completely unfair to the unsuspecting person and a recipe for disaster; or you will always expect others to let you down, like your father, and they will.
If we constantly expect people to let us down, we will be let down. We will either find a way to force them to let us down or we will simply search for fault in every minor detail to "prove" we were right that they would let us down.
Our belief system forces us to see what we believe - to be "right." If we want to change what we see, we often need to change what we believe.
The good news is, changing what you believe or how you see things, is doable. I am not saying it is easy, I am saying it is doable. There are many, many books (and you tube videos) on changing your attitude and perspective.
You can also research meditation. Meditation [which is what prayer was meant to be but people have made it mechanical instead], is a wonderful way to relax and listen to your inner voice as well as that of a higher power, if your belief system includes one.
I would caution you from simply thinking you deserve the negative behavior from your father somehow. It is common for women who feel they did not receive love from a parent to then have a lowered self-esteem - to believe they do not deserve love or only deserve bad things/relationships. Often women believe they are not lovable because, let's face it, we actually do believe a parent should naturally love their children - but ours did not love us, therefore, we must be unlovable.
Unfortunately, this is neither a math problem nor universally true. Sadly, not all people who participate in the creation of a child are able to love, or show love, to their children. Nor does it help when we do not "speak the same language" as our parents - meaning what they say and do is not interpreted by us the way they mean it. You can research The Five Love Languages to read more about how we can so easily misinterpret demonstrations of love.
In the end, you must realize that if your father is unable, or unwilling, to show you love or express positive messages about you, it has nothing to do with you. He likely has his own short-comings, baggage, guilt, or low self-esteem that prevents him from loving himself, much less another person.
You must learn to see and accept your own value. You must learn to love yourself. You must learn to be happy with yourself rather than depending on your father, or anyone, to make you feel loved and valued.
I realize I have put all the work on you. Unfortunately, that is the reality. Any person only has control or power over themselves. We can only change ourselves.
But I can promise you that changes you make to yourself will always have an impact on those around you. It is a scientific fact: every action causes a reaction - what the reaction is, however, depends on the action or change you implement.
* Deedra is originally from Arkansas; an attorney in Scottsdale, Arizona; a diversity expert and Keynote speaker for The Ambassador Project; and has a blog at Follow Deedra on Twitter @askdeedra