I’ve been struggling with something recently, and I think it’s something that a lot of kids who grow up in abusive households struggle with. Fundamental self-worth and lovability.

I think some form of the question: why do bad things happen to good people? lives in the hearts of a lot of people who have less-than-ideal family lives. And I think for most children the solution to this question ends up being: because I’m not good. Because there is something wrong with me. Because I am not lovable.

As a child, the only person I felt completely, unambiguously loved me, was also abusing me, would disappear from my life for two years without warning, and was a violent alcoholic. And in my child mind that meant: if no one loved me, it must be because I wasn’t worth loving.

I mean, I look back, and I was a kind of amazing kid. I could climb anything, win all the neighborhood kids’ halloween candy at poker, play any sport ever, and be the natural leader in any pack of kids. I used to sit at the top of trees and sing my heart out waiting for someone to come “discover” me. I was fiery and dynamic and fearless. I would have loved me.

But I lived with a woman who was depressed and didn’t have much love to give, really. And an equally broken man. And we were pretty isolated. So. I fell in love for the first time when I was seven years old. I dreamed for years of some knight coming to rescue me. But then I got my heart pretty seriously broken as a teen and that was that for that, and that pretty much confirmed for me that I was unlovable. Silly, I know.

But I think that’s the reality for a lot of kids. And then we grow up into adults who are too scared to love. We get ourselves into relationships where people don’t treat us very nicely, and our lack of self-estimation is reinforced.

And I wonder, I can’t help wondering: why does God let this happen? Why does God let some children be abused? Beaten? Abandoned? Why do parents get in car crashes? Why are there drugs? Why are there wars? Families that can’t get work? Are homeless? Everything I write about on this blog. Why does God let all of these things happen? What is the point of all of this?

I mean, if it’s not true that I and all of the sad children in the world are really bad people who deserve to be hurt, then why?

But I wouldn’t keep this blog if I’d grown up in a happy home with two available and loving parents. If I’d grown up happy, healthy, well-fed, and loved, never scared, never hurt. I would not be doing this. And I wouldn’t be a teacher. And I wouldn’t write stories for children. And I probably wouldn’t write stories at all. And when I saw homeless people on the streets, maybe I wouldn’t think twice about them. And if I saw a hurting child, maybe I wouldn’t even notice, or I’d just assume it was someone else’s responsibility.

Maybe I was given the life I had so that I would feel called to do this work. Because none of us is really unlovable. And I wish I could make every child who has ever felt unlovable know that.


About pamwatts

Writer, Reader, and Children's advocate
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4 Responses to Lovability

  1. Thank you for this powerful essay. It’s especially relevant today as the question of God’s will in terms of violence against women has entered the political debates.

  2. You’re definitely not unlovable, Pam Watts. From your friend, who loves you, Shelley.

  3. abwestrick says:

    So often your writing blows me away, Pam. When I started reading this entry, my expectation was that I’d get to the end and post a comment along these lines: “Lots of people who were not abused also struggle with self-worth and lovability. To some extent, this is the human condition. You are not alone.” But then I kept reading and you took me deeper, and I felt the injustice of abusive hell-holds, and knew that my comment, although meant to communicate the “you’re not alone” sentiment really was oh-so-superficial. Your writing always takes me to a new place. You make me think. Thank you.

    I wish I had answers to all of your “why God?” questions, and of course, I don’t. But I’ll say this: I feel your anger in the questions, and sometimes anger is a good thing. It’s a focusing thing. A motivating force. I’m glad you feel called to do the work you’re doing. In the course of your life, your message – that none of us is really unlovable – will reach many who need to hear it.

  4. Susan says:

    That’s why I always reached out to children & teens (including you and Crystal), both to give love and get the love I hadn’t gotten as a child. You have learned so much and a whole lot faster than I did! hugs

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