On “participation trophies”

Many of my friends and family know a little bit about my childhood and my relationship with my biological mother. But no one really knows the depths of the damage caused by that toxic bitch. I don’t even truly understand how deep the cuts were.

As a small child I spent the majority of my time being told over and over and OVER again how I wasn’t good enough. Wasn’t smart enough. Wasn’t the one that was going to be worth anything. Being belittled and broken down at every turn by a toxic, hurtful, and spiteful (albeit mentally ill) parent. Any accomplishment I made was usually met with, “well, you did alright… but not as well as your brother would’ve done.” Or, “Oh- you struggle with spelling and got a 90% on your spelling test? Well, that’s not 100%, now is it?”

As a result I stopped trying. Buy the age of 6 I had given up trying to be any better than I was told I was (actually, “wasn’t” may be more accurate). My self-esteem and self-worth were (and, in most ways, still ARE) non-existent. I despise(d) myself and knew, in my heart of hearts, that I was a worthless piece of shit and should never even try to climb out of the pit I was put in because, simply put, I didn’t matter. This small, frail, sensitive child was nothing more than a verbal and psychological punching bag for someone that was supposed to love and encourage me, no matter what. I started spending more and more time alone- mostly because I truly believed that I wasn’t worth anyones time and that the only things that really cared about me were the rocks that I played with and talked to in our front yard. This was how I spent and how I felt much of my early childhood (circa ages 4 to 15).

Imagine growing up being told that you’re worthless and stupid and no good at anything and knowing that, no matter what you do, you’re always going to be last. Every. Single. Day. Multiple times a day.

Now, imagine that this same child, broken and with a self-image that amounts to garbage, is presented with a trophy for just trying. Trying to overcome the vitriol and degradation that has become the expected norm of his everyday life. Trying to prove to himself, if to nobody else, that he’s IS worth something and that he IS somebody that matters. Imagine how much that trophy would mean to that child. For SOMEONE to acknowledge that he’s trying- that he may just be worth more than just being that punching bag after all. Imagine what that small token of acknowledgment and encouragement could have done to change the course of this child’s life and overall mental health.

Maybe it wouldn’t have taken him damn near 40 years to gain a shred of self-worth (all of which is only there because of his wife and children). Maybe he wouldn’t have attempted suicide in his late teens. Multiple times. Maybe he wouldn’t still go through life feeling empty and broken every step of the way. Maybe he would actually be able to accept a compliment without getting physically ill. Maybe he would be able to have a healthier relationship with his own children because he wouldn’t spend every moment of his day pretending that he’s fine and happy and that nothing is wrong- to the point that he has nothing left ‘in the tank’ for his family. Maybe he would feel like anything that he does has any real impact on anyone. Maybe he could stop crying every time he’s alone because it’s the only time he can let his guard down and truly let his feelings show.

Maybe he could finally stop despising himself and see the good that everyone else swears is there for at least one fucking day.

Maybe not- things may have ended up the same. I’m not saying that someone giving 8 year old me a crappy little trophy reading “hey- way to give it a try, buddy” would have negated almost 20 years of abuse and torture at the ‘hands’ of my own mother. But it sure would’ve been nice to know that someone thought I was worth more than to be pissed on my entire life.