'Will I ever be good enough for you?': A letter from a daughter to her father
The saner part of me recognises that the problem doesn’t lie completely with me.
- Total Shares
- The thing you are most
- afraid to write
- Write that.
- — Nayyirah Waheed
I don’t exactly remember the time I realised I was not good enough for you. Was it in fifth class when you caught me pinching pens from a friend? Or maybe when I started gaining weight rapidly at the age of 13? Or was it when I stopped painting as frequently as I used to? Sometimes, I wonder if it goes back to the day I was born?
Whatever it may be, it seems that all my life I have been trying to reach out to you with open arms, and you have rebuffed me — carelessly, unknowingly, brutally, so much so that it has become a habit with you — as casual as breathing, one might say.
I don’t know what it is about daughters that makes them crave the affection and appreciation of their fathers.
If Freud were to explain it, he would blame it on the Electra complex. I have often considered that daughters seek the approbation of their fathers because they consider them the ideal man — the first man, so to say, in their lives. The father seems powerful, all-knowing, all-giving; untouchable. And daughters — wondrous and spell-bound — crave to be appreciated by this magnanimous figure.
Maybe somewhere deep down, daughters know that fathers don’t love them as unconditionally as their mothers do. Maybe they know that a father’s affection and respect needs to be earned. Maybe they know that their mother will love them irrespective of the way they look or perform in school, no, in spite of that. But not a father.
Or maybe, I’m just imagining these situations, justifying them in my head, because I know this is the relationship I have with you. And such an unequal one it is.
When you speak to me, your tone seems dismissive, exasperated. Everything I say seems to infuriate you. I am too dumb, too demanding, too ‘loud’, too ‘overweight’ — maybe there is something about me that grates your senses. I am always in excess, even when I try to be normal.
Maybe somewhere deep down daughters know that fathers don’t love them as unconditionally as their mothers do. (Source: Reuters)
I write this letter to you because it is a long time coming. I am afraid of what I’m writing and afraid of how I’m feeling — tired, angry, resentful but — most of all — detached. No child ever wants to be detached from their parent — at least not without good reason.
Do I blame the anger you inherited from my grandfather? Do I blame the stress you experienced in your mid-years, surrounded by illness? Do I blame the financial strain you faced at a very young age? Do I blame the indignation you felt at seeing your mother mistreated by your father?
You see, Dad, I do. I do blame all these things for making you the way you are. But, sometimes, a part of me blames myself. For not being good enough to be the kind of daughter you would want to be — scintillatingly bright, amazingly witty, astonishingly confident, stunningly pretty.
Compared to you, I feel like a fake copy, as good as the original on my best days, but still a pretty weak imitation.
But, you see, the saner part of me — the one that really has to fight through this pall of negativity — recognises that the problem doesn’t lie completely with me.
It also lies with the way you love me. Your love is embellished with so much anger, fury, disappointment, distance; it has punctured right through me, and made a permanent hole. It sits deep in my heart, like a cavity, and shows its ugly face through external manifestations. Whether it’s my complicated relationship with men, my perfectionist tendencies, my insecurity of never being good enough, my own unexplainable bouts of ancient anger — I know where I get it from.
I don’t mean to make you a villain in this narrative. You have provided for me and always made me financially secure — and I know so many people wish for this kind of stability and peace. For that, I thank you wholeheartedly.
I just wish you loved me a little more. I wish I was good enough for you. I wish you appreciated all my choices. I wish you understood that all my life, I have been trying to win your respect. All my decisions have been motivated by the desire for you to be proud of me.
I write this letter because I have been carrying this weight within me for far too long. I want to share it with you now. I want to see it dissipate, burst into a thousand little pieces and vanish completely. I want it to stop threatening to consume me.
I want to bridge the chasm between us, cross the divide, embrace all those too familiar pieces of you and me both.
Maybe somewhere, I just want to finally know that I am enough for you.
I just want you to hug me, and not flinch.
I just want you to tell me that you know I’m trying hard to grow into the person I want to become.
I just want to be loved by you. Simply. Uncomplicatedly.
I hope we can figure it out, Dad. No matter what, I can’t stay angry with you. Staying mad at you is like staying mad at the wind for blowing, the rain for falling, the sun for shining — it’s just not natural.
I hope someday we become close. I hope someday we can laugh at this letter. But, most of all, I hope that one day, just maybe, you’ll be proud of me.