Five Ways for a Fatherless Daughter to Get Over Her Dad's Rejection
Shouldering Our Father's Rejection From a Young Age
One in three women identifies themselves as fatherless, including me. Whether our dad left us and never looked back, divorced our mom and saw us just twice a month, or stayed in the house but was emotionally detached, we may struggle with a profound sense of rejection. Without realizing the complexities of our father's situation, we probably felt tossed aside and blamed ourselves as kids often do. We might have thought: If only I had been cuter, smarter, prettier, nicer, more athletic, then Dad would have loved me and stayed. In the whirlwind of it all, there was probably no one who took the time to explain our father to us, to point out how he was flawed and damaged, and to let us know his neglect had everything to do with him and nothing to do with us. In that vacuum, we created a belief that we were unlovable and undeserving.
Isn't it pathetic how we waste so much time on certain people and in the end they prove that they weren't even worth a second of it?— Anonymous
Not Defining Ourselves by Dad's Rejection
Now, after a lifetime of silently shouldering the burden of our father's abandonment, we need to let it go. We need to finally understand that our dad's neglect of us doesn't define who we are in the here-and-now. We no longer want it to hold us back from experiencing all the joys that life has to offer. Too many of us fatherless daughters (myself included) have struggled with addictions, depression, anxiety, troubled relationships, poor self-esteem, and an inability to trust.
I battled “father hunger,” a craving for a loving dad, that led to yo-yo dieting, an eating disorder, obesity, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors centered around food. Day after day I was tortured by an existence focused on eating or trying not to eat. When I finally understood that I was trying to fill up the emptiness in my heart left by my dad, I was able to stop thinking about food and find relief.
This only came about, though, because I did the hard work to heal. I continue to do so each and every day. It's too easy to fall back into the role of victim—the poor, pitiful fatherless girl—and use that as an excuse for not striving and succeeding. Here are five ways fatherless daughters can move on from their dad's rejection and lead a happy, meaningful life.
1. React Objectively to Your Father's Rejection, Not Emotionally
We're often so blinded by hurt that we don't step back and look at a situation objectively. When we do, though, we see the big picture and realize that our father's neglect had nothing to do with us. We must remember that our dads had lives long before we were born, and some of them were deeply troubled. When we do a little detective work, we find the clues that led to their personalities, their behaviors, and their weaknesses. We solve the mystery of why they weren't good dads.
My father, for instance, was born to German immigrant farmers who were stoic, stern, no-nonsense people who worked hard and showed little emotion. I never saw my dad have a loving exchange with his parents nor his sister. He grew up believing that a father's role was limited to providing for his family financially. I'm sure he never gave the emotional component of parenting a second thought. Knowing this made me realize his coldness wasn't caused by me but was a product of his upbringing. I wasn't unlovable; he was incapable of loving.
You either get bitter or you get better. It's that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.— Anonymous
2. Examine How Your Dad's Rejection Affected Your Life
When we grow up as fatherless daughters, we might have negative messages about ourselves running through our brains. Many of these thoughts are distorted or outright falsehoods, but they still make us doubt ourselves. They may include messages like: I'm unworthy of love...I don't deserve anyone's time and attention...I don't have what it takes to keep a man's interest...If I was different, people would want to spend time with me.
I struggled with low self-esteem all my life until I examined how it was connected to my father's emotional neglect of me. Once I did that, I became aware of the self-destructive messages that entered my brain throughout the day. I then became hyper-vigilant about shutting them down as fast as possible. I realized how damaging they were to my well-being, how untrue they were, and how they prevented me from becoming strong and confident. As soon as a negative thought entered my head, I thought of something I had done recently that showed strength and courage: running a half-marathon, asking for a raise, or completing a tough assignment at work. I became to resent how much real estate my father was taking up in my brain and decided to finally evict him!
3. Don't Let Your Dad's Rejection Strip You of Your Power
As children, we're largely at the mercy of our parents. Their reactions to us—positive or negative—shape who we are. An absent dad can leave a girl feeling insecure, and there's little she can do about it. When she becomes an adult, though, she can reclaim her power and not stay on the hamster wheel, spinning and spinning but going nowhere.
For too long, I thought the only solution to my sadness was to have a better relationship with my dad. In my mind, that was the cure for all my woes, but that misguided belief just kept me spinning. It would never become a reality because my father had no interest in building a relationship with me and never had. When I accepted that reality (brutal as it was), it helped me reclaim my power, find peace of mind, and start creating a wonderful life.
4. Make Yourself Stronger: Physically, Emotionally, Mentally, and Spiritually
For too long my life was on hold, waiting for my dad to see the errors of his ways, say he was sorry, and start spending time with me. What a waste of my life! But I did that to myself because I was too scared and too lazy to get going and start my future. I was paralyzed with fear. It was so much safer and easier just to blame him, stay the perpetual victim, and avoid the hard work.
As a fatherless daughter, though, we have a lot of catching up to do. I started by adopting a healthy eating plan, exercising every day, and dropping lots of weight. The loss of pounds added a lot of self-confidence as I began to take on more challenges: meditating, praying, writing, reading, and spending tons of time in nature. As I improved my life, I stopped focusing on my dad, started focusing on myself, and began volunteering at our local homeless shelter. My dad's rejection started to fade away, lose its impact and was no longer how I defined myself.
I am thankful for all those difficult people in my life. They have shown me who I do not want to be.— Anonymous
5. Surround Yourself With Positive People
Since one in three women identify themselves as fatherless, there are many role models out in the world who've survived their dad's rejection and are doing marvelous things. These are the women we need to connect with so we can learn how they did it and follow their example. Surrounding ourselves with friends who've suffered that rejection and are coping with drugs and alcohol or are perpetually dysfunctional and depressed will not help us move forward in our lives. We need inspiration.
When I was a rookie school teacher, I opened up to the principal about my dad's absence while we were cleaning the faculty room together. It turned out her father had left their family when she was ten and married a woman with two young kids. Her dad doted on his new stepchildren and rarely saw her and her siblings. In talking with the principal, I was so impressed by how she worked her way through college, earned her master's degree, and dedicated her teaching career to working at inner-city schools. She had a wonderful husband and son and was leading a life full of hope, meaning, and joy. Most of all, I was impressed that she didn't let her dad's rejection hold her back from creating a beautiful life for herself.
© 2018 McKenna Meyers