She Thinks I’m Real
Excerpt from “Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach Ph.D.” –
In their book Stories of the Spirit, Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman tell this story: A family went out to a restaurant for dinner. When the waitress arrived, the parents gave their orders. Immediately, their five-year-old daughter piped up with her own: “I’ll have a hot dog, french fries, and a Coke.” “Oh no you won’t,” interjected the dad, and turning to the waitress he said, “She’ll have meatloaf, mashed potatoes, milk.” Looking at the child with a smile, the waitress said, “So, hon, what do you want on that hot dog?” When she left, the family sat stunned and silent. A few moments later the little girl, eyes shining, said, “She Thinks I’m Real.”
My own mother was visiting when I told this story at me weekly meditation group in Washington, D.C. As we drove home from the class together, she turned to me and in a teary voice said, “That little girl in the restaurant was me.” She had never felt real in the eyes of her parents, she went on. Being an only child, she felt as if she was on the planet to be the person that her parents wanted her to be. Her value rested solely on how well she represented them, and whether or not she made them proud. She was their object to manage and control, to show off or reprimand. Her opinions and feelings didn’t matter because, as she said, they didn’t see her as “her own person.” Her identity was based on pleasing others and the fear of not being liked if she didn’t. In her experience, she was not a real person who deserved respect and who, without any fabrication or effort, was lovable.