Lies My Demons Taught Me*

"You are broken."  (Not just humanly fallible, but flawed, damaged in a way that others are not.)

"You are dangerous.  One day you may even kill somebody."  (Said to me, age 8 or 9, when I was fighting a bully.)

"You are wrong to defend yourself, even when you are attacked."  (See above.)

"If you cannot do x or y now, it is because you have no talent for it.  Don't even try."  (My father's rule in life.)

"You are impatient--and stubborn--because of where you were born."  (Meant as an affectionate joke, but heard as an accusation: "You can't change.  You're just the same as when you were two.")

"It's amazing anybody would want to marry [you]."  (Said by my father to one of his friends; reported to me at his funeral, albeit in disbelief.)

"You're not brilliant, you just work hard."  (Said by one of my classmates in college after I got a higher grade on a paper than he did.)

"Have you ever thought of writing something that others might actually want to read?"  (Asked by relatives whenever I explain my academic work.)

"It's selfish to do the work that you want."  (Unattributed, not sure why I believe this one.)

"You suck.  Quit now.  You'll never be able to do it.  Stop acting like such a child.  You always behave this way.  Have you considered getting therapy for this?  You're really broken.  I'd be afraid if I were you."  (Chorus.)

*And which I am particularly inclined to believe when I feel threatened or afraid.


  1. I used to believe the same as you re: talent - if I wasn't born with it, it's not there at all.

    BS, I say! I'm frightfully average and the only reason I've become good at anything is practice.

  2. Touché! Blast those demons and their lies! The one about "talent" is particularly insidious. "Talent" = "hard work"--and that's it.

  3. GET OUT OF MY HEAD! (Except for the one about hard work -- I always got/get the "You just coast on sheer talent; you'll never work hard enough to really accomplish anything." flip side.

  4. Oh, you have these friends too? Insidious little parasites, aren't they? Cunning, too. D**n them! :-)

  5. I do not know whether parents realize the damage they can do their children by uttering those razor-sharp, albeit senseless and mean, remarks, even to third parties. For some reason, they always find a way to travel back to us - and hurt.

    My father once told my sister, who then eagerly repeated to me: "I am counting on you to become a grandfather, because the only thing your sister (i.e. me) will ever be able to produce is cats."

    Not books, articles, inspired students... no, no, no. Cats. In my family's eyes, a female PhD student is nothing more than a single childless crazy cat lady.

    In the meantime, I am 33, single, I do not have children, I have not finished my degree yet but... I have two cats! And what if what they said were true? :(

  6. Even if it were true (which in the long run, I doubt very much!), who is to say that they are right to condemn it? This is the problem with the demons: what they say has just enough truth in it to snare us, and then we believe them wholeheartedly. Which does not make them right, just very clever.


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