The oldest text message thread in my iPhone is one with my dad. The last message I sent to him was on the day he tragically passed, June 6, 2013. I sent “I love you so much.” I sent it knowing that he’d never read it but hoping he knew it and felt it. It’s nearly 9 years later, and I can still come to tears in a second when I think of him. That was the impact he had on me. His love, his encouragement, his presence—I got so much more in the 24 years I had with him than most people get from their dads in a lifetime.
They say that boys have a stronger connection with their mothers while girls have a stronger connection with their fathers. As a 33-year-old woman, I believe this. I think the connection—whether it’s reciprocated or yearned for—is stronger with women and their dads. I had a wonderful relationship with my dad. I felt like we could talk about anything, especially as I got older. I also felt unconditional love. It’s such a powerful feeling to know that no matter what you do or where you end up you always have a place in someone’s heart. When he passed, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d ever get that feeling back.
I’ve given my heart to partners and friends, but I’ve always kept a little to myself. Just in case someone left or didn’t have my best interest in mind. I don’t think it’s easy to trust anyone, but my dad made it so easy for me to trust him. I always felt safe and secure. It had to have stemmed from my infant and toddler years because there isn’t a time I can think of when I didn’t feel safe with him. I remember he called me one day and asked me to look up the definition of the word fortitude. Then, once I had the definition, I was supposed to text him what it meant. On August 20, 2012, at 12:28pm I texted him:
1. Mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously. Never once did her fortitude waver during that long illness.
At 12:54pm, he replied:
That defines you!
All those words of encouragement. All those reminders to be positive and make it a great day. All those lectures. They helped to shape the person I am today. I’m a woman who got her first corporate job out of college and was able to leave it 11 years later to run her own business full-time. A woman who has faced incredible adversity but still has a smile on her face. A woman who values and appreciates life for what it throws her way, good or bad.
I’ve never doubted my ability to do something—especially if I work at it. My father helped me to build that confidence in myself, allowing me to become a hard-working and humble woman. I truly believe those characteristics came from my father’s unwavering love.
Over the years, I’ve kept a list of all my recognitions, praises, and accomplishments. I make it a point to continuously add to it, and when I’m facing trying times and need a jolt of confidence, I refer to the list. It serves as a reminder that I’m capable. So, a special thanks to my dad for planting those seeds, and a ‘thank you’ to myself for continuing to water them!
I’m fully aware that not everyone has the same experience with their father, but I do believe any woman can have that undeniable confidence in herself. Whether it stems from someone else planting that seed or by proving to herself what she’s capable of, it’s possible to build upon that self-esteem.
Good or bad, we can learn a lot about ourselves from our relationships with our fathers. How has your father impacted you?