I have always wondered about the genesis of this problem. She came from an intact family with plenty of positive interactions for most of her life and when there was a family crisis or problem to solve she was assigned the task above her other two sisters and she got it solved. There is no negative school history or an issue that she has failed to overcome to lower her perceived self value. Her parents were not hypercritical. There has been no negative traumatic event or a foundation of unresolved guilt.
But something that happened the other day has enlightened me on how she became to have this self image. It is an example, though minor in nature, that provides an insight on what probably has been happening to her since the beginning and started her on this path.
She was asked to give a short speech about her mother at her mother's birthday party that was to be given after her older sister's speech but before her younger sister's speech (crazy that organizational method). This being a milestone birthday for her mother, a hall had been rented and a large number of guests had been invited. My wife agonized over this speech and still could not come up with a topic or structure even days before the event, other than to express the desire to anyone within earshot that she would rather be driven through a bed of broken glass then give this speech. But when the time came she knocked it out of the park, she got genuine laughs, kept it clean and precise and basically made a great speech about her love and respect she had for her mother. When she returned to our table, everyone at our table complimented her on the speech and I told her she hit a home run. Her younger sister then went up and gave a muddled "look at me speech" and then sat down. At this point her father got up and started his speech by saying, "Well you all know who the public speaker in the family is", and nodded to my wife's younger sister. Immediately my wife's face sagged and she just quietly put her note cards away. I, as is usually the case, made matters worse when I said with some bitterness, "I guess you shouldn't of wasted everyone time, with your poor public speech". Then everyone at the table, including me, told her she had the best speech and not to worry about what had just been said. My wife responded that it was fine, she was not angry and had not expected anything different.
Here is the lesson I learned from this admittedly minor, but painful occurrence. Words hurt. I have always tended to shoot from the hip, say what I want and not care how anyone took it or who I hurt. Now, being a father and trying to raise my children in a Godly home I now see that I need to make sure my words are a positive influence on my children and not seeds of future injury. My wife's father was not trying to make my wife feel bad or even make an evaluation about her speech but his poorly chosen words and the fact that he did not address his other two children's speeches like he did the third, created a situation where my wife's old wounds were opened again. I even believe that if he read this blog entry he would immediately call my wife and apologize and try to make it better (unfortunately that horse has long been let out of the barn) for something that he said that he had never intended to hurt her. But his words supported how she felt about her performance and all of our table praise could not change it nor his apologizes. It was just another cut in an already begun ritual of the death of a thousand cuts.
This is an area that I have always been challenged with and my big mouth has gotten me into more trouble than a flaming rat at a fireworks factory, but it took a speech at a birthday party to really send the message home. I hope that you are doing better at this task than me, but I hope to do better.
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.