As a child, I was often told (in response to whatever poor behavior I was currently inflicting upon the household), “you’re worth more than that; behave like you’re worth more than that.” My initial response: Really? Because bribes and threats have served you so well thus far. Why reach for the psych manual now?
Thinking back on it, it might have started around the same time my mother was doing her post graduate work in shrinkage. I was used to "and tell me how you feel about that," so I was wary at first. But "you're worth more than that" repeated over and over again eventually wore a groove in my immature brain until, you know what? I was worth more. I was smart, entertaining, cute, funny and, above all, special. Special meant I was worth more in the grand cha-ching of things. Even without a parental presence, it popped into my mind on its own accord whenever I did something I shouldn't have (like inviting every 8th grader in the neighborhood over to watch MTV while mom was at work). But in my child’s mind, the phrase changed over time like a game of “telephone,” the iterations shifting slightly with each use. Eventually, the mantra changed from “I’m worth more” to “I cost a lot.”
In case it isn't clear, I'm not talking about currency. I'm talking about time, energy, emotion, motivation, expectation, appreciation, consideration, respect, support, and so on, and so on.
I eventually stopped believing that I was a magical princess kidnapped and raised by ordinary people, or thinking I was better than the other brats because I put my napkin in my lap when I sat down at the table, but I never really slowed the scroll inside my own head: I....Cost....A....Lot...
As a result, my adult self feels obligated to warn him before he gets too attached: I might be amusing, but I'm not always fun. I have many moods and none of them want to call you "honey bear." I'm cute, but I can be really mean. I am not a bargain. I am dear. I cost a lot.