Whenever I tell someone that I had low self-esteem they never believe me. Truthfully, for as long as I can remember I’ve had low self-esteem – from my early teenage years up until about August 2012. (Thank God for change!)
I’ll tell you my story.
When I turned 12 or 13 I had really bad acne on my forehead, not to mention bushy eyebrows and crooked teeth. I was still a cute girl but those things bothered the absolute hell out of me. Whenever me and one of my friends (or so I thought she was) ever argued, she always took shots at me about my teeth. Not only that, I was very, very shy (I still am) and quiet.
I also was a dancer – ballet, jazz, modern, hip-hop – you name it, from when I was in elementary school until I turned 20. Even though I had a very nice, shapely body I was pretty much always the biggest girl in the group. In my mind I was the fattest. I was a great dancer, I even had solo pieces in many of our performances but somehow I never felt like I was as good as the other girls.
In middle school and high school I went to great lengths to try and hide the fact that I was this shy, quiet girl with low self-esteem. I got braces, joined dance teams, I was on the student council, I was the homecoming queen, I got professional jobs at an extremely early age so I always had more money and connections than the average teen and I smiled and smiled and smiled through it all. Even in college I was involved on campus and went out to parties and met lots of people. I did not want to be a prisoner to my negative self-image.
My lack of confidence became a burden as I graduated and started working on my masters degree. I got so burnt out trying to be like the next person because I was uncomfortable with being myself. Being who you really are is hard when you don’t even like who you “think” you are. I use the term “think” because I am nothing like what I was telling myself I was. I wasn’t fat. I wasn’t unattractive. I wasn’t lucky to have a boyfriend, his ass was lucky to have me. I was staying in a relationship that I knew wasn’t good for me out of the fear I’d never find someone else, even though I wanted to be treated better. See what low self-esteem will do to you?
I was so unhappy and sad that I went to therapy to try and overcome those negative feelings that were ruining the best years of my life. And it was one of the best decisions I could have ever made in my life.
Low self-esteem is not always shown by a person who has their head down and a sad look on their face. People who you least expect to lack confidence often do at different times in their lives or in different situations. I am an example of that. I have vowed to never, ever waste any more of my energy on low self-esteem. Of course there are times when I may need a confidence booster, but I’m training my mind to think differently and if you have some of the same struggles, you can too. Here’s how:
#1. It all starts with you. When you realize that you’re allowing yourself to feel that way then the change can begin. Embrace who you are, flaws and all, and choose to see yourself differently. I chose to look at my accomplishments, how loyal and caring I am, how far I’ve come and how blessed I am for this life I have.
#2. Become IMMUNE to the opinions of others. This is your life. Excuse my language but if someone doesn’t like who you are or the decisions you make to better yourself, f*** them! I talked about this when I wrote about Deepak Chopra’s book the 7 Spiritual Laws of Success. I suggest you read that book, it helped me too. While I respect some people’s opinions, I don’t allow them to govern my life anymore. I’m only gonna get a chance to conquer life once.
#3. Everyone has flaws. Don’t think you’re the only one who has imperfections. We all do.
#4. Love YOURSELF first. I finally started loving myself on December 29, 2012. I had put all my therapy lessons into practice, stopped letting my emotions control me, realized that I am beautiful and I my self-worth is so much more than I even knew in the past. No person or situation will break me again. It may hurt or sting but I will not break nor will I waste my energy again.
I took this photo on New Year’s Eve right before heading out on the town. Although things happened that night that could have sent me back to that familiar sad place, the fact that I loved myself and no longer cared about what other people thought helped me to have such a bright and REAL smile. :-)