The truth is, I don’t always feel good about myself. I believe in the power of self love/care and its healing affect on self esteem. I believe in self acceptance and the peace you can experience when you have it. I practice these beliefs and I encourage them. Yet still, I don’t always feel good about myself.
If you can relate, then surprise, it’s time to celebrate! Because you’ve experienced many potential life lessons and you’ve just accepted that you aren’t perfect.
Constructing positive and negative self esteem takes place when we’re very young and not as capable as we are now of creating healing through balance.
That balance is often seesawing between feeling good about who we are, who you can be and feeling our worst.
When I was younger, my self esteem was high and it showed through arrogance. I was a five year old girl and I knew I was pretty and I knew how to be popular. There was a young girl in my first grade class who wore a green corduroy shift dress. She was so thin, that her shift dress hung off of her crookedly. She wore her hair in what looked like week old braids and in knots. Even her skin seemed unkempt.
I remember her so vividly because of the day that I made fun of her.
I stood at the head of the classroom saying some mean words that I honestly do not remember. I said them to her face and loud enough for the entire class to hear. What I do remember, most of all, was how I felt a few seconds after the classroom laughed at her. She yelled back at me, but I only noticed how hurt and angry she looked. That day, is the day I truly felt sorry for someone and sorry for the consequences of my actions. I wish I could tell that girl in the green corduroy, how wrong I was.
I wonder if I impacted her self esteem that day. My ability to heal my own self esteem was challenged throughout the years that followed. Because it was my turn to have my appearance teased.
My straight hair turned wild, curly and tangled. I developed acne in the fifth grade and while my bangs covered the acne on my forehead ( when it wasn’t too windy), my ponytail and curly bangs gave me a lovely horse like look. My acne covered up any beauty I ever saw in the mirror. Did I mention the bushy eyebrows and braces that came later?
Along the way, while feeling ugly, awkward and embarrassed by my appearance, I built up other parts of myself. No longer focused on gaining approval from others through popularity or my appearance, my focus shifted to just being the best I could be. As a teenager, it’s not a conscious shift necessarily. But life aligns itself in interesting and lucky ways.
What seems like a flaw or a wound turns out to be an opportunity for healing and growth.
One opportunity that arose at around 15 years old, appeared when I worked as a reading tutor. And wouldn’t you know, the ages of the children I tutored were exactly the same as the girl in green corduroy.
I worked in a group of others my age and in that group was a person who I considered to be my frenemy. She made jabs and undercutting remarks. Even when I had my braces removed, she was there to comment on how large my teeth looked. So when the boy I tutored look up at me, pointed and said, ” You have dimples.” I flushed with embarrassment. I hoped my frenemy hadn’t overheard because I was sure that the boy meant pimples, not dimples. I definitely do not have dimples, nonetheless, I calmly said with a smile ” That’s right I do have dimples.” Luckily, my frenemy didn’t overhear us or she took a break from being mean that day. But I still felt ugly and said the mean things, she could have said, to myself anyway.
Sadly, I added the young boy’s comment to my mental collection of reasons to feel ugly and have low self esteem. But thankfully, I had another more healing collection.
In that collection were all the kind, supportive words my family and friends planted within me. They told me all the great things they saw, that I didn’t always see. And it helped to hear it, when I needed it most. It was all the compliments real friends and loves ones gave to me. And it was all the great things that I saw in myself that grew despite the wounds that opened over the years.
I learned from the truly uglier unkind side of myself. Teasing that girl awakened my conscience and empathy has blossomed in me ever since. I learned that real friends pick you up instead of pointing out your flaws. I saw that my acne made me an outcast and undesirable. But it taught me about the goodness in others who see beyond the surface flaws and that those are the ones who I want to keep close.
I found balance.
The incidences that dragged down my self esteem and the knowing that I could do the same to others, created lessons for me and made me who I am.
My family, my friends and myself weren’t perfect. They didn’t always say the best things, nor did I to myself. But when the most loving things were said, I heard them.
I celebrate a life of not looking or being perfect. I don’t always feel good about myself. But who can feel one thing at all times?
If you can accept where you are now, where you’ve been and how that’s shaped you, then you are on a healing path. If you can look at your past and find the positive things you’ve learned and remember the positive things that lifted you up, you can heal even deeper. It’s not always easy to let go of the pain that causes low self esteem and it’s not my place to tell you to let go of that pain. But I think it gets easier when you accept yourself and remember what does help you feel good about who you are.
As long as you have balance between learning from moments of low self esteem and enjoying moments when you remember the compliments, the encouragement and love you have for yourself, you can celebrate who you are. Trust that this celebration is a simple step towards healing inner wounds.
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