This is something I didn't have for most of my life. I'm no super model but I'm not ugly either. I never thought I was pretty or attractive. Whenever I would tell someone I had low self-esteem they would always ask, "Why?"
The first reason is something a lot of people deal with. Junior high (or middle school) is a very delicate time for pre-teens and teens. My experience was horrible. There were two girls who were very mean to me. They would say mean things, talk about me behind my back, and spread rumors about things I didn't do (some of which I didn't even know what they meant, yet). One of these mean girls caught me after dance and drill practice one day. I was by myself and she approached me with 2 of her friends. She had a lump of clay in her hand, broke off little pieces of it, and threw it in my face. They spent about five minutes doing this and calling me awful names. I was terrified that they were going to beat me up. Eventually they got bored and walked away. I cried all the way home (it's really hard to ride a bike while crying, I don't recommend it).
The other mean girl would make fun of my clothes, my hair, and my choice of friends. I've since learned that Molly Ringwald's character "Andy" in the movie Pretty In Pink wasn't the best choice of a roll model while in junior high. I'd wear blue Converse with a denim skirt. I spray painted a pair of my ballet shoes silver and wore them to school. I used my Swatch watch as a pony tail holder. I didn't want to be the preppy Polo-wearing, sock-scruncher, preppy upper middleclass snob a lot of the other girls at school were. I wanted to be my own person. I was friends with everyone – jocks, cheerleaders, dancers (drill team, not pole), metal heads, dorks, nerds, surfers, even the skinheads (which was a little weird since one of my best friends was black & he's still one of my BFF's). I had books dropped on my head on purpose, so the dean gave me a middle locker. Seventh graders had bottom lockers, 8th graders had middle lockers and 9th graders had top lockers. Someone taped a roach to my middle locker (it's Florida, too easy to find a roach). I was then moved to another middle locker, but that one was targeted, too. Fortunately, my 9th grade friend let me share his locker. He was a tall, cute surfer. No one was going to mess with his locker!
The second reason I had low self-esteem was because I was adopted. It had nothing to do with how I was being raised. I just felt lost. Like something was missing. I didn't really know who I was.
Wow, I thought the first reason would be easier to explain than this one! But, that about sums it up.
Last year, two big things changed for me and allowed me to gain a lot of self confidence.
The first was meeting my biological parents in March of 2008. Seeing my biological mom and dad, meeting them and knowing where I came from helped tremendously. I could see where I got my eye color, know why my hair was brown and I why I was short (both of them are short so I didn't stand a chance). These little things that so many people take for granted made such a huge impact on my life, both negatively and positively. I felt whole for the first time. The little empty spot in my heart was finally filled. I found the part of me that was missing. I discovered who I was. Ok, wow again. I thought this would be much longer. Hmmmm. There's really not much more to say about it other than finding my biological parents was something I needed to do and my life has been much better since I met them.
Last Fall, I was able to do another thing that needed to be done. What happened to me in junior high with the mean girls, affected me ever since. When I joined Facebook, I joined another site someone had set up that was just for those of us who went to the same high school. Not long after joining, a name popped up – it was the lesser of the two mean girls. I think she requested me as a “friend” first. She was cordial and asked how I’d been. I could have responded several different ways. I chose to tell her that before I could be friendly, I needed to tell her how her bullying affected me in a very negative way ever since.
The most powerful words I wrote were, "I forgive you."
I didn't need a response from her. Oh, the incredible feeling that came over me!! I felt like the world was lifted off my shoulders!! It was unbelievable!!! (Sorry, Kris, the extra exclamations are needed here!) She did write back and though she didn't remember what she'd specifically done, she apologized and said that she acted that way because of her own self-esteem problems. We have since become friends, not close, but friends nonetheless.
Looking back, I'm angry. Not at her. At myself. I'm angry that I allowed someone to have that much power over me. I couldn't do much about my adoption problems but I didn't have to allow someone to make me feel the way those girls made me feel. I look back at old junior high and high school pictures and see that I was pretty (well, not always in junior high but I was in high school, dammit!).
I lost a bit of that self-esteem when I gained 20 pounds a few months ago. But with the two weight loss competitions I'm in, I'm gaining it back, the self esteem not weight. Yesterday, I actually went out in public in my bathing suit. Yup, the same one pictured in the Thing 1 and Thing 2 post. I'm not where I want to be yet, but I've lost enough weight that I can lay on the beach in a bikini and not be embarrassed. That little milestone gave me a big esteem boost. And, the cute guy with the boat didn't hurt either!
Slacker Fattie tip- Relax. Take a day. ONE day. Do nothing unless you really feel compelled to. Yesterday I took the kids to a lake with a little beach. I got some sun, the kids had fun, and I finally felt ok to wear my bathing suit without covering up in a snow suit.
Sexy Meal tip- Relaxing does NOT mean taking a day to eat whatever you want. Stick with your plan, whatever it is. You can have one small indulgance. SMALL. If you over do it, you'll feel like crap tomorrow AND be filled with regret.