I was in the 7th grade when I began to take notice in my stomach size and how my hair looked. Up until then my focus had predominantly been on reading books, pretending to be Hannah Montana, writing songs and short stories for pleasure in the hopes that I’d become “big someday”. I cared little for my appearance, opting for t-shirts more often than skirts. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely followed the trends of the era, like Etnies sneakers with those fat tongues, and Bermuda shorts were all the rage. But overall, I was pretty careless.
During my 12th year, I began to notice brand names and logos on clothing. I noticed all the popular girls were skinnier than most of us (and even we were skinny). Some girls were already wearing push-up bras and overdoing it with the makeup; and guess what? All the boys loved them. They had outgoing personalities and basked in the limelight. Gosh, I barely had a chest and what the heck is make-up? I certainly was not in the fashion or beauty loop!
This was also the year that I was harassed by other students on my school bus. I was “It” instead of “her”. I was told that I was “ugly and a mistake”, that I was “a slut but yet still a virgin”, and best-of-all, I “should kill myself because I wasn’t worth living and I was mistake to my parents”. Funny how if you hear something enough that you start to believe it. I was sheltered and innocent of their claims, but I believed with my heart and soul that I was not likable or worthy of friendship and love.
I tried so hard to fit in and only years later, in my junior and senior year of high school, did I realize that they were the ugly ones. They were ugly on the inside. Throughout those years I became a friendlier person, someone people came to talk to, to feel loved. And yet, through all those years I still held on to the feeling that I wasn’t lovable because of how people viewed me on the outside or perceived my personality.
Then there came my high school relationship. I compromised myself and altered my values to match his more completely. I allowed his life and goals to be the end-all and be-all of existence, and in return, I received from him a self-centered attitude. And why shouldn’t he have had one? I put him on a blazing pedestal and told myself that I had to live up to his value – the value that I put on him.
Then another relationship comes along. This time he tells me if I lose my thigh-gap he won’t love me anymore. I was drawn away from my loving friends and family, and I felt the constant need to prove my love for him in order to feel like I could receive love myself.
How to raise your self-esteem after all that?
It’s not easy and it’s a constant struggle. I’ve had to remind myself on a daily basis that I have value without conforming to some other person’s idea of beauty and perfection. Many times I didn’t have the motivation to keep reminding myself and I’d relapse, again and again – thank you bdd.
I don’t feel skinny enough, in-shape enough, blonde enough, dark-haired enough, tan enough, my teeth aren’t white enough, my skin isn’t clear enough, talented enough, humble enough, good enough, just not enough.
But that is a BIG FAT lie.
One thing is clear though, I would dwell on all the things that I had to outwardly change in order for me to have value in the eyes of others. Before the 7th grade, I was content, maybe I still had some insecurities, but I was overall content. I was focused on my dreams and interests and being the best friend that I could possibly be to those around me. And I began to hurt others by putting myself first, trying to fit in. I rejected others, and I rejected my true self. I was happiest when I lived my life for me and that life was about using my God-given attributes to serve others.
I’d be insecure that people wouldn’t accept me for who I really am, so much so that I altered my persona and wouldn’t post an Instagram photo without editing my body. But I don’t even know if I was really fitting in when I was trying to fit in.
To let go and be my complete self has been a battle, but not always a losing one.
How did I find myself?
I found my internal beauty and value within myself through years of fighting the process, and fighting God – as if I deserved an answer to why I was “so ugly and undesirable”.
It took several songs, books, Pinterest quotes, exercise and healthy foods to see what I’ve been given. There were some challenges along the way and constant questions. But that’s what it takes to get past your outward insecurities to find the beauty that is WITHIN you.
Remember one thing: your journey is far from over. Keep persisting.
Do you struggle with body-image and/or self-esteem? Tell me your story! ❤
*All photos in this post are by Collin Keller
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