I think it all started when I was in 4th grade. In my mind, I was fine. I loved myself and loved my life. I had a great family and great friends. What more could I ask for? I had never had self-image or self-esteem issues before that year. One day I was at a water park with my family. While playing with a cousin, I slipped on a cement water slide and fell flat on my face. I knocked out my front teeth, cried a little, sucked it up, and continued with the day . Never did I expect something so small to drastically change my life.
After that day at the park, I had to get some crowns put in. "No big deal" I thought. I could move on because I had “normal” teeth again. But, I was small and awkward and the teeth were too big for my face so, I had to grow into them. I started to get teased. I was called a myriad of names, even by the people who were supposed to love me most. To them, it was innocent teasing. However, I was crushed and felt self-conscious about the way I looked. This slowly taught me that I was not enough for them or anybody else I may meet in the future. If my family and friends could hurt me, and make me feel unaccepted, what would stop anyone else from doing the same? So, my self-image and self-esteem issues began.
The only people that stood up for me and didn’t tease me were my parents. But that wouldn’t last long. My dad died when I was in 5th grade and because of my self -esteem issues, and the emotional absence of my mom and family, I couldn’t really open up to anyone about how I felt anymore. I wasn’t going to get hurt more. Sadly, growing up I didn't feel like I could be open and honest with how I felt. After my dad died, my mom remarried one of our good family friends. Someone who was supposedly a friend and loved us. However, in the end he ended up being selfish and emotionally abusive to us kids and thankfully that marriage ended. But being in that situation for a couple years only further taught me to be closed off and not trust others. Now that my family started to fall apart even more, I felt like I had nobody. So I started doing things on my own. And because I didn’t want to be hurt more, I began to do things to please other people. It wasn’t until years later that I started to question all of the beliefs that I had since childhood. If God loved me, why would he let this happen? Why me? Why then? It’s been tough ever since then. Without a father figure in my life, I didn’t have much male guidance for many years. Sure, I had 4 brothers, but we weren’t always that close when we were younger. Especially since I had been teased and hurt by them before. I don’t hold that against them because they didn’t intend to hurt me. So, growing up, I felt like I had to do everything on my own. I would succeed at many things, but my mind focused on my failures. Without anybody reassuring me and supporting me, I felt alone and started to think that I was a failure.
Those feelings of inadequacy have affected my professional, social, family, personal, and my educational life.
Over the years, I have learned to be more vulnerable, trusting and to open up to others. In doing so, I have become more confident and accepting of myself because I’m willing to share those dark pieces inside me. Doing that has started to set those insecurities free.
Though even now, 20 years after my first negative memories, I still struggle with those feelings from time-to-time. As a 28-year-old, I still struggle believing that my worth is great. The battle still rages in my mind, but those battles don’t hold as much power as they used to. I’ve learned to fight back. The struggle is constant and tough, but the hope of victory is stronger. I won’t be loved by everybody, but those that are worth having in my life will love me. I’m not perfect and that’s ok. As I come to understand and accept that a little more each day, I climb from a dark pit behind me toward the light of freedom ahead of me. There are little reminders each day that continually teach me about my infinite worth and those little reminders make all the difference.