People in our lives have a big influence on us and on our pattern of thinking. We are especially influenced as children. Things said to us by our parents, teachers, peers, and family members can either strengthen us or hurt us. If a parent pushes his or her child to be an over achiever, the child begins to believe if he or she falls short, he or she is a failure. If a kid is told daily by their classmates he or she is a failure, he or she begins to believe he or she is not worth anything. Constant belittling becomes ingrained in the mind and can lead to poor self-esteem and mental illness.

   Throughout my childhood, my classmates and teachers put me down. They called me stupid, retarded, loser, and dummy. My teachers and classmates told me I would never become anything. I’d never be able to hold a job. I started to hate myself. I began to believe what they were saying about me was true. In my mind, I was a loser and stupid. I stopped trying. I didn’t do my homework or study for tests. Why did I need to, anyway? Teachers assigned a student to give me answers on the tests.

   Then I went to high school and the teachers no longer asked students to give me answers on tests. My grades suddenly counted. I was no longer going to be pushed on from grade to grade. I became convinced I had to prove myself to everyone. A low grade meant I was a failure. I spent endless hours studying. I had to find out if what everyone told me through grade school was right. I became obsessed with succeeding. I gave up fun for hours with my head in my books. I criticized myself when I got a low grade and ripped myself apart when I didn’t understand something while doing homework.

   Years of being put down by my peers and teachers haunted me for the rest of my life. I struggled with my self-esteem. I hated how I looked, I thought I wasn’t as smart as everyone else, and I felt worthless. Most of all, I felt like everything I did I had to succeed at or else I was a failure. Even in college, and in the work force, I felt like I had to prove to the world and myself I was not stupid. In college, if I got a low grade, I degraded myself and when I started working and I made a mistake, I put myself down.

   I still struggle with the need to prove myself. I would start writing a book and when I felt it wasn’t good enough I would quit. This time with the help of my husband I have stuck to writing my memoir, but I keep thinking what if I can’t get it published, what if I get it published and I can’t sell it to readers. Then I would be a failure just like they told me I would be throughout school.

   My mental illness increased my negative thoughts. Through therapy I had to learn how to like myself and change my pattern of thinking. I had to work hard to undo the damage my classmates and teachers did to me. My therapist told me to make a list of the things I liked about myself and then make a list of my successes. It took me a long time to fill my lists, but after some hard work I found some good things about myself and I came to the realization I am successful.

   Look back at the bad things you were told as a child and see how it affected your thinking. Find a therapist who can show you a healthier way of thinking. Change your negative thinking to positive and learn to love yourself inside out. Put the past behind you and start over with a new view on life.

   I remind myself daily, I have nothing to prove. I am a success. I want my future book to do well because I want to touch the world with my writing, instead of trying to prove that I am not a failure. I no longer have to prove myself. I have learned to love myself and measure even the small accomplishments in life as an achievement. Because of my new view of myself and my life, I bathe in the light.

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