Many struggle with their self-esteem. Loving yourself despite your faults and flaws isn’t easy. Some people love themselves, but hate little things about themselves. When you are struggling with mental illness, you begin to hate everything about yourself. You can’t even stand to look at yourself in the mirror. The self-hate boils up within you like a volcano ready to explode. Hating yourself clouds your whole life. Trying to learn to love yourself while fighting for recovery can be an ongoing challenge.
My self-esteem was torn apart in school when I was bullied. As I went from grade to grade being put down day after day, part of me died and I slipped into depression. I began to believe some of the awful things my teachers and classmates said about me. I dreamed of being like everyone else. I wanted to be able to learn like my classmates; I wanted to be smart and pretty. Instead I felt ugly, stupid, and worthless. I struggled with that though-out school. In high school I did find enough belief in myself to prove to everyone I was intelligent, but the self-hate still haunted me.
When I hit rock bottom of my mental illness my senior year of high school, my self-esteem faded even more. I looked into a mirror to see an ugly, fat, and worthless mess. I was a hopeless wreck. How could I love this woman who was ravished with anguish and was destined to live in deep sadness?
I was always bigger–boned then my siblings and I thought that meant I was fat. Both my older and little sisters have always been beautiful, and I felt like the ugly sister. My sisters were girly and I was a tom-boy. Even when I tried to be more girly, I felt uncomfortable and uglier. No matter how hard I tried to make myself look pretty, I only felt worse. Even being myself wasn’t enough to make me good inside. This self-hate followed me into my adult years.
I graduated from college, but it took me about five years to graduate from a two-year college and that’s not counting a year I took off to take care of my illness. Even though I never gave up on finishing college, while struggling with my learning disability and mental illness, I still felt like a failure. I had big plans for my future. I planned on graduating and going on to a four-year college, but instead I went to work at a grocery store. I felt like a loser. I thought, “I went to college to become a nobody.” I had big dreams of becoming a reporter and that dream was smashed. I was a loser like everyone predicted.
No one has ever made me feel like a beautiful woman until I met my husband. From the first day I met him, he told me how beautiful I am and treated me like a princess. No other man ever made me feel like I was desirable or like a woman. Even though he continues to tell me how beautiful I am, I still struggle with my self-esteem.
I have gained a lot of weight since I have been married. Sometimes I look in the mirror in disgust. How did I let myself get this big? Other times I look at myself and say, “I am beautiful no matter what.” I lost my breasts due to cancer. I decided not to get reconstruction. My husband said I’m beautiful the way I am. I am happy not having breasts, but at times I look at myself and only see my ugly scars.
Sometimes I like myself and sometimes I hate myself. It’s a constant battle, one I work hard to fight each day. Recently a lot of good things have happened in my life, making me feel less of a failure. Each time that inner voice puts me down, I argue with it. I tell myself I am beautiful and I am not a failure.
If you struggle with your self-esteem, fight it. Each day write something good about yourself in a notebook. Put positive things about yourself on index cards and put them around your home where you can see them. Argue with your inner voice that puts you down. Love yourself for who you are, as you are. Never give up on yourself. You can win the battle and learn to love yourself.
Recently, as you read in a previous blog, some good things have happened in my life that helped me realize I have never been a failure. I have worked successfully for 24 years at the same job, I have overcome mental illness, and much more. This year I received an award, I gave two speeches, I was on the news three times, and I’ve been published in a book. I am not a failure.
Each time I lose my way, I will remind myself of all I have achieved. Every time I feel ugly, I will tell myself I am beautiful. Building my self-esteem is an ongoing battle, but I will not give up. Because I continue to fight, I bathe in the light of recovery.