Several months ago, I stumbled upon a friend whom I had known back when I was in Seattle. Let's call her, V. We had the chance to talk and share about our lives. Interestingly, she had known about this site and was interested in putting in her two cents. She had a topic very dear to her heart and as she shared more about her stories, it opened up a door I had long shut.
A story by V, edited by me:
When I was a little kid, I was considered a cute kid, just like all kids are in this planet. I had big round eyes, fair skin, and pretty smile. I was a confident kid, and to be honest, at the age of 6 years old I didn’t really care that much about my appearance. People showered me with loves and praises. Then puberty hit when I was 10 years old, and I gained weights, acnes, skin problems, and what not. But even then, I was still a pretty confident kid. I danced, I drew, I had dreamt to become the little doctor in charge. I was an active kid in general, participated in many drawing, dancing, and art contests. I got myself a bunch of best friends. Life was wonderful. What more could I ask for? I was a happy, confident kid who never thought of herself any less. I did not think I would ever get sad nor let anything bring me down. I could never be so wrong.
Around the same time, I got very close with this one boy. We played together. We laughed together. We talked about random things and we were happy to see each other at school. But then, after I gained a lot of weights (due to my puberty and personal issue), he started to make fun of me (even some other boys did the same thing about my weights, my skin problems, etc), and at one point it felt more like a bullying than a joke. He called me names and made me cry. He yelled at me and even hit me. When my mom knew, she got angry and reported him to the teacher and because of this, he changed. He was bitter. He did not wanna talk to me and got easily mad at me. He would not play with me. I was so sad, but I couldn’t tell anyone as I was too shy to share this kind of things to my parents, family or friends. I was hurt by his action. How was it possible that someone could change so much? From laughs to cries, from best friends to strangers. It was a mystery for me. But, at the time I had many other things that kept my minds occupied. I had Westlife, my friends, exams, and school options for my future. I learned to bury my sadness, and pretended that everything was fine, especially, in front of other people. I was eleven ot twelve at the time.
So then, after I graduated from my elementary school, I decided to forget about him. I tried to stop wondering why things happened the way it happened. I thought to myself that I wasn't going to see him anymore. Besides, more important things were happening in my life, like the fact that I didn't continue my study to the same school with the rest of my best friends. So, I kind of "forgot" about the hurt from the bullying. For a while, I didn’t even think about him at all. Even when I did, he was a page from yesterday. It didn't do much for me.
The bullying, however, had affected my self esteem. The fact that I was not really open about this to my parents didn’t help either. I was too shy and too scared. I buried my feelings so that people wouldn’t pity me. I decided to leave all the hurtful things past behind, especially since the school terms would start soon. I had hoped that things might get better in the future. I had hoped I would make as many friends as I could (one thing that never change for me is how I value friendship). But my dream was shattered on the first day of my junior high school. It was like a replay of a very old movie you'd thought you've thrown away. Some boys called me names and made fun of me (on my weights to be more specific). It swept away all my self esteem that I had left. I cried in the bathroom of my school. I didn't have the courage to make new friends because I was too scared that they would make fun of my appearance. I even ate my lunch in the toilet. It was awkward (emphasis on awkward).
But then I thought, damn, I still have 3 more years ahead. I can't just sit here, be sad, and do nothing, right? So, I gathered the courage to start meeting new friends (most of them are my best friends for 15 years and counting now). I had to. Despite a bad start, I still had so much fun like other normal kids, except the fact that I didn’t have any confident in myself. I was not as active as I was in my elementary years in school. I didn’t find myself worthy enough to be liked or loved by any boy/guy. I started to feel less about myself and I doubt myself a lot. I thought, it is what it is. I did not know how to resolve it. I had a life to attend to and I couldn't just stop my life. Life goes on and again, I buried my feelings and acted like everything was fine.
"What about taking up a diet regimen?", some of you might ask. Well, at some point of my life, I did. I had to. My parents were concerned on how quickly I gained weight. I couldn’t shop at the kids' stores anymore. Everytime my little sister and I went shopping, she would fit into any clothes beautifully, while I had to go through some awkward moments with the shop assistant because none of the clothes would fit me. So, the diet went on. I had my meal planned by the dietician, I played DDR (dance dance revolution), and exercised a lot. I lost the extra weights, and amazingly, people started to give me compliments. Boys started to notice me. So, I thought “Oh, okay, losing weight means more love. I got noticed more. I can get used to this. I just have to lose more weights.”
Ever since then, I became so self-conscious about how I look. I thought people would like you and would want to talk to you only if you were considerably good looking or, at the very least, not overweight. I felt like my life has gotten so much easier since I lost the weights (I lost 25 kgs in total by the time I was 18 years old), and since I learned to put some make up on. I got the attentions that I THOUGHT I need, but still felt empty on the inside, and scared. I was afraid, that if I ever go back to the old me, if they ever see my not-so-charming sides, they would leave me. So I never really liked anyone. It was hard for me to open my heart to anyone, because in my mind, they would not accept me for who I am. They would leave me once they see my imperfections. For years and years, I lived with fear. I felt insecure and as we all know, insecurities kill relationship. I was in a constant fear that my then boyfriend would leave me for a better looking girl. It became a very toxic, unhealthy relationship. At the end of the day, we went our separate ways. I was back to feeling empty, abandoned, and betrayed. It was a hard time for me. I never felt like I was good enough. I couldn't be honest with myself nor with other people. I shut my heart down and ended up hurting some very kind people along the way. I pulled myself back and refused to invest in anyone.
But, hope...hope is a funny thing. I wanted to get better and I had hopes for my future. I did a lot of readings: self-evaluations, self-help books, the Dos and the Donts, and all that. I was not easy and I really put my efforts into it. I realized that what happened in the past had resulted in several INSECURITIES. In my case, insecurities specifically related to my self-esteem. The healing process was too long and too tiring, but with the help of my family and close friends, I managed to get through it. Through it all, I learned one thing: that I should accept myself, strengths and weaknesses, all in all. This is who I am. They make me who I am. When I accept my flaws, people won't be able to use them to bring me down anymore. Why? Because I am at peace with them. I am no longer fighting to be what I am not. It is not my responsibility to be beautiful. I am not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me. It is about how I matter and how I am worthy of love, unconditionally. I am beautiful and I will not let anyone tell me differently.
It is not easy, trust me, it is not. Especially in this social media era, where what you see are mostly the highlights of everyone else's life, not their behind-the-scenes. It is hard not to compare. It's even harder since I am still struggling sometimes with my low self-esteem. I know I am not where I want to be right now, but I know the kind of person that I want to be. I’m a working progress. we all are. I hope we, especially women, can unite to support each other. Tell yourself, your sisters, your nieces, and your loved ones who struggle with any kind of insecurities: the right people will see the beauty in you, appreciate it, and will never do anything that will hurt you.
I had a similar experience as told here by V and it was a LONG way from that little insecure girl to be at peace with a grown woman that I am now. Regardless of gender, I believe everyone is born beautiful. We should not let the standards of the world define who we are. Today, your insecurities might be on the similar line, or they might be totally different. However small or gigantic they are to you right now, remember that we are work in progress. It is OKAY to not have it altogether. Don't let regret and anger get in your way. There's a better tomorrow.
“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow'.” Mary Anne Radmacher