Like Usher, I also have a confession (corny, but it works!): Sometimes, I have low self-esteem.
Yes, I understand that having low self-esteem is not exactly the type of thing that you freely admit. But I am trying to be more honest with myself as I approach my third decade of life (yikes!).
Now, sometimes I have very, very good days. And on those days, I’ll walk into a spot and repeat a mantra that goes something like, “I am the shit. No chick in here has anything on me. I have got it going on and nobody can tell me anything different.” Yes, those are the good days when I feel as though I am looking good and am in the mood for acting bad.
But, those days don’t happen that often. I am always feeling insecure about something. Those of you who know me personally know that I’m short. But the funny thing is that on most days I don’t FEEL short. But then there are those days when I do. and those are not “good” days. On those days I feel more like “Wow, I’m really short and I look weird and everyone is looking at me because I am short and weird looking.” (Yes, these are actual thoughts that I have about myself. Pathetic, isn’t it?)
And, of course, I have my cheerleaders. Those girlfriends of mine who are constantly saying things like, “Brown Girl you know you’ve got so much to offer. You’re smart, you’re ambitious, blah, blah, blah.” While I adore them for building me up, I have to admit that sometimes it does nothing to get me out of my funk. As one friend says, “Low self-esteem is the devil.”
We, as women, tend to blame self-esteem on everyone else. We say things like “My father never told me I was beautiful, so that’s why I have low self-esteem,” or “I’ve been cheated on so many times that now I have low self-esteem.”
But, Katt Williams said it best when he said something to the effect of, “Talkin about [men] fucked up your self esteem. [Woman], it's called SELF-esteem. It's esteem of your fucking self!” Truer words were never spoken. I am constantly reminding myself that I am the creator of my own self-image. The image that I create and the energy that I project into the world are what others will use to define me. And if I don’t feel good about myself, nobody else will either. This is so important for us to remember when we get down in the dumps or start coveting what other people have.
One of my biggest self-esteem issues has to do with my body image. As I mentioned before, I am short. And I’m also carrying around a few extra pounds. Now, I am trying to do something about that, but as I’ve mentioned (repeatedly) I am a work in progress, so that is, well… in progress! But I remember one interaction that I had with Jeremy on one of my “bad” days that made me feel oh so good.
Jeremy and I had a lot of bad days, but we had a lot of good days also. One day, I was feeling particularly fat and inadequate and was pretty much stomping around in a bad mood. To make me feel better, Jeremy took me out to dinner at a nice restaurant downtown. (Now I should mention that at this point, I was heavier than I’ve ever been because Jeremy was ALWAYS taking me out to dinner!) Our waitress was a pretty cute girl who seemed to have eyes for my boyfriend. Jeremy wasn’t really paying her any mind since he was being very attentive to me that night. And I remember a conversation that we had in the car on the way home from dinner. I asked him if he had noticed our waitress, and her perky breasts, and round brown. He said no he hadn’t noticed because he’d been too into making me happy. I knew I wasn’t being fair, but I just kept going.
He pulled the car over, took my hands into his, and looked into my eyes and said, “Look, I just want you to know that YOU might not be happy with your body, but I am. It might not be perfect, but I love it because it’s YOURS. Ok?” he asked.
“Ok,” I responded, sniffling.
I looked out the window to keep him from seeing the satisfied smile on my face. I knew I was impossible on my “bad” days, but he put up with it. And the way that he reassured me seemed so genuine and his love felt so unconditional at that moment. I know it’s not right to put so much stock in other peoples’ opinions, but it felt good for my boyfriend to validate me and my appearance. I often look back fondly on that particular moment that we shared. It was one of the times when his love felt unconditional…
Sometimes, I also feel like my self-esteem is low because of all the blows that my ego has taken in relationships. I’ve been honest with you about having been cheated on by several boyfriends. The first time I’d been cheated on, I was 13 years old. I had dated Brad (this is his real name, by the way) for two whole months, which is in actuality a long-term relationship when you’re in middle school. He told me he loved me AND he was the first boy I ever French kissed. I thought we’d be together forever. We went away for summer vacation and things were perfect between us. Two weeks later, he met another girl at summer camp and decided that he couldn’t be my boyfriend anymore. I remember that Valentina had to deliver the news and she tried to do it as delicately as she could. My ‘tween heart was broken! A little piece of my heart died that day. I couldn’t believe how easily he could throw away all that we shared! Even though I remained hopeful that I would find “love” again, I was cynical and bitter about men and their ability to commit. I know it seems insignificant, seeing as though it was a middle school relationship. But it was my first encounter with puppy love. Before that happened, I believed that anything was possible and I thought that everything that guys said to me about the way they felt was the actual truth. My experience with Brad was my first real adult wakeup call and it made me feel shitty about myself. And of course, the disappointment continued. No need to explain since you already know the stories of Mr. Ex and Jeremy. And when I was a freshman in high school that boyfriend cheated on me, too!
My insides carry all those scars that I earned in those relationships. Even though each relationship broke me down a little bit, I somehow emerged stronger each time I endured the hurt. And although I am proud of myself for making it through those relationships, sometimes the war injuries that I’ve sustained rear their ugly heads and make me feel a little down about myself. Like, obviously, something is wrong with me if nearly EVERY dude I’ve ever seriously dated has cheated on me. Clearly, there is something wrong with ME. I’M the common denominator. I internalized those thoughts and, even though I usually feel confident in myself, sometimes, residual feelings pop up and make me feel bitter and unsure of myself. When that happens, well… those are my rough days.
I made a confession about my rough days to a fairly new and very wise friend and she shared a metaphor with me that changed my life. I will expand on it a bit for the purposes of the blog, but will preserve the spirit and integrity of her original words.
She said: We are like gold. We all have to go through a process to become refined if we want to look like the gold we see in the jewelry store. But when gold is first discovered in the ground, it doesn’t look the way that we know gold to look. The way that we see it when it’s in the store, it’s shiny and pretty. But, if the gold could talk and we gave it a compliment on it’s fine appearance it would say, “Girl, you don’t know what I had to go through to look like this! I had to be pulled, tugged, pushed, ground down, and polished. But obviously, there was a purpose for me because someone took the time to dig me out of the ground… and here I am! That process, and all the pulling and tugging and pushing hurt, but that process – as tough as it was – it made me beautiful to you. But thing is, I was always beautiful to my Creator. He knew my purpose and he saw me like this – all shiny and pristine – from the moment He took me out of the ground.”
That’s all there is to it. And can I get an “Amen”?!
Those words spoke to me in a way that I had never been spoken to before. In that moment I realized that if I ever felt a lack of self-esteem, I should see myself through the eyes of my Creator. I know that I am somebody special because God don’t make no junk! That’s something I used to say when I was little. I know it’s kind of corny, but it’s a mantra that I need to incorporate back into my daily living.
If ever you feel as though you’re not everything you could or should be, just think of that shiny gold. If you’re ever feeling beat up, less than perfect, hurt, angry, or bitter, think of that gold. It didn’t always LOOK like precious metal, but the process that it’s Creator took it through, made it beautiful. Life is a process and as we progress through it, the bumps and bruises and life experiences – both good and bad – are what make us who we are. We are the sum of our experiences. From the moment we are put here, we have a purpose and a destiny and it’s up to us to make the best of what we are given in life and to understand that although we might not look perfect on the outside, to our Creator we are that pristine and polished piece of gold that is waiting to emerge at the end of the process.
If we think of ourselves in that way, how could we ever be short on self-esteem?