I don’t believe I’ve ever had a very good self-image, whether it be down to how I look, or how I perceive myself otherwise as a person. There have been many people in my life who haven’t helped that and have, indeed, exacerbated the situation.
It all started when I was quite young. As a child, along with my fellow siblings, I was always put down by my elders, told constantly how I wasn’t good enough at something. Each of us as fellow siblings were encouraged to further the damage with nasty words to the others. So, even if I knew otherwise, the belief that I was “stupid”, “worthless” or crap at a particular subject was ingrained into me. My low self-confidence as a result of this had a knock on effect on how people perceived me at school. It meant that I was bullied and my physical image was attacked, too. I was now not only “stupid”, “worthless”, “crap at everything”, I was also “ugly”, the person no one wanted to be friends with in case they caught something.
As a result of all of this, I have never been content with my self-image, whether it be how I interact with people or how I look. I’ve spent years being uncomfortable if people tell me I’m attractive or good at something. Even the smallest compliment will have me fidgeting and trying to find a way to negate or explain why it may seem I’m that way. All those positives turned into negatives, because for so many years I was always told otherwise.
So, what can I do to change this? Should I change this? Shouldn’t it be right that I believe that I’m worth something?
I’ll start with body-image. As a woman it can be hard to fit into society if you’re not perceived as being magazine-beautiful, or as trying to achieve that absolute perfection. The media tell us that the only way we can ever be acceptable to others is to be this clone image of whatever their latest trend is. Well, this is something that I haven’t fit into for years. Yet still, somehow, on a subconscious level, I’d make those little efforts, a little bit of make-up here and there, body-hair maintenance, etc. Even when wearing the drabbest clothing, I’d still be making over-the-top efforts to look a little bit more acceptable. It didn’t make me feel any better at all and certainly didn’t help me fit in any better.
So, I’ve stopped. I no longer bother with shaving, as I find it a ridiculous waste of time trying to achieve a fake image of so-called perfection that I’ll never reach anyway. I no longer wear make-up, even when the odd spot decides to surface and mar my otherwise less-than-media-perfect features. I don’t colour my hair, as I know that disguising the greys isn’t going to make them any less real. I am becoming a natural being, a woman in the form she is meant to be in. Yet am I happy?
I must admit, I am still uncomfortable with going out in skirts and dresses, trying to wear something nice and comfortable whilst not having made any of the “required” beauty efforts. I have done this in the past and not received any negative comments, yet I know that people still look. But, at the same time, I feel more comfortable with myself and less stressed for not having to go that extra mile, when I know, on the whole, it won’t change my own perceived self-image much, anyway.
So, what is needed to be comfortable with my own self-image? Well, one thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with the physical side of things.
Let’s go back to the bullying for a second. Even when I was trying to make an effort, trying to make myself prettier through using various lotions, potions, powders and clothing, I was still called names, made fun at. I thought I was trying to fit in, but all I was doing was trying to be someone I wasn’t. Even then, it took me far too long to realise that, what I really needed to do, was to just be myself. Now that wasn’t that easy to do when I was always trying to hang with the wrong crowds, if I ever did to socialise after having become a recluse for the most part. Yet, as soon as I had the right people around me, suddenly it didn’t matter how I looked, just who I was. I started to relax and my true colours started to show.
So, now onto self-esteem, the other side of self-image. One thing I have learnt is that it takes confidence to be the person you are rather than the person you think you should be. When you’ve spent any portion of your life being put down, trying to pretend that you’re someone else isn’t going to make people who have made a victim of you like you any more. If anything, it just gives them another excuse to laugh at you. What’s needed is to build upon your own self-worth and realise for yourself that you’re not the person all those nasty people have said you are, that you are capable of more than they say. Of course, it does help when you have good people around you who will encourage you and help you understand your true potential.
I’ve been lucky in that, nowadays, there’s mostly positive people in my life. It means that I’m gaining more and more confidence in being the person I really am rather than hiding various aspects because of what people may think. Because of this, it means I gain more respect and encouragement and means that I can also give some of that positivity back. It also means, when faced with negativity, I’m able to shrug it off a lot easier. This isn't to say that it's wrong to wear or do something that will make us feel better. Not at all. Yet, through that, we should still remember that self-image is all about how we perceive ourselves, inside and out, and we shouldn’t ever be afraid to show and be who we truly are.