How I learned to love myself
It’s so crazy to look back on my life, to see where I was to where I am now. Sometimes it feels as if it wasn’t me who experienced those things. It feels like I’m looking back on a movie. But I’m realizing the importance of remembering where you came from. I don’t ever want to forget the person I used to be. I don’t want to forget how I got to where I am. Because that’s how I’ll continue to grow. Most of us want to run from our past, but we won’t find freedom from it until we face it head on.
Something I used to struggle with was wanting to be invisible. I used to want to hide. I thought that if I stayed quiet then I would live a life of peace. Not only was I wrong, but I didn’t understand the constant war that I was in with myself wasn’t something I had to fight. So here’s the story of how I learned to love myself, quirks and all.
Accepting the Status Quo
As we all know, high school sucks. I remember someone telling me that it would be the best years of my life. I scoffed and said, “if these are the best years of my life, I don’t want them.” I still stand by that comment. The ‘high school’ years were absolutely awful.
My whole life growing up, I was made fun of and bullied. I was always the fat kid that people picked on to make themselves feel better. Instead of handling it, when I told teachers they generally just shrugged and said something along the lines of “it can’t be that bad.”
I was quiet and reserved, afraid to speak up. I didn’t think anyone cared about what I had to say. I hated group projects because it meant I had to talk. While I was actually very smart, I thought I was stupid. I was afraid that any time I spoke, someone would see that. I was absolutely terrified to know that there was a chance I’d be wrong, a chance I’d be found out as dumb.
In 7th grade, I had a teacher that had us do presentations in front of the class based on something that we had written. I was a very strong writer, but I didn’t think that I was any good at speaking. One day after a presentation we did, my teacher kept me after class and told me that I was an absolutely amazing speaker and that my voice had power. I just had to learn to look up from the page.
I hadn’t realized that I had been staring down at my paper the whole time, not addressing the audience at all. She taught me the trick of finding a point in the back of the room and focusing on it. It allowed me to lift my eyes from the paper without making eye contact with the students. This was the moment that changed my life.
I never thought about the fact that someone would ever want to hear what I have to say. It became a drug I was addicted to. She gave me more speaking opportunities in class and my confidence in my voice grew. I was still very self-conscious of my body and what others thought of it, but I found my voice.
Star Wars, Anime and Marvel comics
Something to remember is that middle and high school just sucks. It’s not a professional word, it’s not a positive word. It’s just true. There were so many expectations, judgments, and bullying, it was better to just try to stay invisible. With that in mind, I’m going to go back to elementary school for a moment.
A friend of mine kept bringing manga to school to read. Manga are Japanese comic books. I asked to borrow one after the other. I quickly fell in love with the artwork and the dramatic storylines. However, only the ‘weird kids’ liked manga. So as I got older, I stopped reading them.
Fast forward back to high school. I would see the ‘weird kids’ talking about anime (Japanese cartoons), manga, and comic books. I remember sitting with a friend of mine who was talking about how strange they were. I’m embarrassed to admit that I joined in on the insults, the whole time wishing that I was brave enough to be one of them.
The reality of the matter is that I was one of them, but only when I was alone with my family. I grew up reading Marvel comics and watching the original Marvel cartoons my dad grew up with. I would watch Star Wars on repeat with my dad and brothers. I enjoyed watching anime when I knew that no one would catch me. But I kept it to myself for fear of judgment. I was so scared to let my friend know because if she did I thought she wouldn’t be my friend anymore.
I let the fear of what everyone else thought hold me back for so long that when I became an adult, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to handle it. I had learned to hide my ‘weirdness’ so well that the idea of being comfortable with it made me nauseous.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. While I always had wild hair growing up, I didn’t become comfortable with it until I was probably 21 or so. I’ve never felt comfortable with my ‘normal’ hair. It just didn’t fit my personality. I’m blessed to have a mom who’s a hairstylist so my hair was constantly changing.
I loved the look of it in pictures and when I looked in the mirror, but the fact that no one else seemed to like it bothered me. I felt like I should change. But the comfort I found in it, as sad as it was, is that everyone was so focused on my hair that they wouldn’t focus on my body. I struggled with my weight and ended up falling into an eating disorder and severe body dysmorphia. When people would see me, they wouldn’t think to make comments on how fat I was, they just saw the hair.
Letting go of “should”
It reached a point that I finally accepted myself as who I am, with no apologies. It took navigating several abusive relationships, finding freedom from a very unhealthy marriage, and dropping to my absolute lowest point to reach this place. But I am so happy that I did.
After my ex and I split in 2017, I became a single mom overnight. I didn’t sleep or eat for a week. I didn’t know how to take care of my son. I didn’t know how to take care of me. I ended up getting a job pretty quickly and started my new life. It wasn’t easy, and it definitely wasn’t pretty.
But about a year and a half after that, I reached a point that I was done. I couldn’t do this anymore. I needed to take care of me. I deserved so much better. I deserved to love myself the way that I gave love to everyone else.
I deserved to live a life that I wanted to live, not the life that I felt people wanted me to live. Not the life that I felt like I should live.
I took the small undercut I had hidden at the nape of my neck and took it all around my head so half of my hair was shaved off. My mom colored my hair blue and it’s been that way ever since. I wear what I lovingly call “nerd shirts” (shirts that have Star Wars, anime, video game, or comic references on them. Basically anything nerdy.) on a daily basis. I talk about the things that make me happy, the things that I enjoy.
My life has done a complete 180 since I started this journey to healing and self-acceptance. I’m so proud of myself for how far I’ve come and I’m so excited to see where I’m going to go. The most powerful thing I learned was that my worth doesn’t come from anyone else but me. There’s nothing I can do to earn my worth, there’s nothing I could do to take away my worth. I am worthy because I exist. Therefore I’m able to go after my best life, chase my dreams because I’m worthy of all of them.
There was a time not even two years ago that I didn’t think I’d survive. And if I did, I thought I’d be in another unhealthy relationship or completely broken. Or both. But the fact of the matter is that I am happier than I’ve ever been. I have big goals that I’m fighting for. I have big dreams that I refuse to let go of. I’m going after everything I desire because I deserve it. Because I can.
I’ll be honest and say that it hasn’t been easy. It’s been a lot of work. It took taking responsibility for my life, for my actions, for my reactions. In doing so, I found forgiveness for myself. I found freedom. I will never again apologize for my existence. I will never again question my ability to go after it, to do hard things. That has been the hardest lesson life has given me, and I’m so dang grateful for it.
The question I get asked the most is how exactly I did it. So how do I find my confidence? How do I find freedom? I got this question so often that I created a free 5 day Confidence Course. It’s a 5 day crash course in the skill of confidence with me as your Confidence Coach. This will set you up for so much success as you step into your best, most confident life. Click here to jump in – I can’t wait to see you there!