“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt (1937)
I’ve long struggled with the concept of self esteem. It’s such a cliched thing to admit to nowadays. It seems like everybody and their cousin has “self esteem issues.” Pick a new issue, I want to say. But then I realize I would be telling myself that as well.
When I was growing up, I didn’t have siblings to play with. I grew up essentially an only child from the age of about six onward thanks to an older brother who decided he no longer wanted to be apart of our family around then. He is ten years older than me and at that time, everybody was focused on him and his problems. Nobody seemed to notice the scared, quiet, emotional little girl. I know my parents tried their best to shield me and give me the attention I needed to grow up into an emotionally healthy adult, but I’m not sure it was always what I needed.
Teenage years were just that – teenage years. Any young girl will tell you that she’s not confident with herself, but my issues went beyond what most girls probably had. I was painfully shy, almost to the point of not being able to converse with people. I spent three years of high school not even going into the lunch room, choosing instead to hide in the newspaper office which I considered my refuge from people. I worked for the basketball team my junior and senior years of high school and was terrified to even walk out on the court during games because people might see me. I didn’t go to any dances, didn’t ask anybody on dates, didn’t get asked out on any myself and sure as hell didn’t consider myself on par with “the popular girls.”
College turned out to be no different. I was a tomboy in every sense of the word, preferring my basketball clothes to most any girly thing. I had makeup and pretty clothes, but I didn’t know how to use them and most of the time they sat in my closet, ready for the day when I would become more comfortable with myself.
It’s only been recently that I’ve felt more comfortable in my own skin, perhaps in the last two to three years. I guess I’m what you call a “late bloomer.” I’ve realized how to use the hoards of makeup I had amassed, but never bothered to use. I figured out high heels make my butt look good and that clothing should be tighter, rather than looser if I wanted to show off any type of feminine shape. As the saying goes, “Tight enough to show you’re a woman; loose enough to show you’re a lady.”
The self esteem issues are still there, no doubt. I struggle with the concept of self worth most, I think. That I’m worth someone’s time, someone’s energy, someone’s love and someone’s attention. I shouldn’t have to beg for any of those things and I sure as shit shouldn’t be wasting my own time with someone who won’t return those things. For about three to four years now, I’ve had a whiteboard that I’ve scrawled “You are worth someone’s time” posted on somewhere prominent in my apartment, only because sometimes I forget that concept if I’m not reminded of it. I’m still learning that – that I’m worth it. That I deserve better. That I deserve the best.
When I was much younger and still to some extent, I was a self-harmer. It was always little things. Showers that ran just a little too hot just to feel something. Tweezers that dug just a little too deep. Not eating for days at a time in the hopes of feeling that hungry feeling. There’s probably more little things that I don’t even realize are and were forms of self harm, quite frankly. Chasing after the wrong people knowing it was going to end in heartache. That’s probably a big one right there. That may just be a case of not learning from my mistakes.
In a lot of ways I worry that my interest in BDSM is just another version of self harm. If the whips, chains, floggers, paddles, clamps, and toys are just new ways to inflict harm upon myself. I’ve never managed to find myself in the elusive “subspace” everybody talks about, but a really good beating is very cathartic for me. It’s a watershed moment, often inducing major bouts of tears and leaving me feeling cleansed and fresh. The need for that release builds in my system, poisoning me and making me feel ill to the point of physical aches.
I’ve often been told that if you seek external sources of happiness you’ll never be happy inside. That the external validation can in no way compare to the internal validation I should be receiving from myself. I don’t disagree with this statement at all, but the problem is that I have yet to work out a sufficient way to provide that internal validation for myself. In my mind, I’m never quite good enough. Never quite pretty enough. Never quite smart enough. Never quite … anything enough. It’s a constant battle I have with myself trying to balance the “I’m better than you” feelings that come from an inflated ego and the “I’ll never be good enough” feelings from having low self esteem and low feelings of self worth.
It’s something I’m working on constantly. Seeking new paths. Seeking that inner peace and inner strength that I’ve so long been looking for. I hate making resolutions; they usually just end up failing. I think this year though I’ve made a new resolution that I will try my best to keep. My 2012 resolution? I will stop letting people make me feel like I’m worth anything except the best.