I wrote this blog about my self-esteem one year ago. Next week I will post my update reflecting on the past year.
The biggest source of negative self-esteem is often ourselves.
Some things can only heal with time. Just as when our hearts and spirits are hurt by others, it takes time to undo the damage we inflict upon ourselves because we don’t feel good enough.
I’m having a self-esteem identity crisis. Honestly, it’s not a crisis by any means, but I am questioning my self-perception. I’m having a difficult time feeling beautiful.
When working on a painting, I have to get in REALLY close to see what I’m doing. Then my vision fogs and I have to stand back several feet to evaluate the effect of what I did up close.
Self-talk is a lot like that. When we’re in the throes of berating ourselves for not being “enough” we’re often too close to see the big picture. This goes for how we treat loved ones too.
My identity and self-steem are based on what I can accomplish, not on who I am inside.
Mostly because I’ve been so unhappy the past ten years with how I looked. My own struggles with self-esteem have been my driving force to find beauty in others that I couldn’t find in myself. I gained 100 pounds. (Which I now realize was due to health issues and much more out of control than I thought.) While I carried the weight (physically and emotionally) I could never face myself or my changed beauty. I drowned my negative talk with action. The amount of things I accomplished made me feel better. This works for a time. But the empty hole inside is still hungry and demanding to be fed.
To me “beauty” was a past weight, a past dress size. A past life. It was painful.
The things people said and did were horrible.
“You don’t look as fat as you are.”
“Didn’t you like yourself better when you were thin?”
“Are you even TRYING?”
“You must have low self-esteem.”
But those comments were nowhere near as damaging as my own criticism.
Fast forward to a much smaller me who’s lost over half of those hundred pounds and all I can see/hear/feel are the berating accusations that I used to rain down upon my imperfect self.
My own hateful words echo louder than any external source. I took the insults, and painfully folded them into my being making them a part of me, because I deserved it, dammit! There have been so many times someone slighted me and my first thought was: “Well, I deserved that.” That’s my self-esteem bruised ego talking. She can be a bit of a jerk.
Time is the best medicine. It will take time to quiet those negative thoughts, to hear the Other Little Voice.
It will take practice, hard work, and vigilance to cancel out the negative voice. It will take strength to rebuild my self-esteem from a place of internal peace.
Like not picking up the phone when your crazy ex calls, you have to ignore the calls, no matter how comforting the familiarity is. Your best self has to get stronger, more fit. And you’ll have to get up every morning and remind yourself that you can’t go back to that place where you whip yourself to shreds with words. That’s hard, folks.
The reason we are hard on ourselves and others is because something in it feeds us, propels us, or is familiar enough to work.
Negative or positive, we don’t seem to care that we’re breaking ourselves into pieces.
It’s a habit we have as a society to hurt our self-esteem and expect others to pick up the pieces. And social habits, like eating and drinking, are the hardest to change. You can’t succumb to peer pressure when your girlfriend starts berating herself. It’s your responsibility to help her hear the Other Little Voice. It will help you recognize your own.
I’m challenging you: What voice are you going to quiet?
What words will you remove from your vocabulary? How will you start? How will it feel a month or year from now when you’ve stopped saying those things?
I hope that in one year: I can take the compliments my loved ones give me without mentally adding caveats about their intentions. I hope I’ll feel beautiful when my son grabs my face and plants a wet kiss on me. (If he still WANTS to kiss his mama!) I hope I’ll fold compliments into myself instead of insults. I hope I won’t feel the need to bind my weight or level of beauty to my happiness.
Iman Woods is an American artist who specializes in pin-up photography. Through a unique and therapeutic process, she’s spent over a decade in perfecting, Iman helps women undo the damage from a negative self-image and unrealistic beauty industry expectations. She helps women embrace their own style of beauty and see themselves in a new light. You can find her on her website, ImanWoods[dot]com.
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