Do you love yourself? Quite a hard question to answer, huh? I had always thought that that was the one inquiry in which the answer would be incredibly obvious. However, I learned through wrestling with my own self-image and esteem that I did not, in fact, know the response to this seemingly simple question. And it is questionable whether anyone really knows. However, I will leave that discussion to the experts. I have realized that it is not such a simple question to answer, and that a person must truly know themselves in order to know the answer. However, none of this information was ever given to me as I was growing up.
In kindergarten, as every other child, I was taught basic academic and social skills: reading, writing, sharing, playing with others, and so on. One basic, essential ability, however, was left out of the mix. I did not realize until I was about fifteen years old that I did not truly love myself. I did not even know how to treasure and respect my own self. Love is one thing that we are never taught. We are told to love our parents and friends, and that someday we would come to love that “special someone.” However, no one ever bothered to mention that before you can love anyone else, you must love yourself first and foremost. I had always believed that because I felt the love of my family members, I was automatically surrounded by love from the inside out. However, I never even thought about the fact that loving and encouraging family members will not always be present. I had not even imagined for a second that there would someday be people in my midst who were not there solely to heighten my self-esteem.
I came to the conclusion that not being able to find the good within my own self is a debilitating “disease,” because it did not allow me to see the truth. Due to the lack of confidence and any sense of self-worth, I was left to depend on the value judgments of others to define who I was. However, between junior and senior high school, I overwent a whirlwind of changes and experiences, all of which have shaped who I am today.
My elementary years predisposed me towards being preoccupied with the idea of personal value as defined by physical appearance and the possession of either a boyfriend of girlfriend. And since I failed to fulfill those requirements, I truly believed I had nothing to offer. I felt dejected and useless. I continued to harbor these feelings of rejection until my mother realized that it was much more than just a phase that I was struggling through. She began to post signs throughout the house, proclaiming such things as “You are special, April” and “I love you.” However, the most important thing my mother taught me during that time was to say the phrase “I’m beautiful” everyday in the mirror to myself. She shared a story of how this simple phrase helped her through one of the most difficult points of her life. And so I began to repeat that phrase every morning before I trotted off to school; staring at my reflection in the mirror and repeating this phrase over and over again until I believed it.
It took a long time in order for me to even be comfortable saying “I’m beautiful,” after a few months, I really felt sure of myself and confident in the fact that I had much to offer and that physical appearance does NOT determine a person’s value. I also learned through this ritual that being beautiful is not just a physical detail; being beautiful has everything to do with who I am inside and what I feel about my whole self. And I carry that ideal now.
In a nut shell, my bouts with my personal self-confidence shaped me in numerous ways so that I now know my strengths and weaknesses, and I have the knowledge that no matter what, I have to believe in myself. This belief will enable me to achieve the dreams that I have built, and no one can shatter these dreams. I will succeed with the love I have within myself and the confidence that this love provides. You are right, Mom, I am special!