“There will always be someone who can’t see your worth. Don’t let it be you.”
As you get older, you start to forget things. Little things, mostly. Things that would never seem significant on any other day. Then, when you aren’t expecting it, you hear, see or read something that shoves that forgotten thing to the front of your mind, and it nearly punches you in the gut.
This happened to me tonight, and that’s why I got out of the bed I had just started to crawl into, and I came down to sit at my computer and type this out.
I was watching the movie I Feel Pretty, and at the end, Amy Schumer is giving a speech about the everyday woman’s struggle with self-confidence. She reminded us that as girls, we start out as confident, fearless females.
We used to let our pudgy little bodies hang out of our bathing suits, we danced like we hoped the world was watching, and we believed that we were beautiful, worthy princesses.
What happened to this confidence?
What happened to this fearlessness?
For the majority of us, it was diminished by our peers and unrealistic societal expectations. Think back to the first time someone made fun of you on the playground, and suddenly your mind was swept up with insecurities. Or the first time you picked up a magazine cover and realized you didn’t look anything like the person on the cover.
I forgot that we all started as these insanely confident beings. I forgot how beautiful I thought I looked in my Belle Halloween costume when I was a little girl. I forgot how it felt to be fearless and care-free.
For more than a decade, my self-confidence was slowly and painfully chipped away to almost nothing. For example, in second grade my crush shouted in front of the whole class, “I don’t like you!” But I never said anything to him about liking me, and his attack felt personal and malicious. My 8-year-old-self started to question her worth.
I spent the majority of my formative years hanging my head low, feeling unworthy, invisible and flawed. My classmates taunted me daily — they made fun of my clothes, called me ugly and said I was a loser.
Those comments hurt. They created so many internal scars I started to believe everything they said about me was true. I was ugly. I was a loser. I was unworthy.
People often try to brush off this kind of bullying as kids “just being kids” but these incidents leave a mark, so it’s no surprise that suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States for people aged 10 to 34.
For me, I lived without any measurable level of self-confidence for more than a decade. And over the years as I’ve talked to people about it, many of which express surprise when they learn I wasn’t able to just “shake it off“.
I’ve often been asked, “This happened so many years ago, why do you still think about it? Didn’t going through all that make you stronger, when you came out on the other side of it?”
The answer is yes and no.
Sure, I’ve come out stronger and have learned a lot about how to people should be treated. But, as a kid, it wasn’t as simple as being able to “shake it off and move on.” I was hurt. I was confused. And I just wanted the abuse to stop because that’s what bullying is — emotional abuse.
Think about it like this: imagine you have a friend who’s dating someone who constantly degrades her, tells her she’s ugly, tells her she’s stupid, tells her she’s a loser. Would you tell her to “stick it out and shake it off?” NO! You’d tell her to get the hell out of that relationship immediately.
But, kids can’t do that. Kids can’t just stop going to school, or make those people who torment them go away. Instead, they have to “stick it out”, often for years at a time, with no obvious end in sight.
And no matter how many times adults tell kids to just “ignore” the bullies, that’s not a realistic or practical solution. It just enables the bullies to be able to continue with their bad behavior and punishes the kids who are on the receiving end.
How do we do we preserve the confidence that we started out with as children? That’s one of the big questions.
The other big one is, “How do we get that confidence back, as the adults who lost sight of how great we truly are?”
The reality is we have to do better as parents, mentors and as a society. We have to raise our children to understand their worth isn’t measured on what their peers say or think about them or how they see people portrayed in the media. We have to raise our children to be kind. We have to raise our children to speak up when they see someone being bullied or stand up for themselves when it’s them.
But before we can do that, we have to lead by example. As adults, we have to be kind to each other. We have to understand OUR worth, and that it doesn’t need to be measured against what we look like, how much money we make or what we do for a living.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what those people think of you. As long as you’re happy with yourself and your decisions, no one should be able to tear you down. They don’t walk in your shoes, and they don’t have to live your life — you do.
Why do we care what they think?
Why do they get to decide if you are or aren’t beautiful?
I don’t need to be a size zero. I don’t need to work myself to death in a gym. I don’t need to be anyone else’s version of beautiful.
Every single one of us is worthy, talented, incredible and powerful. We have to realize this and stop judging ourselves and each other. Our lives depend on it, and so do our children’s.
I choose to feel pretty again, how about you?
About the Author: Caitlin Goehrig is originally from the Buffalo, NY area, but she currently resides in Akron, OH with her husband and 18 month-old son. In her spare time, Caitlin is an amateur photographer. While she started out capturing photos of nature and architectural subjects, she’s currently working towards her goal of being a fashion photographer.