“You’re well ugly…”
I can hear those words in my ears to this day.
I was only in that classroom to get a book, but after those thoughtless words from one boy, the whole class of fourteen-year-olds was now laughing at me.
I think that was one of the most key moments I began defining my worth by my looks. Never mind the fact that I was a good person, that I was intelligent, funny, kind and a good friend. Public humiliation and ridicule will make you question yourself, especially to adolescents in the midst of developing their sense of self.
This is partly why I get so passionate about people realising there is so much more to all of us than looks, weight or fashion. When did those qualities become the most important? Since society started benefiting financially from the self-doubt it spreads, I suppose.
Back to my teenage self. When I finally did develop and grow into my looks, I received more ‘proof’ of my unconscious belief that I was only worthy if I was slim and pretty.
I had the good fortune (depending on your outlook) to develop a big chest, albeit later than most. I lost a little of the awkwardness, slimmed down, had my hair cut professionally. As such, I began receiving attention from guys. And I craved it.
I was desperate for validation that I was alright. That I was worthy.
I didn’t realise that I would never, ever get that validation from anyone or anything outside of myself.
When sexual behaviour became part of life, I acted in ways that only perpetuated my low self-worth. I didn’t sleep around, but I let things happen that I wouldn’t have if I had been true to myself (and if my inhibitions hadn’t been lowered by alcohol). I just wanted guys to like me. And they liked sex. I realise now that to most of them it didn’t really matter who it was with.
But the validation didn’t last and I spiralled into deeper shame and deeper self-loathing, which led to using some way of changing how that felt – alcohol, more sexual attention, and eventually cutting and starving. It was like trying to patch up a gaping, bleeding wound with a butterfly stitch.
This is not a self-pity post. I lost self-respect by compromising my values and letting myself be used. Just because for a little while, I felt okay.
There’s no room to beat myself up over it anymore though. I did the only thing I knew how to do at the time to make myself feel okay. That’s no one’s fault… it’s just how it is. Berating myself would only sap my energy, and I need all of that for my recovery, learning to love myself and living my life.
And I’ve got to tell you… it’s pretty amazing.