Why am I so concerned with how others perceive me? This cyclical, toxic way of thinking has been engrained in me since childhood. I feel so emotionally inept at times when I realize my mental processes toward myself have not evolved like I have in so many other ways. Confidence for me is sporadic and often short lived, because I have become an expert at explaining to myself why I shouldn’t feel good or worthy. Every positive thought has the potential to be neutralized by a negative and so the story goes. As well as I can detect the gray areas in life, it’s still surprising to me how much of a very “all or nothing” individual I am. Anything in between is confusing. Why do I feel like I must be pretty, smart and nice? Those are the things I always felt came first, and now reading back on that last sentence, those things seem to be prioritized by importance. Pretty. I can remember so clearly the times I felt inadequate to my peers. I moved to a new town and started a new school in 6th grade. I had left my best friends behind and I didn’t know anyone. I can remember being called Sasquatch, hearing that some girl had gossiped about my belly hanging out, hearing that some girl was poking fun at my acne. I was so unaware that my appearance was so disturbing to others to the point where they had to mention it to somebody else. On one hand I think, “it’s literally been 15 years since these incidents” and on the other I think, “but it has shaped my entire perception of myself”. Why did I let these strangers dictate what was right or wrong about how I looked? Recently I looked back at pictures from when I was 12, 13, 14 and could see how much I changed each year. To fit others visions of how a girl should look. I saw myself go from Limited Too to Abercrombie and it was sad. There was nothing wrong with me but I felt so out of place. The mind is a powerful thing in the way that you will always believe what you tell yourself. I didn’t say the words “you are ugly” but my heart felt what I was doing to myself. Some words don’t need to be spoken. All of that being said, it is NOT anyone else’s fault that I am self conscious. Those kids were fighting and projecting their own insecurities, and I can’t blame anyone for what they did or said when they were a kid. God knows I’ve said some terrible things myself. I am the one who let these feelings carry on into adulthood. The problem isn’t other people, it’s me. It’s how I let myself feel and what I let myself see. A lot of times I’m not too sure how I feel on the inside and I think that has an impact on my ever-changing opinions on my appearance. Do I think I’m ugly? No. Do I think I have a nice body? Not really. Does my body serve its purpose? Yes. Could I treat it better? Definitely.

Growing up and being a parent has given me the gift of cherishing time. It is fleeting and it is a luxury many are not awarded for long. In my 25 years I have experienced great love and great loss, as every person must. My child will go through the trials and tribulations of life, it is inevitable. How does a mother prepare herself for guiding her children through pain that cannot be soothed? When I look at my daughter all I see is beauty and I feel a sting in my heart because one day she will go to school and someone will make her feel bad. I have to give her the tools to shape her own perception of who she is so that others do not do it for her. To give this to my child I have to first discover these tools for myself.

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