Some of us grow up hating ourselves, criticizing ourselves for our mistakes, always trying to be perfect, never satisfied with ourselves. Then there are some who seem very confident and exhibit an air of satisfaction with themselves.
Our self view is a product of a multitude of factors. Beginning with our parents we learn that we are cute, smart, all-boy or all-girl, or funny or whatever adjective we are described by.
From childhood onward we learn who we are and what we can do well, what our interests are. Our relationships with our parents, siblings, friends shape our self esteem.
Our self image changes again when we start school. We compare ourselves to everyone around us to see if we are at least okay, normal or above or below average in looks, intelligence, or talent, friendliness, or how we make relationships with our classmates, parents or teachers.
As a preteen our self image is shaped by comparing ourselves to our fellow classmates. We compare our size, development, popularity or lack thereof, our grades, and our position in the class. (Are we the class clown, brain, athlete, failure?)
We notice the clothes of the other kids from wealthier families at school and may feel inferior. Or if we are slim we may be judgmental of those who are heavier. When we hit the growth spurt between 12 and 18 years of age, for us girls (at least the chubby ones like myself) chubbiness rearranges itself into boobs and hips. We learn to cope with the bodies we are given and start learning to accept, hide, or change them.
Peer Acceptance or Rejection
Not being athletic definitely seemed to influence my perception of myself when others chose me last for their teams in sports. The problem was partially that I was not raised in a family who was sports driven. (Sports cars maybe, but not physical sports.) The other main factor that made me a poor athlete was that I was nearsighted and needed glasses. I didn’t know it until I was 12.
Since I grew up in a loving family I tried to be polite, kind, helpful and be obedient to the rules of the school. (To some I was a “Goody two shoes.” Where that expression came from I will never know!) But I was to some degree judgmental of others, just as I was of myself.
One quote my father said often in reference to my own self consciousness was, “People think less about you than you think they do.” This was more easily quoted than actually put to good use.
I always thought the other girls in school were prettier than I was. The cheer leaders, the popular girls, the girls who wore the cool styles, the one’s whose classwork was done more thoroughly than mine; or their projects were more complex, interesting, scientific or whatever than mine, or so I thought.
In high school we may develop a whole new circle of friends. We develop new social skills and with those abilities our confidence hopefully grows.
Everyone Feels Insecure Sometime.
I have since learned that even the popular kids were self conscious about some part of their appearance or performance in sports or school. Looking back I realize that I had trapped myself in a downward spiral, even though I was proud of my good grades and my ability to get along well with others. Back then I worried a lot about what others thought about me on many levels: physically, mentally, socially, athletically, and so forth.
So at 22 years old I was 5’7″ and weighed 145 pounds. I thought I was fat! Now at 68 I look back on the pictures of me at that weight and think, “Dang! I wasn’t fat! I looked great!!”
I realized how critical I had been of myself. Now I am more accepting of my body and myself. After all when I am 80 I don’t want to look back at myself at 67 and think, “Dang, I looked great at 67 !”Especially after I had complained when I was 60!
Why are we so hard on ourselves? Was anyone able to change that attitude? What helped the most? Did a lack of confidence make it easier for someone to abuse us? Do we often think of ourselves as less important or less intelligent than our friends or spouse?
All of this happened to me. Because I thought less of myself, I was so impressed when someone I considered very intelligent or pretty paid me some attention. This may have been a factor to problems later for me.
We need to learn to like and love ourselves and accept ourselves as we are. When we truly love someone we see their faults but love them anyway. (Why can’t we be like this with ourselves?)
If we are self conscious, feel that we are too fat, too thin, too old, too whatever; Stop it!! Yes, you heard me. Just stop it!!
We are all on a journey to find ourselves, to develop our hearts and minds to the best they can be. Sometimes we don’t figure things out at the same time or even in the same way until we are older. But sooner or later we will look back with regrets at our attitudes towards ourselves.
So we need to learn to love our bodies, personalities, abilities that we have. We can change some parts of ourselves if we don’t like them. Don’t just hate yourself for the rest of your life. You can make your life what you want it to be within boundaries given in your situation. But you may have to go through a lot of experiences in pain and in joy to finally appreciate who you really are. But the journey is well worth it and hopefully we come to peace with ourselves as we get older.