When you have a mental illness the way you see yourself is not always the accurate picture. In fact, what you see and what other people see is two different things. Most days I see myself in a positive light, but there are moments when my illness takes control and my self-portrait changes drastically. I see every flaw or perceived flaw I could ever have. In those moments all I see is the ugly. It has taken me a long time to improve my self-esteem. It was a by-product of several things, but one of the biggest was something my mother used to say to people. She did it without realizing what she was doing. When someone would say how nice I looked or make some compliment to her about me her response was always “You should see my other daughter. She is tall and thin with beautiful long blonde hair down her back.”
My silent response in my head was always “compared to the fat cow I am.” I honestly don’t think my mother realized the damage she did. My sister is her favorite for whatever reasons and I am okay with that. But that response of hers used to make me cry in the middle of the night.
If I wasn’t beautiful to my mother, how in the world could I be beautiful to anyone else? That response is also one of the biggest reasons I married my ex. He was the first guy who ever told me I was beautiful. He made me feel beautiful. That would later change, and I would see him for the person he truly was. My mother didn’t have a sister growing up, so she didn’t have the innate sense of competition that all sisters feel. We struggle to be just at pretty or as good as the other one. Whether it is something we want to do.
I have always been the quiet one. The one who you would find in the corner reading a book. While my sister was outgoing, made friends easily, and had guys hanging off her every word. By her senior year in high school she had had over ten boyfriends. I had two by the end of senior year. Two rather short-lived boyfriends. One discovered my younger sister, and the other was more interested in a friend.
When I look in the mirror in my lower moments, I see nothing but a fat, lazy, worthless failure of a woman. A woman who couldn’t carry a child to term to save her life. One that God somehow forgot about. A woman who most men avoid at all costs.
None of that is true. Yes, I am overweight, which I struggle with. I’m not lazy all the time. Like everyone else, I have days where I rather do anything but work. It’s called being human. No, I couldn’t carry a baby to term, in fact I ended up not having any biological children. Doesn’t make me less than a woman. It was just one of those things. God didn’t forget about me, although I sometimes wonder about how much he thinks I can handle. His idea of my load and mine are not always on the same page. Men don’t avoid me. I’m hard to get to know personally because I am overly shy. I am socially awkward and don’t always say what I want to. The best two compliments I ever received were from men. Men, I went to high school with as a matter of fact. The first was when we were reintroduced through a mutual friend. I made the remark that we actually never one another. We went to school together and in fact lived near one another.
He asked if I was sure, but he would not have forgotten a woman like me. I will be honest and tell y’all I blushed like a schoolgirl because I didn’t know what to say. The other time was a guy I knew casually asked me out on Facebook. We had been in school together but weren’t really friends or anything. He said he remembered how hot I was in high school and was one of those girls that only got hotter with age. Again I blushed. I mean, what do you say when that is not how you see yourself?
I doubted their words but said nothing to them. The first one is an excellent friend now whom I see often and the other lives too far away, but we still chat. They will never know (unless they read this) how much their words meant and still mean to me. Words that had the power to help change my own self portrait. I know I am not beautiful by society standards. I am a little more plain Jane and I am okay with that. When the doubt and illness seep in I remember there are at least two men out in the word who see me in a unique light. I hold on to those moments.
When my mother gives her response about my sister, I just smile and remember that my sister has put on a good hundred and fifty pounds lately. God is fair, and as petty as that is, it makes me smile a little. I’m only human and I know that God will forgive me moments of smugness.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOURSELF? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS WITH US.