My self-esteem has always been fragile. This fragile state developed during my early adolescence. Junior high was an extremely tough part of my life. Girls were mean, boys liked to humiliate people, and teachers didn’t understand. I hated going to school most days. Girls picked on me about my body, I was ridiculed by boys for my appearance and my teachers never took the time to notice what was actually going on.
I remember the locker room. Junior high was the first time when we started to change in front other girls. It was as if we had to put our developing bodies on display for other girls to judge. Although I hurriedly dressed, girls still managed to shame me about the body I was growing into it. I was developing hips and my body was beginning to develop the shape of womanly curves. I was sitting in the locker room waiting for the gym teacher to give us instructions. Another girl was sitting next to me. She looked over and gawked out the size of my thighs. She tried to measure the size of them with her hands as she hovered the size of mine over to hers. I turned my gaze to the door, trying to hold back tears.
The boys were no better than the girls. If you were not pretty enough, they would let you know. They thought I wasn’t pretty enough and the let me know every single day. They would call me names, mainly ones that referred to an animal. I soon began to believe that I looked like one or that I was better off being an animal. It was to the point where they wouldn’t even call me by my real name anymore. They would ask me obscene questions to see what I would answer. Remember in Mean Girls, when a random guy asked Cady if her muffin was buttered? Sadly, kind of like that. I tried to ignore them, but that only pushed them to keep asking. They would follow me down the hall, wait outside a class I was exiting or try to sit at my table for lunch.
Teachers were extremely oblivious to the bullying I endured. Maybe it was because it was 2006 and bullying was not drilled into our vocabulary like it is today. I’m not sure what it was, but my cries went unnoticed. I hated going to school. I wanted junior high to be over.
High school was better in a sense, but the years of damage to my self-esteem I carried around like a burden. This self-hate attributed to my friendships and relationships. I was always seeking constant affirmation from friends and romantic relationships. I wanted my friends to reassure me that I, in fact, looked fine. I wanted guys to tell me I was pretty or beautiful. I confided in those close to me about my past and they were supportive. Junior high was rough for most of us.
I had a falling out with a best friend that I had with for years just a few months ago. Those who know me very well, know that my fragile self-esteem can be a target. She used that against me. She criticized my complicated relationship with B. She told me all the things that I didn’t want to hear. I had been trying so hard to pick up the pieces, while she swiftly tore down each one without thought. She knew that only way to shut me down was to hit me where I’m the weakest.
This fragile state has only regained it’s elasticity over time. I have learned that I can’t let the people who don’t respect me, define me. I still have some self-esteem issues to overcome, but it takes time undoing years of damage.