Who Made Her Feel So Ashamed?

This week’s issue focuses on self-esteem because a successful healthy relationship consists of two people who have enough (self-)love to share. This week’s guest post is from Zabrinah Shepherd, and the Love Note is a quote from Muslim therapist Thurein Win. Enjoy!
For 10 years, I was ashamed of my arms. Despite the constant encouragement and compliments I received from friends and family, my arms—specifically the uppermost parts—were still a big source of insecurity for me. I would leave my house in the mornings, wearing long-sleeved tops.  Every time I wore a sleeveless top or a strapless dress, I would most likely receive a comment. And no matter how nice the person was to me, I couldn’t see past what I perceived as negative attention.  I would glance in the mirror and like how I looked in the sleeveless top, but once I walked out the front door, I’d wear my jacket all day long.

Luckily, I was able to gain some perspective. Looking back, I see that I was behaving unreasonably. How did I take good, well-meant compliments/observations and twist them like that? Only recently did I find a solution for my dwindling self-esteem, concerning this body image issue.

It all began when I learned that people will always find something to observe about you, whether it’s a new improvement or something that has been there all along, whether the observer meant it as a compliment or not. You’re thin/fat, muscular/flabby, shy/confident, nice/mean, happy/depressed, popular/friendless.I have been described as each and every single one of those adjectives by various people (yes, they verbally said it to me) in the past year alone. Journaling about these instances helped me to keep track of them. I’ve also talked to girls who dislike being viewed as too sexy. Or too happy. And guess what I realized? I haven’t changed drastically, personality-wise or physically. At least enough to deserve all of those conflicting descriptions. The basics of who I am have been apparent since I was 8 years old.

I’ve learned that observations are just that. They’re someone’s opinion of you. But they’re not who you are. They can’t be. I believe that it’s extremely important to listen to advice, take and adapt from constructive criticisms. You’ve also got to exercise your common sense. The small, fleeting, statements—usually one-line observations—have the power to really hurt you sometimes, even when they’re compliments that are supposed to build you up. Here are some things I did to get over some of my strongest insecurities:

1. I only allowed myself to analyze the comment for a set amount of time. A day. Twenty minutes. Just enough time to journal, tell my best friend, and let it go.

2. Journal it. Or maybe talk it out with someone if you don’t keep a journal. Find some method to let it flow out of your system, other than just thinking about it.

3. Find some people who are successful, who look or think similarly to you. For my arm issue, it was honestly resolved—or placed on the path to resolution—the night I saw an extremely talented, leading, Broadway actress dominating the stage, looking very similar to me. That was the night I called my best friend and told her, “I like my arms.” Ten years of hatred came down to that. I had looked up to other role models of other professions, but this actress clicked for me. She somehow gave me that extra push to reach this next step.

4. I decided to like my arms. That’s a step: choosing to overcome it. During those years of not liking them, there were times when I knew that I was being extremely irrational. I knew that this issue shouldn’t be an issue. But, it was. However, I had carried the burden for too long. Some insecurities play themselves out. After a while, you get tired of them. My journal, which I read out loud to myself, had little sections that seemed irrational when looked at objectively. I had gathered more than enough evidence to show that I’m okay the way that I am.

5. I learned how to take a compliment. No one’s required to sincerely compliment you. It’s something special and sweet. It shouldn’t be taken for granted. Disagreeing with the person complimenting you or trying to make him/her see it your way is not an option.

6. I learned what to do with insults. Implement steps 1, 2, and 3. Move on.

Though I’ve certainly mentioned it, I knew that there needed to be a post completely devoted to self-esteem. I didn’t know how to approach it. Before writing this, I honestly thought that you could say nice things to a person with low self-esteem, and that would be enough to change him or her. Looking back on my life, I know that’s usually not a long-term answer to these types of problems.

Hopefully, this little portion of my life helped you in some way. Before falling in love or choosing not to fall in love, you need a rational sense of self-awareness. You need to know what your strengths are, as well as what you should work on. Set goals for yourself and fight to accomplish them (we all know the flesh is lazy). You’ll enter a relationship a whole person.This falling in love stuff is a journey. And the process of deciding whether you’re falling in love too fast, with someone who’s unavailable, or in any other undesirable way, is a long one. But not thinking of these things ahead of time is a great disservice to yourself.
Zabrinah Shephard has a huge blog (200+ posts) at zabrinah.com and an ebook on Amazon.com. She is just “an everyday girl, writing about guys” with the insights of a very wise, self-assured mind.

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