When I was your age ...

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about self-esteem and how I seem to have none. (If you’re hovering over your mouse in mid-scroll thinking, “Oh no, I am so not down to read about a pity party”, don’t worry. It’s not. I just needed an honest assessment of my life. Plus, this is what tends to happen when I share a bottle of champagne with well, myself.)

Looking through old picture albums at my mother’s house a few weekends ago reminded me of the vibrant, audacious child I used to be. I remember feeling so confident and secure, never second-guessing myself. If I had something to say, I’d say it. If I wanted to do something, I’d do it. I was loud, and I got in trouble a lot in elementary school for talking too much. I grabbed frogs and worms from the creek beds in our neighborhood, unconcerned with germs or dirt, and I never went to sleep at the end of the day wondering if anyone hated me. I don’t ever recall doubt or fear getting in the way of just being me.

So what happened? *consults Dr. Phil*

I never mourned my parent’s divorce the way most other kids do. Even at the tender age of 8 I knew that my mom and dad were two people that had no business being together. I didn’t long for a romantic reconciliation or for my parents to love each other again. I mostly remember being bent out shape that we had to move out of our house because I was incredibly fond of the bunny wallpaper in my sister’s and my bedroom.

But despite being mostly indifferent to their separation and divorce, I think that time still marks the beginning of the slow collapse into myself. Things were touch-and-go there for awhile. I started to get a little weird, a little obsessive-compulsive. If I thought I did anything wrong, guilt plagued me to the point where I couldn’t function until I had given an admission of my deeds to an adult. I distinctly remember coming to my fourth grade teacher after lunch one day, in tears because I hadn’t finished my lunch in the cafeteria and threw away a few chicken nuggets, wasting food. She must have thought I was just as strange as I felt because soon after that incident she was making calls to my mom and I found myself in a therapy session.

And let’s not even drag the new boyfriends, girlfriends, and step parents into the equation …

I feel like I’ve been that way ever since. Still to this day, if I think I’ve wronged someone or hurt a friend’s feelings, I will lay in bed torturing myself. Clay, God bless him, has fallen prey to my streams of conscious: “Do you think so-and-so hates me? She was acting weird last night. Did I sound mean when I said …”

And I go about my life doing everything only after I’ve had time to carefully research, plan and gather outside opinions on what I should do. Oh, and my own opinion never matters. I constantly do what other think I should do, and if I’m left to make my own decision, I’m never confident that it’s the right one. I need validation. So, that normally leads me to do what other people want me to do, because then I know for sure that they agree with me and will be on my side.

I’m afraid of the spotlight. No matter how badly I want or need attention, once the focus is finally directed on me, I panic and try to redirect it onto someone else. I was so excited for my wedding day I couldn’t sleep for about six months, but I remember having a total panic attack sitting in the middle of the reception where everyone could see me. I was convinced no one liked my wedding dress and no one was having a good time. I also remember being embarrassed out the wahzoo while everyone watched me open presents at my bridal shower. Did I seem grateful enough? Did I sound fake with my “ooohs” and “ahhhs”? I want to be heard and I want to be seen … until someone actually hears and sees me. Then I have a total “DO.NOT.WANT.” moment and try to get away. (Funny coming from someone who wanted to be a famous musician so badly. I’d be the worst celebrity EVER. “Yes, you can come to my concerts, but DON’T LOOK AT ME.”)

I feel stupid. A lot. I feel like I know nothing about anything, like everyone else got the memo except for me. When I come to different conclusion than someone else, I just assume that they’re right and I’m wrong. And that belief spans further than just intellect. If someone does something differently than me, I assume that they’re doing it the right way, and I’m doing it the wrong way. If someone is living their live differently than mine, I assume their way is better and I need to change what I’m doing. I know everyone is unique and no two lives are the same, but I still feel this overwhelming sense that I wasn't on the correct email list or something.

I look at the pictures of myself as a child and feel like I owe that little girl an apology. I feel like my stupid insecurities have completely censored and muted her personality. I’m afraid of everything, and I’m extremely untrusting (mostly of myself). I let a few shitty life experiences completely crush my spirit and I pieced it back together in the safest, easiest way possible. I’m a huge wuss, and I’m really, really sorry.


  1. Aw.

    I don't know you, but it sounds like you're being awfully hard on yourself. Everyone feels stupid (Hell, everyone IS stupid!) And I am very thin-skinned when it comes to how I perceive others perceptions of me (as if I could know!)

    And, oh god. I remember how excited I was for my wedding day. Then, some weeks before, someone told me how she had felt so self-conscious at being the center of attention, and I realized: I do not like being the center of attention. It was hell. I mean, the food was good, but the rest of it . . .

    Anyway, I'm glad I found your blog via Blog Catalog. I love your writing.


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