“Breathe in. Breathe out. Okay take two more deep breaths, you can do this.”
Were these words running through my head before I was bungee jumping? Paragliding? Attempting to cook?
This was my 14-year old self trying to make eye-contact with herself in the mirror. It was such a struggle to look at my own reflection that I spent years together avoiding it like the plague. I had mastered the art of combing my hair without even looking in the mirror *insert ultra-short hair all through my teens*.
Selfies (yeah they have been around for a while!) with friends would invariably involve holding my breath in, taking my glasses off, leaving my hair open and always attempting to give side-poses.
It was almost as if I wanted to hide the person I was; quashing all markers of that girl.
I tried to feel better about myself by getting good grades, playing competitive sports and surrounding myself with my friends.
But low self-esteem is like a shadow, it will follow you around because it is an intrinsic part of you, feeding off your worst fears and your self-loathing.
I had convinced myself that I can only wear dark colours and was desperately waiting for college when my parents would allow me to wear lenses.
With time things did get better as a result of a certain intimate relationship. It was a revelation because my partner accepted me unconditionally and truly appreciated everything that I was. It helped me appreciate myself, including the stuff that I tried to hide or simply did not perceive as beautiful. I was in this happy place where I embraced positivity in my life; I went out and socialized more, I wore whatever I felt like wearing and more importantly I actively banished dark thoughts from my mind.
However, depending on one person’s support and presence to battle a demon like low self-esteem is asking for trouble. The moment that person leaves or the nature of the relationship changes, you will feel like you’re back to square one of not looking good enough; of being less desirable or worthy. The same relationship, now a long-distance one, resurrected old wounds and anxieties. I went back to questioning my importance in someone’s life and again thinking that I wouldn’t be good enough for someone to sustain a long-distance relationship. Mind you, these were my own demons crawling back in to my mind when in reality the relationship was quite hunky-dory. That’s when I snapped, at myself, and decided to see a Counsellor.
Counselling is something I should have sought a long time back; especially given that I have always upheld the importance of mental health and spoken against the taboo of seeking help for our psychological woes. Those sessions were revolutionary in their impact on me.
I spoke freely about my self-loathing, about how I felt like a lesser-being and about how insecurities had crept up in my intimate relationships because of this problem.
As part of the sessions, I realized that my parents (intentionally or otherwise) too had contributed to my self-esteem issues.
They would constantly badger me about my weight and how I was ‘letting’ myself go (whatever that means!). My Counsellor encouraged me to speak to my parents and also stand up for myself, given that I didn’t agree with them, and deep down I really loved how I looked; just need to believe it and act on it.
At an individual level I began to undo all the damage I had done to my psyche in the past. I wouldn’t hide behind certain clothes and I made a more conscious attempt to be a social person and surround myself with positive vibes (you don’t want negative people clouding your happy rainbow!).
It’s hard but the people closest to you may not necessarily know what’s best for you. You have to stand up for yourself.
In the beginning of 2015, I took to wearing lipsticks regularly because I loved how I looked in them.
They’ve played a large part in me reclaiming my lost self-esteem. Today I wear what I want to; my skin colour and my figure be damned! I haven’t yet reached the ideal state of being completely at peace with myself, but I know I’m getting there. Soon.
Anam is currently on a sabbatical that let’s her do the things she loves the most- read, write and reflect. She wishes to make a difference through her written work and is constantly looking out for creative inspiration.