Tonight I am going to be the guest on my friend Leah’s, (aka @bookieboo), Mamavation Web show. The topic is happiness and confidence. Those are words that are often associated with me, (along with SMILE!). I certainly try to exude happiness and confidence, while hopefully inspiring both in others. But the truth is, despite my outward persona, I have struggled to hold onto happiness and confidence for myself personally most of my life. That surprises you huh? Well, that is understandable. I don’t wear my troubles, or my life experiences, on my sleeve, but I do wear them. They are a stuffed into an invisible back pack that I carry on my shoulders. You know what I am talking about. We all have one. It’s that bag that we store all of our hurts and joys in. Sometimes it is light and other times it is unbearably heavy. But no matter the load, that bag certainly affects our mood, our choices and our path, sometimes without our even realizing it.
I was going through photos the other day looking for pictures to include in a collage present for my nieces’ graduation. (So many photos, because I have never had the time to sit down and organize them into albums.) I took the time to separate them out into piles associated with each of my children, and for the years before they were born. It was enlightening. You see, I am a size 18 with DD’s presently. I have talked about that openly, (not to mention revealed my body openly, as in the Lands End Swimsuit confidence post a few weeks back). But what you may not know is that though I haven’t always been a size 18 I have always felt like I was. (Or should I say some people in my life made me feel that way and I bought into it whole heartedly.)
I had kinda taken it as a truth that I would always be overweight, from childhood on. I internalized the notion that I would forever be the same lonely, overweight kid who felt that she would never truly be loved. But when I looked back through all of the pictures representing the years before and during the time I was having my children, I simply didn’t recognize the woman before me. Now, released from the binds of low self esteem, the filter that had been clouding my vision of myself is gone, and I am seeing myself in an entirely different light.
My vision did get cloudy though, but this time it was from my tears of regret, and ultimately forgiveness of myself for…well for being human.
Every time I looked in the mirror or at pictures of myself through my twenties and thirties what I saw looking back at me was an overweight, desperate, unattractive child. But the truth is, I wasn’t overweight or ugly at all. I was beautiful, vibrant, and in some cases too thin, if you ask me now.
It feels so unreal. Literally. It feels like it’s another woman in these pictures. That can’t possibly be me. I wasn’t that svelt, vivacious, lovely, desirable woman.
I was ugly. I didn’t know how to dress well. I was someone to be pitied. Someone who should gratefully accept the scraps dolled out to me because not many people on this earth would be willing to love me. That’s how I was made to feel for nearly two decades, but truthfully I had felt that way for most of my life
“Miss Lori, how in the world did you let that happen? How could the woman we know, the woman who shows no fear with any tasks-who engages everyone she meets-who always seems to have a smile beaming from ear to ear at any given moment of the day-allow herself to be denigrated so?”
It was easier than you might think.
When I was four years old I was molested by my nursery school teacher. That painful experience lined my invisible back pack early on and steered my course away from happiness and confidence, placing me squarely on the path of self doubt, and leading me into the arms of people who played upon my vulnerabilities. They kept me weighted down, instead of lending a hand to help lift me up.
Growing up I always looked older for my age. I developed early, plus I was tall and I mixed well with older company. People took that to mean that I was confident. Really it was just a bluff, because inside I was un-gelled jelly. I was sad, and lonely, and lost. But I learned young how to fake it. That is a typical trait of survivors of abuse. We mask well. Well, we mask well for the general public, but somehow we remain marked for perpetrators. We tend to be vulnerable to further abuse. I experienced that in grade school. Not only was I sexually abused a couple more times, I was bullied by my classmates. In hindsight I believe one fed the other. Not having any friends, or being rooted, left me desperate for connection. Perfect for the picking by someone who preys on the pain of others. That was me, a giant body of pain. But you couldn’t see that when I was on stage. That is where I felt most safe, where I could shine and be appreciated. The stage kept me alive. It was my home. On stage I was beautiful and people wanted to know me. That’s why I did my best to never be without a show from the time I was 9 on, because school was hard for me. Not the studies, the kids. I was really lonely and sad. I felt so unattractive and unworthy of love and the only men that seemed to want to be included in my life romantically where those who reinforced that notion. That continued into my adulthood.
Most of my life I felt as though I was a split personality. I just accepted my fate as such. The World got one version of me, and privately things were much different. The one wish I had deep in my soul was to not have to act anywhere but on the stage. Thirty years later I am still seeking that wish out, but I feel that I am closer to achieving it than I have ever been before. I feel solid in my own shoes. Though I am working towards toning my outer package, I know in my heart that no matter what the aesthetics, I am beautiful as a result of my intelligence, my creativity, and my dedication to people. I like me. And there are lots of other people who like me too. (You like me, you really like me.) I feel powerful in my confidence. If I bluff in business, talking up an idea or a campaign, I know that I can ultimately deliver on my promise. Because I believe in me, and I believe in my future. Kind of ironic that it wouldn’t be until I am the largest size I have ever been in my life before I would ever truly believe myself to be beautiful and worthy of love.
I am telling you all of this because I know that there are a lot of woman out there who are bluffing just as I have been. Women who are secretly struggling with a lack of self-confidence while having to simultaneously present confidently at work, for their kids, for the World. You are not alone. More importantly what I want you to hear, to really hear, is that no matter what your size, truly, you are beautiful, and you are absolutely worthy of love. Please don’t let anyone tell you different. And if they do. If they are holding you down and holding you back with negative comments, or disapproving looks, I want you to turn your back on them. Just turn your back on them and stop turning your back on yourself. You deserve better. Don’t let fear of being alone keep you from happiness. Because the truth is you have to be happy with yourself alone before you will be open to finding real happiness with someone else.
Self confidence doesn’t always come easily or naturally. We all have to find our own way. But no matter who you are, self-confidence starts with a leap of faith. So jump! I am preaching that which I am living. (Taste tested and Miss Lori approved. ;))
I am reaching down deep an taking the hand of that lonely little girl and leading her into the light.It is for her that I smile the biggest. It is for her that I reach the highest. It is for her that I willingly struggle and fight against depression, frustration and fear. She is beautiful, you are beautiful, We are beautiful.
Let your SMILE Shine On!
Miss Lori can be found Musing from her Minivan at MissLori.TV , Wearetherealdeal.com , YoungChicagonista , ChicagoMomsBlog , and ChicagoMoms.com. You can also see her Activating to Be Great at Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.