Concern with our appearance is a common self esteem issue.

Bullying and effect on childrens' self esteem

Head Lice

Self esteem story about a school girl with head lice and resulting bullying and insecurities

As much as I hate to admit it, my self-esteem has largely been based on the views of others for far too long. For most of my grade school life, I was blind to those that looked down on me. While I didn’t come from a wealthy family, and I was far from stylish, I never felt as if I was below anyone else. That is, until the fourth grade and my school’s first monthly head lice check.

A school volunteer sat me down and ran a metal comb through my hair, checking every inch of my head. It was discovered my hair was contaminated with lice. I was shocked. I had only known of my siblings having it twice before but the details were never explained to me. I was horrified to discover that it meant that there were bugs living on my head! They sent me to the nurse’s office until they had finished with my class. After that, I was marched back to my classroom, walked past all of those knowing, judging young eyes, to collect my belongings. Then I had to wait in the office until my mother came to collect me. One incident was bad enough, but, as a girl with four sisters, all possessing a ton of stuffed animals, bedspreads, shared hair-brushes, and 90s style scrunchies, it was hard to contain. My neighbour, and best friend at the time, also had an issue with it, and we could not seem to put this problem to a definitive end.

I became known as “Lice Head” or “That dirty girl” at school. Kids are so creative, right? Many former close friends began avoiding me, and socializing with me became something that only the brave would attempt. The mothers of the other girl scouts in my troop voted to kick me out, because they didn’t want to expose their pretty, precious flowers to this filthy (ahem… innocent, young, friendly, sensitive, and kind…) young child.

There was a group of “mean girls” who rode my bus and got on right before me. They made sure to take up every last available seat, and occupy the free spot beside them with their backpacks. They knew that I would never ask to sit with my tormentors, so I stood. The bus driver would then yell at me to take a seat; my bus ride to school was hell. In class, my fifth grade teacher would make subtle, awful comments to me that made the rest of the class giggle. I lost all enthusiasm for school within months. I ended fifth grade with only one passing mark, art.

The beginning of middle school was better and I started to think that I could let go of these issues that I had been struggling with. A bigger campus, kids from other elementary schools coming together, new opportunities. I was excited to see some faces that weren’t aware of my previous reputation. I went basically unnoticed, which was a vast improvement, and made a few new friends.

All was fine until summer break before my seventh grade year. I got a call from the new, popular girl informing me that my best friends, with whom I had been close to since early elementary, no longer wanted to hang around me. The reason for this? I wasn’t cool enough, and they wanted to be accepted by the cool crowd. This completely crushed me. We had always done everything together. We practically lived at each other’s homes, and they felt almost like family to me. It was almost as if I was losing an extension of myself. I felt lost.

The following school year, my reputation came back in full force. Though it had been a couple of years since my last outbreak of head lice, that did not stop people from finding out and making assumptions. Amazingly, it was even more intense having a large group of pre-teen girls yelling things at me in the halls in front of everyone else, than it is having them quietly smirk, name call, and manipulate your shame as they did when I was younger. These girls were out for blood.
I spent the rest of that year watching my former best friends ignore me from afar. I became closer with a couple of other friends, and even got my first real boyfriend. I still felt weirdly alone though.

The next year, it all changed. I gained my old friends back after they realized that being “popular” was not all that it was made out to be. I made a few more great friends, and along with a few of my older friends, formed a ‘defensive barrier’. We stopped showing that we cared and, instead, played to their mocking. I adopted a gothic look, black lipstick and raccoon eyes. I started doing weird things like eating glue when I knew people were watching, drinking out of a baby bottle, and drawing graphic pictures in class. If anyone would tell me I was a “freak”, or other such insult, I would respond with “I know, right? I’m crazy!” and then just stare at them, creep style. People stopped teasing me, because it stopped being fun. I was no longer upset by it, but amused instead.

Of course, this was all a big facade. Sure, it was fun, but I was masking the fact that I was still plagued with insecurity. This continued on into my sophomore year of high school. I grew tired of pretending, and I began dressing a bit more conservatively, though I still tended to favor the dark and mysterious, I kept it much more modest than before. After years of pretending not to care, somewhere along the line, I really had become desensitized. People may or may not have continued to say things about me, but I honestly did not worry enough to notice anymore. I guess what I took out of this, is that people can only break you down if you allow them to. Do not let anyone make you feel as though you are less than them, because you aren’t. You have just as much to offer. Enjoy yourself and have fun, despite the way others may view you.

I continue to struggle with my self-esteem from time to time, as do we all. I just try to remember that no one is perfect, and no one has to be.

sport and weight issues and self esteem

Weighed Down

Self esteem story about a girls weight and appearance issues and judgements of her mother

One of my first memories in life is of Christmas when I was eight years old. Through the thin old walls of my Grandmother’s house I could hear my mother, telling her sister, how she was worried about me. She was near tears, saying she was afraid I would get sick and die early; that I would never be able to get a job or husband because I was too overweight. So at eight, every ounce of my self-esteem was crushed by my own Mother, in a conversation she never knew I heard.

Up until that moment I had always planned to be an elite athlete. I wanted to be a gymnast, a swimmer, a soccer player, or any other number of things I loved to do. I wasn’t always the best at them, but in my childhood innocence, it hadn’t occurred to me this could be an obstacle. I wanted to be a World Champion, so that was what I was going to be.

Afterward, I started to notice things. Being picked last in P.E. class at school; the smirks people gave me when I mentioned athletic dreams; the tone of voice in which my teachers humoured me. By the time I left primary school at eleven, I had given up.

My two years of intermediate school were one of the lowest points of my life. It was the first time I had to wear a school uniform, and it took a week to find and order the right size. When it arrived it was too big, which my mother told me was so I wouldn’t outgrow it too quickly. It was probably meant in the same way most parents mean it; kids grow fast. But in my mind, what she meant was I was going to get too fat for my uniform. At school, I didn’t join any clubs or teams and barely made any friends. I just kept my head down and tried to be invisible.

One day in P.E. we played field hockey. I had loved the game for as long as I could remember, but was told it was “too dangerous” for me to play. Thinking back, it seems a bit counter intuitive—my mother was worried about my weight, but wouldn’t let me play the sport I most enjoyed. Two girls in my class both played for the school team, and when I was doing well and clearly enjoying myself, they asked me why I didn’t play too. I shrugged it off, and tried to keep my head lower so I wouldn’t be noticed again. For most of that year I ate lunch in a bathroom stall, so no one could laugh at the fat girl eating. I considered suicide multiple times, but could never bring myself to go through with it.

The second year things got a little better, I even made a few friends. Feeling adventurous, I signed up for a school ski trip. I met new people, tried a new sport for the first time in years, and generally had a great time. That week was amazing up until the last day, when I took a tumble on some rocks and sprained my ankle. Still, I wasn’t too bothered—after all, the trip was basically over, and I’d had a good time despite the pain. Injuries were something I was prepared for, a fact of life for an athlete.

While I was away, the rest of the school had been practicing for the annual cross country run. It was only about two kilometres long, but with a sprained ankle it was impossible for me. After a few days of missing practices, I was called into the Principal’s office. As a generally well-behaved and intelligent student, this had never happened before. I was nervous, and with good reason, it turned out. “I’ve just seen you skiing for four days,” she yelled at me. “You can’t just pick and choose which exercise you do and don’t want to do.”
I was lost for words. I had been towed down the ski slope by paramedics because I couldn’t walk. I had to have x-rays. She was there. “I know you don’t like P.E.,” she continued, “but you can’t choose to not do it any more than someone can choose not to do math.” I was sent back to class in tears. I was confused, but I understand her point of view: ‘fat people don’t like exercise.’

When I started high school, I finally convinced my parents to let me play hockey. I was on top of the world for a year and a half, getting better at the game and making new friends. During my second year, a piece of paper was passed around my class, and we were supposed to write down what we wanted to do when we were older. I wrote that I wanted to play for the national hockey team. Two boys started laughing when they were writing their own dream down, but I didn’t realise why until the paper had circulated and I got another look. Underneath my own pen, in one of the boys’ handwriting, were the words, “Not good enough.”

Once again I was crushed, and all my earlier insecurities came flooding back. This was the same boy who had labelled me “most likely to choke to death on McDonalds” in the school yearbook. When he found out I played hockey the year prior, he had asked “what position? Bench?” I knew I shouldn’t let him bother me; he had always been a bully. But of course, as a young teenager, every word hit a nerve. Just like that, all my dreams which had taken so long to build back up were shattered. I did my best to get on with my life, but those words never left me.

It wasn’t much later that I was struck with glandular fever, and subsequently with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I could rarely go to school, I had to abandon hockey and soccer, and I couldn’t attend the Taekwon-Do classes I had recently joined and come to love. I thought people might pity me: bedridden, unable to do the things I enjoyed doing. Instead, I was told: “Stop being lazy” and “Just get out of bed and do things.” My school decided I was skipping classes because I didn’t want to be there. They threatened to involve the police and have me dragged to school. When I did finally make it to a class I was sent to the counsellor, who asked, “why do you hate school so much?”

No one believed I was genuinely sick, because being overweight automatically labelled me as lazy. During the two years I was housebound, none of my friends even seemed to notice I was gone. Multiple doctors blamed depression or being overweight for my issues and wouldn’t run real tests. When someone finally did my blood work, the glandular fever results came in. I finally had an irrefutable medical diagnosis for the problems I was experiencing. But life is never easy, is it? Some people claimed I was making it up—that my illness didn’t exist.

That was probably the most deprecating part. Something which destroyed my hopes and dreams was blamed on a part of me that had always been overtly different, that everyone but me saw as a barrier in life. Even years later, their words are always at the back of my mind, telling me I am lazy and not good enough.

It has been five years since I was diagnosed, and in that time I have found other ways to grow my self-esteem. With a lot of patience and effort, I was able to rejoin the Taekwon-Do classes I once loved. I progressed through the ranks and earned the respect of the people around me. In 2016 I will get to trial for a place at the World Championship, and attempt to achieve my dream of being a world-class athlete. Meanwhile, I instruct classes and pass on my knowledge to those who are beginning their journey. I teach valuable life skills to children who admire me. These opportunities feed my self-esteem and have helped me to grow as a person, to move on from past grievances and shape my own future, no matter what others might say or think.

Hustling for self esteem

The Hustle

Self esteem story about a model trying to define herself in terms of more than her looks

I was tired. I was depleted. I was sick. I could not clear the fog that shrouded my every waking moment, from class to work, to my boyfriend’s house. I wanted to figure out who I was separate from my looks, my grades, my job as a fashion model, my pre-med coursework, and sexual prowess. Oh my sexual prowess. Sexual powers? Sexual promiscuity. My vagina was the one thing in my life that I felt I had control over that no one else could stake claim to. I didn’t know that I struggled with my self-esteem until I hit rock bottom—several times over. At that present moment, I was in my car contemplating driving it into the median. I was driving on the main street in the college town I’d called home for the past two years, wondering, “How fast would I need to accelerate in order to hurt myself badly enough to end up in the hospital but not kill myself.” I just needed time out long enough to find myself again. This was rock bottom moment number one.

I was exceptionally beautiful, talented and smart. At least that’s what I’d been told my whole life by my mother, who was enthralled by my looks, so much so that she didn’t realize how her incessant pressure to look “just right” when I would so much as go to the grocery store, planted the seed for what would grow into a decade-long bout of clinical depression. This seed was watered by the fashion industry, which I entered into at the age of 14, which told me I could make it big—even as a black American girl—if I could just lose 15-20lbs (especially from my butt and hips) and sign control of my body over to my agent in the form of a contract. I tried to grow my hair out once during this period of my life, go natural, relaxer-free, and was quickly reminded by my manager that I no longer had a say over what was done to my hair. I was to be a blank canvas, a clothes hanger, ready at a moment’s notice to become who or whatever the client wanted me to become. I could become anything but white. After 5 years, my inability to transform myself and body to fit the required aesthetic of the day, which was dominated by girls from Eastern Europe whose last names ended in –ova, limited how far I could climb here at home, so I was told I’d need to go abroad to hit it big.

I did not have a strong foundation of self-worth instilled in me by my parents. I wasn’t born with an innate sense of worth like my sister, who is three years younger and seemed to naturally have a strong sense of her inherent fabulousness. I, on the other hand, started to believe that I was only as good as my outfit, my makeup, the meal I cooked, and any other performance metric I was able to measure myself against. I believed I had to be the “total package” in order to be worthy of the things I wanted in life. And what I wanted more than anything was a loving husband and strong family. A happy marriage, free of the drama, threats, and the bullying I witnessed between my own married parents. I wanted to create a family free of the dysfunction that characterized my own in which my mother threatened to kill me (more than once), utilized verbal abuse (sometimes in public), picked fights, and belittled me in order to vent her own unresolved pain at the hands of her mother. I would never call my daughter a “stupid, fucking bitch.” There would be family traditions and holiday celebrations and me and my siblings would be close.

So I started hustling to be worthy. I avoided appearing weak, asking questions, or developing close relationships. I overachieved constantly which gained me acceptance into all 11 of the universities I applied to including my dream school, University of Chicago. I soon felt another blow to my self-concept, which made me angry at God, an anger I carried with me through the next few years of my life. I thought God would’ve recognized my hustle and rewarded me with the financial ability to go to Chicago. A place where I could reinvent myself and be far away from the family and the self I wanted to leave behind. But He hadn’t. In spite of having just won a national beauty pageant (and the car I was about to wreck), finishing in the top 10% of my class, getting my medical research published as a 16-year-old, I would end up staying in-state going to the University of Florida. This was the institution that recognized my hustle more than the others and was willing to give me a full free-ride with a little left over to prove it. Just 2 hours away from my parent’s house, I was pissed.

I erroneously believed that the hustle there would be just as easy for me as it had always been, that grades and accolades would fall into place with little effort, and that in spite of it not being my first, or even 10th choice, my college experience would be just like the movies, “the best years of your life.” Actually, they were the worst.

My first semester in college I got involved with “Dee” a 24-year-old “super senior” working to finish his degree. I was 17, lonely (I knew no one at my school), and angry. The relationship with Dee was abusive sexually, physically, and emotionally. It wasn’t until recently that I have been able to say “I was raped” because my low-self-worth “demons” had me believing for so long that the relationship, and the things that happened in it, were my fault. After I told Dee once and for all that I was done with him he started to stalk me. I’d be driving down the street on my way to class and look in my rearview mirror and he would be there in his car following me. Another time, I was at another guy’s apartment who lived on the other side of town and looked out my window to see his car there. I woke up the next morning to mysteriously flat tires. But hey, this is what college was all about. I deserved it, right?

At that point, sex, which I’d always esteemed as an experience to be shared with my future husband, and still did deep down inside, became my drug of choice for numbing the pain of the experiences with Dee, the failed grades I’d earned during my first tumultuous semester (which was another blow to the image of myself I’d carefully curated for so long), the lack of family support, and most acutely, the lack of love in my life which I believed was a direct symptom of me not being “good enough”.

My second rock bottom moment involved me laying in the trunk of a car waiting for my “friends” to make the drive back home from homecoming weekend at a neighboring college. These friends had, the night before, lain in bed in the room where I was having sex with one of the guys whose apartment we were staying at for the weekend. They continued to lay there while the roommate of the guy I was sleeping with came in the room and sexually assaulted me. I was so drunk that I couldn’t remember the next day whether it was a bad dream or if it had really happened. It wasn’t until I got up and walked into the room where all four of these friends and the two guys were already gathered laughing and joking about what had happened that I realized it was for real. One of them made sure to remind me later, “I told you not to sleep with him.” I guess in my drunkenness I hadn’t heeded her good advice. I lay in the trunk of the car until they were ready to go, thinking about how I’d gotten to this place, what had happened, and wondering if my life would always be this painful. Sadly, not only did I believe I deserved it; I got a sort of sick release from these painful moments. It was my own form of self-harm.

Well what I know now is that I didn’t deserve it. That those experiences, regardless of how tragically common they might be, are not par for the course, and that worthiness is not something you have to hustle for. Through those experiences I was able to see glimmers of my true self, the fun-loving, lover of life, inquisitive little girl who craves connectedness and close, loving relationships. That is the self that decided not to drive my car into the median that day, to finish my degree, to seek help for my depression, to drop modeling and pre-med, and go into higher education and become a counselor. That self is my new self. The self who understands that a lack of self-esteem was both the cause and effect of my self-destructive behaviors that dug me deeper and deeper into the hole of shame where I encountered rock bottom moments number three and four.

My self-esteem journey is far from over. It is a constant battle to control my thoughts and uproot old beliefs that pop up and say “You’re not good enough!” I never took the anti-depressants I was prescribed years ago for my depression. Instead, I completed nearly two years of weekly counseling sessions and I monitor my depression closely from both physiological and mental/spiritual angles. It is hard; the fight of my life. However, I am whole and I know who I am and who I am not. I am worthy of happiness, of love and belonging. I know that the family I want is mine to create, not something I have to hustle for. And these things, I am sure, I deserve.


Pretty Woman

It was the start of my journey. I was travelling the world and at 24 I was independent, full of life and head over heels in love. I felt like a woman now, no longer a girl. Two years prior on a Greek Island called Kos, I fell for a tall, muscular, dark haired and very handsome Scottish man. He had a charm to him that the girls went crazy for. I certainly did. I looked into his eyes that first night and I felt like I knew him, as though I’d known him all of my life. I was infatuated. A year later we met up in Kos again and he visited me in Manchester shortly afterwards. We talked excitingly about travelling the world together, our eyes sparkling with dreams. I moved to Scotland to be with him. It was a whirlwind love affair and we travelled for four months together before it fell apart in Melbourne, Australia.

When he left me I lost myself. No job, no money, no confidence and no boyfriend. I was heartbroken, it having shattered into a millions of pieces. I fell into a dark black hole where I felt as if my heart had been ripped out of my soul. I clung onto the memories of my previous ecstasy, and replayed them over and over in my head.

He had herpes and this affected his sex drive, so he often pushed me away. He would close his eyes and turn into what can only be described as a human statue. What was wrong with me? There was no communication and it was a continuous rejection when I was with him. I later found out that he was sleeping around with other women.

Rage, anger, depression: they took over my usual optimistic sunny nature and I hated myself for still loving him. It felt as though my confidence and self-esteem had hit an all time low, however in hindsight, there was much more to come. I closed up and grieved, cried and reflected. I felt ugly and unattractive. I would spend hours writing, just so I could try and make sense of what had happened. What had happened?

I had nowhere to go. I was on the other side of the world alone, with no money and found myself living in the home of an orthodox Jewish family, digging mud and cleaning for two and a half hours a day in return for accommodation. My support networks and everything I knew in my world to be familiar and comforting had disappeared. I had nobody. I realised that my life, my travels, my dreams had vanished. They were lost in the bottom of the ocean, in the depths of my despair, the unjust ending to my fairytale had been sourly written. Maktub.

I lied myself into a job as a food and wine taster for an upmarket restaurant which lasted two weeks until they realised I didn’t know what I was doing. During this time I bumped into a friend of mine who was making good money stripping. She seemed to be living a good life and able to afford whatever her heart desired. The seed had been planted. After an internal dialogue and debate that ensued for over a week, I decided I would follow suit. I was nervous but it I told myself it was necessary. I ran and worked out every day for two weeks before going for the interview at an upmarket strip club. I got the job. I was there for a month and averaged $3,000 a week.

I danced, I felt sexy and alive. Men were paying to see my body. I created a stage persona: Alexa, who was wild and free. It was an incredibly liberating experience. Men were paying hundreds of dollars for my time and I felt beautiful. The world was my oyster. Champagne and wine was on offer all night and the clients weren’t allowed to touch me. My confidence grew and I felt like a sexual goddess! Men are such visual creatures. All I needed to do was look a certain way, flirt, flatter them a little and in one night you’ve gained yourself a weekly wage. I thought all of my problems had been solved: I felt desirable again. I was able to save money and pay for a house share. Life was on the up.

Wind forwards a couple of months and I had raised enough funds to travel the East coast of Australia, Bali, Thailand, Cambodia, Cuba, England and Amsterdam. Eventually I returned to Australia broke again. Budgeting hadn’t ever been a strong point of mine. One of my best friends from back home, in England, was getting married and I promised her I’d be there to give a reading at the wedding. I had a few months to raise the funds and get back.

A male friend was working as an escort in Sydney and I knew he made a lot of money. If I could strip, I figured I could do this. Oh god, could I do this? I wasn’t sure but I needed cash desperately; there seemed to be no other viable option where I could make thousands of dollars in such a small space of time.

I knew about Sydney’s seedy Kings Cross prostitution district, which was definitely not where I imagined myself. I had knots flying around in my belly. Still deeply heartbroken, I hadn’t had sex with anybody in a long time. When would I get over him? I began reading books and watching television programs on escorting. It seemed glamorous—almost. Maybe I could do it? How else could I raise the funds? My gut was screaming at me not to but I needed money fast. I ignored it.

A few days later I started as an escort for a respectable agency in the city. Whilst my days were spent servicing clients in the business world as a marketing consultant (a real job I managed to get and keep), my nights were spent servicing a different type of clientele in an extremely special way. After my first night, I slowly began to feel more and more confident in my powers of seduction. Tricks of the trade were shared by other escorts and I used them to my advantage.

body and self esteem issues I began to see it as a social service—almost. Some of the men were incredibly rich and powerful and I was wined and dined in some of Sydney’s finest restaurants. They had everything but they weren’t happy. They just wanted somebody to talk to, to fill the void, to make them feel like a man, to be desired. I could empathise with that. I too wanted to be desired. The more money they had, the emptier they were. Money it seemed does not buy happiness. If anything, I concluded, it caused more problems.

Each client was different and taught me something about life, and about myself. The higher the potential for ones happiness it seemed, the higher the potential for self sabotage. Is this human nature? Are we always seeking something more? Does greed rule our existence? I was becoming philosophical.

I began to question life, I began to question myself. I was selling my body in return for money, a flight, an adventure, a promise. My body is mine, its precious, and I was letting complete strangers enter it for the sake of a dollar bill. I was confused because there was a huge part of me that said actually, this is ok! It made me feel bad because society looked down on prostitution. I realised that if the views of the world had been different, if escorting became the norm as opposed to a taboo, I would have felt good or at least better about what I was doing. Why should the world dictate how I feel about myself? I felt alive and sexy and simultaneously ashamed and empty. I realised that if I were to carry on this type of work for much longer, there would be a good chance I would become de-sensitised to sex and sensuality and it would affect my heart, soul, personality and future relationships. Everything was at stake.

By the end of the month I’d made almost $10,000 and my life views on politics, the sex industry and business had been challenged in many ways. I was a different person, a better person. I had time for everybody and stopped judging others. After all, I’d never walked in their shoes. I’d found a new respect for people, even if I didn’t totally respect myself. I saw the good in everybody because I knew what we were all capable of: good and bad, love and hate, we could be dressed in rags or bathing in riches. Alike in soul, diverse in outer experience, I saw us all as one: each human marked individually by life experience. The escorting had given me more humility than I ever could have imagined and I realised that money, in the grand scheme of things, wasn’t worth the evacuation of my self-respect. Sometimes we need what’s worst in us to achieve what’s best.

Jude was my last client. He looked at me and seemed to see through me. “Why are you doing this? Your too smart to be doing something like this?”

“I love it,” I replied. “I love meeting new people and I LOVE having sex, so why not?” I giggled provocatively and flicked my hair over my shoulder.

Jude looked at me with disbelief. “Why are you really doing this?”

I sighed. OK, he knows. “I’m doing it because one of my best friends is getting married next month and I promised I would be there, so I’m trying to raise the money to get back for the wedding. She means a lot to me and I never break my promises.”

“Self importance and self pity are two sides of the same coin, and you don’t need either of them in your life”.

I let what he had said sink in, and I realised he was right. Had I been wearing a mask all of this time? Why had I sold myself out?

We talked for hours, and after the first two hours which he had paid for, I decided to pay him back. Jude was giving me something much more valuable than money; he was helping me to reinstall my dignity. It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

“What’s the most important value?”

I hesitated… “Honesty.”

“I’d say it is sincerity. You can’t be honest if you’re not sincere”.

I smiled and reflected. He asked me what I wanted to do with my life, what I wanted to achieve. “I want to live an extraordinary life of excitement and adventure. I want to travel the world.”

Jude smiled. “You already are.”

Maybe he was right, maybe I was. Maybe we all are and we just don’t realise it. We always want more. If happiness is contentment, are we ever really content with what we have? I wanted to stop the escorting there and then. It wasn’t me and Jude had made me realise that. He brought out my true self again, my true values. I will always be indebted to him for that reason.

I quit the agency, had a thorough STI check and spent a week surfing, shopping and philosophising on life. I took three clients on for my new marketing consultancy business and decided to introduce a blank invoicing system. It was my way of being true to myself. I would send my clients a blank invoice, and they would decide my worth. Money after all, wasn’t going to buy me happiness.

Putting myself on a ‘sex ban’ for two months, I visited 6 countries before arriving in England for the big wedding day. I felt proud of myself for being there, staying true to my word. I felt on top of the world, like I was finally coming out the ‘other side’. Afterwards I visited another 7 countries, interviewing people from all over the world, and I realised that we all seem to be living our lives through love or fear. While learning about their stories, I started to love myself and life all over again.

Forgiving myself was the most important step I took towards a happy future. Whether it’s of yourself or another, I highly recommend it. Because we create our own prisons (in our mind), we are able to create our own freedom also. We’re all one. We’re all the same. We’re all amazing. Some of us just don’t realise it yet.

Self Esteem and weight issues

Hiding from Love

Self esteem story about a young woman dealing with weight gain as a result of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

By Dr Rebecca Harwin

At 17 years of age, I weighed 64 kilograms and inaccurately thought of myself as overweight, and many young women often do. I was then diagnosed with a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and within a year, I‘d added 20kg of unwanted fat to my frame. I begrudgingly struggled with this additional weight for a decade and a half.

This added girth was devastating for me. It reached its long unhealthy tentacles into each crevice and crack of my being. It altered the lens through which I viewed my existence, held me back from really living and sucked the joy from my experiences and relationships.

I began to wear unattractive tracksuits, mistakenly believing they hid the fat. I wonder, in hindsight, if really I was trying to go through life simply unnoticed. My menstrual period went on sabbatical for 15 years. I confronted the world with a face full of ugly spots, embarrassing excessive hair growth, exhaustion, and in some ways felt isolated by this illness. I was single for 13 years, and I look back and realise I avoided any chance of a romantic relationship because of the vulnerability and potential risk of rejection. My thoughts around my perceived undesirability then added to my singledom. The thoughts reinforced each other, again and again… After all, who would want me? I am ugly and flawed.When I looked in the mirror or saw a photo of myself, I saw an unfeminine figure staring back. She was hurting.

Over the years, I lost significant amounts of weight, only to unhappily re-find it again, and often some extra. Yoyo-ing is an apt term. I had to work so hard to budge a kilogram, and then I’d shoot a sideways glance at a piece of scrumptious chocolate cake and gain the weight back in a heartbeat. I’d get to the point where I’d often come to the conclusion that I’d rather be fat and happy, and give up my life of food deprivation and obsession. But I wasn’t happy. As soon as I ate like a normal individual, I’d “beef up” again as one of my patients once unkindly commented.

My weight and my self-esteem have always shared a close relationship.

I came to a point in life, at the age of 31, where I was tired of being single, over beating up on myself and finished with, in all reality, hiding from an intimate relationship because of my low self esteem. That’s when I threw myself, unabated, into the wide world of Internet dating. That’s when I met my now husband.

Apparently I used to comment daily about being unhappy with my weight, even after shedding some unwanted fat. I don’t recall the frequency, but it used to drive Dave to distraction. I tried dieting, spending time most days at the gym, I even took supposed weight loss medications, which only achieved a same weight more miserable me. In fact, with one of those medications the only thing I almost lost was my partner. The mood swings and depression they caused were horrendous.

Dave constantly told me I looked fine, that he thought I was attractive. Over time, something magical happened. I started to believe him.

The stress of feeling fat and unattractive melted away, and so did the excess weight, other Polycystic Ovary Syndrome symptoms, self-criticism and poor self-esteem. I’ve lost almost 30 kg and kept it off permanently. Five years ago, I walked down the aisle feeling beautiful and slender to marry my husband in front of my many loved ones, who had loved me regardless of my size or my perceived flaws and travelled from interstate and overseas to be there. My period returned, my skin cleared up, and my fatigue abated as well.

Looking back, I wondering if my weight didn’t subconsciously act as a form of protection. By staying overweight and believing I was unattractive, I didn’t have to put myself out there. Then I couldn’t be rejected, and my low self-esteem wouldn’t take a further battering.

What I discovered was, I didn’t need to live with low self-esteem. It wasn’t an accurate reflection of my worth, it didn’t serve me well and I was not alone. So many others were suffering too.

So my simple take away tid-bit of advice to help boost your self-esteem and live the life you deserve is to write yourself love letters, regularly. Schedule uninterrupted time to sit down with 3 blank sheets of paper and pen. Focus on your goodness, the blessings you bring to the world, how you contribute and matter. And write as if you were writing to the love of your life. You are.


Dr Rebecca Harwin is a bestselling health author and is currently writing her forthcoming book, ‘Healing Hearts, Slimming Bodies.’