Bullying at school, in the workplace or elsewhere effects our self esteem.

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.

scars and self harm


Self esteem story about a school boy who self harms trying to control his life

We all have scars in different places–they are like a roadmap of our history. Sometimes, we get scars from a mere paper-cut, while sometimes an unforgettable expedition leaves a particular scar on our body. But not every scar has such a happy story behind it. Some scars come from the deepest parts of us – our depression, our darkness and our insecurities. Some scars are not left by time, but are left by people, which are always the hardest to heal.

I have always been a very average looking guy, a boy next-door. I don’t come from a mysterious background that would set me apart from everyone else. I went unnoticed for much of my life. But I was happy with that; I had peace in being average. In a world, where everyone is trying to be someone else, I was myself and I considered that as an accomplishment.

As I grew up, I realized that life is unfair and not all your dreams can come true. When my own classmates started bullying me for apparently no reason, I realized that not everything in this world is our choice. When my own friends joined the bullies club and started picking on me, I realized that people can change, and can leave you in a heartbeat. When I fell in love and got rejected, I realized that some people can stay only in your heart but not in your life. But what I didn’t realize, was with that every rejection, my heart was literally and physically breaking into pieces. I didn’t realize that every time my own friends, with whom I used to play hide-and-seek in kindergarten, were picking on me or calling me by different names, my sense of self esteem was falling down. And oh, it did! It fell down to such an extent that I even forgot I was once content.
I thought about self harming a lot of times, every time they told me that I wasn’t “good enough” or “smart enough” or “rich enough”. But I didn’t. I thought that it was wrong. One day they told me that “this world would be a better place without you” and that “No one, not even a single person in this world would cry if you were dead”. The stupid thing is, for a moment, I believed them. I believed everything that they said, and not only that, I came to accept it.

So the thought of self harming kept oscillating in my mind, because I understood that my absence would make this world a better place. But I didn’t cut myself, maybe because I didn’t have the guts at that time, or maybe because there was still some last fragment of self-esteem left in me. Maybe I still had an ounce of hope.

I continued walking on a tightrope for almost a year, when the unthinkable happened and my rope broke. I was forced to walk barefoot on broken glass. I didn’t have any friends at all. My best friend was my grandfather. So when I lost him to the finality of death, everything around me changed. I lost control. Even gravity could not hold me together.

I had no one at all to talk to. A whole new level of depression engulfed me. I started to self harm. It felt wrong in the beginning, but how could something so relieving be wrong? I didn’t start to cut my own skin and let myself bleed because I wanted to hurt myself. No!

I started to self harm because I wanted to be in control. I was living in a world where I felt I couldn’t control a thing. I couldn’t stop people from leaving me forever. I couldn’t stop them from bullying me or calling me names. I couldn’t even stop my thoughts in my own head. So, in a world which was full of uncertainties, there was only one thing that I was able to control. Cutting. I knew where to cut and I knew how to cut. I knew when to stop. Ironically, cutting was one thing which was making me feel happy. It was making me take control of my life. Or at least I thought so.
I didn’t cut myself every day. It wasn’t a daily chore or a hobby. I would cut whenever depression would start taking its toll on me. It was one of the last days of my high school, when I had a bad fight with someone. I walked straight to the bathroom, rolled my sleeves up and cut myself with a razor blade. I didn’t know at that time that it would be my last.

I was familiar of self harming, but something was different that day. Instead of cutting my upper skin, I put a deep cut to my vein. Blood started to ooze out of my wrist and it didn’t stop. I first tried to cover it with a band-aid, but the dam had broken. When I knew I couldn’t stop the blood, I put a cloth over the wound to cover the bleeding and called my parents, who were sitting downstairs.

I don’t exactly remember what happened afterwards, as I lost consciousness. I woke up after some time in a hospital bed. I didn’t know how I reached there or who brought me. But I knew I was alive. And that feeling was life changing. I was so overwhelmingly happy that I was alive. For one moment, I thought I could do anything. I believed I could fly. And so I did.
Up high!

I took control of my life after having that near-death experience. I saw my parents and I realized how much they had always loved me. I saw my own reflection in the mirror and I realized that I don’t need anyone else to make me feel happy. I could dance my way on my own.

I have always been a one-man army and it was my time to shine. I became the writer of my own life, and stopped listening to what other people said about me. After all, it was my life, not theirs. I always wanted to be a writer, but my insecurities wouldn’t allow me to be so vulnerable and raw. But I was a whole new person, and so I penned a novel about my past.

The novel was published and did so well that it was declared a national bestseller. With every step I took, a small part of my self-esteem was regained. I was a brand new me, with an astonishing amount of confidence.

I was successful. I was living my dreams, but still something was missing. And I found my last piece when I met a reader of my book, who came to me during a signing event and narrated to me her entire story. She told me about how she used to self harm and was close to committing suicide. When she read my book, she told me it had changed her life. She said she was alive because of me.
Her words mended my broken heart back into a single well functioning organ. It was healed. My sense of self-esteem was replenished.

I never cut myself after that incident. Some of my scars are gone, but some of them are still with me and I wear them courageously like a battle-wound. Some scars can really change your life. They changed mine at least.

I’m happy now, more than ever. It took me a long time to realize I don’t need the entire world to define my existence.

I exist. I exist and that is more than enough for me.

Purple colour for sensory depravation disorder

Coming to Your Senses

Self esteem story about growing up with undiagnosed sensory processing disorder

By Sharon Heller, Ph.D

I have a PhD in developmental psychology, taught college for many years, and have published four books with New York publishers. Yet, growing up I always thought I was dumb and my family constantly confirmed this. It took years before I perceived myself as otherwise.

I would often say or do stupid things that my family found hilarious. For instance, I had a tummy ache and my mother gave me a bottle of Alka Selzer which dissolves in water. I put a capsule in a glass of water and waited and waited but it didn’t fizzle. I complained to my parents. They looked at the glass and broke into hysterics. In place of the Alka Selzer, I had placed the Styrofoam cap on the bottom of the bottle into the glass. In home economics we were taught how to make an apron. Once I had my apron cut out, the teacher told me to cut out the pocket to sew on top of the apron. I cut out the pocket from my apron which now had a gaping hole!

As a child, I loved school but typically averaged only C’s, except in math which I routinely failed. It seemed to take me longer to understand and complete my work than other students. And when people spoke to me, I often responded with a question about something they had already told me. “Hi, I’m Susie, I live a couple blocks from here.” “Hello Susie, do you live close by?” I froze when the teacher asked me a question and often had to ask friends to repeat what the teacher had said. My family and friends thought I was out of it — spacey! Stupid. A dreamer.

I was good in athletics. Yet, I lost every tennis match and later, in my 20’s when I took up racquetball, lost virtually every time I played that as well. I assumed that unconsciously I must want to fail. What else could explain my constant confusion?

How did all this affect my self-esteem? At grammar school graduation, I signed my best friend’s autographic book “goofy.” Goofy! I was 14 years old and had just read Dostoevsky’s grand novel, The Brother’s Karamazov. In fact, I never had a book out of my hands and by 15 had read most of Freud’s works. Goofy! Hardly. But this is how I perceived myself.

So what was wrong with me? Well I did eventually find out, but not until age 50. Until then I just felt smart but dumb. And this was terrifically confusing and made me feel incredibly inferior to my peers. Why would anyone even want me for a friend except the losers like me? Indeed, the few friends I had were those even more inept than I.

I have sensory processing disorder, a common condition in which sensory messages get scrambled in the brain. This causes a “traffic jam” on the sensory highway, and you cannot make sense of or respond appropriately to your world.

In my case, I had slow auditory processing and it took me awhile to process auditory information. This is why I froze when a teacher asked me a question, why it took me longer than others to understand oral directions and, at times what was being said to me.

And I had visual processing problems. My eyes didn’t work together which made it difficult to accurately perceive my world. I saw the world as a haze. This created a delay in reading comprehension and difficulty in making sense of what I saw – the Alka Seltzer and the apron! And it explained why I lost every tennis match — I wasn’t seeing the ball!

I also had mild sensitivities to noise, smell and light and this, on top of the visual and auditory issues created anxiety and stress.

Fortunately, I am now an expert in sensory processing disorder and have largely overcome my issues.

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If you are facing similarly confusing thinking patterns, you may wish to get an evaluation from a pediatrics occupational therapist trained in sensory integration.