When I was 14 -years old I had the worst case of acne and I was about as skinny as a bean pole. To top it off I had bucked teeth which just added to the whole package. At 14-years old, boys my age had one, and only one, mission and that was to attract girls. This was the start of High School and aside from figuring out how you were going to hide your bad grades from your parents, who you would date was the only thing more pressing.
I was the kind of kid who just wanted a girlfriend. I was happy being in a long-term (as long-term as a 14 year old could have) relationship. Fortunately, I managed to attract enough of the girls that I did have some of those relationships. Whether or not I was in a relationship though didn’t matter much. Every day I was self conscious about my looks. I grew up on the east coast where it wasn’t unusual to have sweltering 95 degree days with 95% humidity. Those days where you wish you could walk around with a fan attached to your forehead. However on those days I’d be the kid, and the only kid, wearing pants. I was so self-conscious about my “chicken legs” that I couldn’t stand the thought of someone seeing them.
Being called, “skeleton” and “bones” wasn’t uncommon and it wasn’t unusual for an attractive girl to walk up to me and ask why I don’t eat. Oh I ate…I could eat pretty much anyone under the table but my metabolism was so high none of it would settle. I remember laying awake at night in bed wishing I was fat. I remember putting my hands over my stomach and then working my way down to my protruding hip bones in disgust. I wished I was fat because I was convinced I could just run or lose the excess weight somehow. Gaining weight for me was just not an option and I was reminded how horrible that was every day.
The acne was bad too because that wasn’t something I could cover up with pants. Shame would wash over me when I walked down the halls thinking about what “they” thought. There were times when I felt like I was wearing an ugly mask that I just couldn’t take off. I would go out of my way to avoid people and cut conversations short just to avoid others looking to closely. I was barely even listening when they were talking as I was too busy wondering what they were thinking of my zit covered face.
Smiling sucked at 14 because I was the one in the front of the class cracking the jokes. Can you imagine what it’s like to try and make others laugh and laugh yourself all while not smiling? I did a lot of those “lips closed” smiles. There wasn’t one single time I smiled that I wasn’t conscious of it. Not one smile.
I loved being the center of attention but hated actually receiving it.
The irony of this doesn’t go lost on me. I was a young boy covered in shame and left with false beliefs of not being good looking enough, not being tough enough, not being loved enough, and just not being enough. I longed for the love I wasn’t giving myself and that love took shape in the form of attention. I sought that attention but when I received it my shame came right back and spit in my face. It reminded me how “not enough” I really am and wouldn’t allow any of that attention and ultimately love in. The shame did a great job of keeping me in my darkness.
As I got older the pimples went away, the teeth straightened (did the braces thing twice!), and I gained the weight. The problem was the false beliefs were still there. Every morning I woke up and put on my glasses of “I’m not good enough”. This is how I saw the world and anything that happened meant I’m not good enough. I would get cut off on the highway and it meant I’m not important. Someone would say, “No” to me and it would mean I wasn’t good enough. I would say,” No” to acting on my own dreams because I knew thought I wasn’t good enough.
I learned that the shame I carried my whole life didn’t have anything to do with how I looked. I knew it had to do with the false beliefs I started to live my life by. It didn’t matter what I looked like. It didn’t matter what clothes I wore. It didn’t matter what girlfriend I had, what car I drove, how much money I made, or how popular I was. None of that mattered.
The greatest determination of my own self-love had nothing to do with the things “out there” and had everything to do with the things inside of me! Unfortunately those “things” were all covered up with my own shame and false beliefs that I carried from early childhood. One day (okay, this took years and is still a work in progress) I decided I wasn’t going to carry this shame anymore. I learned that the shame I carried was the shame of others. I gave back that shame and gave back all those false beliefs. I would tell myself daily that…
I am enough
I am good
I am beautiful
I am precious
I am intelligent
I am powerful
I am strong
The lies that fueled my false beliefs were being replaced by truths that were fueling my authentic self. The self I was born as. The one that had all those qualities I longed for. Today, I’m about 25 lbs over weight, my dark hair is turning more salt-n-pepper, and my eyebrow hair is growing faster than the hair on my head. Yet, I walk with my head high seeking only healthy attention. When the attention comes I accept it and receive it with love. I no longer worry about what others think of me and know that it’s literally none of my business what they do. People say, “No” to me and I celebrate the Yes they gave themselves. I listen when other speak to me as my attention no longer needs to be consumed on my self-worth. Life is so different and it’s filled with love, lots of love.
It’s a daily practice and I know it’s about progress and not perfection. I still do have my days when I forget that I’m not those lies I used to tell myself. Though, today I’m quicker to catch it and remind myself of the truth. If there’s one thing I know it’s this…
You are ENOUGH as you are and there’s nothing you can do to make yourself more or less enough, you just are! I know this to be true about you because I know it to be true about me.