Self Esteem

I've written a lot about girls: the way we dress, the way we act, the way we treat each other. But there is something even more important that I never thought to write about until now: the way we treat ourselves. Because, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I can count on one hand the number of women I know who don't have some issue with their self-esteem.
I never realized it until I got married.
I knew I wasn't the kind of girl who thought she was the greatest thing around, because those girls drove me crazy. I would watch them, wide-eyed, as they demanded attention from everyone. Those girls said things like, "My hair looks great today" and "I am really good at ____". I just wasn't that way. I thought that was being conceited. I didn't realize that I could have used a huge dose of that kind of self-esteem.
When I got married, my husband started to notice my poor self esteem in a way I never had. I told him "funny" stories about some of the boys I dated in high school and the way they treated me. He watched my interactions with some of my friends, the way I got nervous before I was with them and how all I cared about were my looks. And one day he asked me, as gently as he could, "Did you just not have any self-esteem?"
It had honestly never occurred to me before. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. A lot of the problems I had in all my relationships, whether with boys or with friends or with family, really came back to me not feeling that I was worth much.
I knew the things I was good at. I knew that I had friends, that I was generally well-liked. Yet, those weren't the things I ever focused on. Instead, I thought about the people who had been unkind to me. I thought about every negative comment I'd ever heard about myself. The comments about my looks, my intelligence, anything negative I ever heard or even assumed someone thought about me slowly knocked down my self-esteem to nothing. I spent way too long in front of a mirror worrying about what I was wearing or if my makeup was perfect. I didn't enjoy my time with my friends, because we were all doing the same things: sucking in our stomachs, putting on lipgloss, fixing our hair, counting down the minutes until we could go home and relax.
I wasn't myself.
Myself was hidden somewhere deep inside, somewhere where people couldn't find it and hurt it. I left only the superficial things out in the open. I was careful who I shared personal things with, because I learned that most people didn't care. 

Once I realized all of this was going on, I started to notice it all around me. In the way we act defensively towards each other, the way we always assume someone is mad at us or doesn't like us. The way we write people off, and get angry about trivial things. The way we keep our friendships light and superficial, never letting anyone get too close. I know, it sounds like a bad Nicholas Sparks novel, but a lot of us are living it every day. We don't give ourselves nearly enough credit for being the wonderful people that we are.
So I decided I had to do just that. I had to give myself credit.
The first thing I thought of was writing. Writing is the one thing that I know with any certainty I can do well. Ever since I published A Place Like Heaven (this is me and my mom at my first book signing!) I slowly lost that confidence. People, well meaning people I'm sure, told me all the things I should have done differently. Rather than announcing from the rooftops that I was 18 years old and had a published book, I would get embarrassed whenever anyone asked me about it. What's worse, I would start apologizing. "Don't read it! I don't even like it, there is so much I would change."
Which is exactly why it's taken me 5 years to get this far with a novel again. And this time, no apologies. I am a good writer, and I will be proud of what I do.
For years I have had a passion for Photography. I still get apologetic about this one, because these days everyone and their dogs is a photographer, so it's lost all it's clout. It's not a "special" hobby to have. I'm not a real photographer. 
Except that I am.
It's an art form, so I really can't be doing it wrong. And what's more, I love it. So who cares if a whole bunch of other people do too?
I'm good with kids. I've been a nanny for years, and I'm planning on finishing school so I can be a teacher. I love working with kids and it's something I've been doing since I was a kid myself!

But do you see what I mean? Even the things I know I'm good at, I doubt because someone, once upon a time, might have told me that I wasn't as good at it as I thought. I wish we could all have the confidence we had as kids, knowing that we could grow up to do anything we wanted, encouraging each other on the way because it's so much better if our friends make it to the top, too.
I don't know why it happens this way, just that it seems to be a mass epidemic, and it's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking to look around and see the people that I love not seeing themselves as amazing as they really are. It's sad to think of your kids growing up to be shy and careful with people because they don't want to be cut down. It's frustrating to think of things that I put up with in the past just because I thought that I deserved it.
I wish I could tell you I had some secret formula to fix it. The truth is, once your confidence gets broken down, it's hard to build back up. So all I can say is, be extra careful not to be the person breaking down someone elses self-esteem. Let's do all we can to build each other up. Because, honestly, it's the people around me that give me my self-esteem. Not my talents, not my religion, not some mantra I chant in the bathroom mirror every morning to convince myself I'm great. It's my family and friends and the people I interact with every day that make me see myself the way I do.

So be extra choosy about who you have in your life.
Make a list of the reasons why you're awesome, and look at it when you notice you're beating yourself down.
Look for the good in others, and I promise you'll start to see it in yourself, too.


  1. I'm super funny and have a great butt, thanks anndee!

    1. Hahah Carrie SOOO was not referring to you, those were my favorite moments as roomies. :)

  2. It is like you were in my head!! Great job. :)