Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Self-Esteem, PCOS, and All That Flab: Part 3
* This is part 3 of a series of posts that explore my struggles with self-esteem, weight, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and the very difficult task of trying to be my fullest self in a world that constantly demands more than what I am. Because this subject is so vast and most of my life has been spent swimming in its waters in some form or another I thought it best to break it up . . . also so as to not bore you to death!
Some of you may not be able to relate, but I hope that you will find it interesting anyway. And perhaps you will be better able to understand someone in your life. Some of you may be able to relate and I hope that you will know that you are not the only one -- that the journey may be long, but progress is progress. Remember that no matter how small it may feel, you still are not the same person that you were yesterday. And that is something to celebrate!
For Parts 1 and 2, please scroll below . . .
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It's taken me many many years to begin piecing together the array of events and people that influenced my struggles with self-worth. I'm still trying to find those last few pieces to make the picture complete. I suspect that I will always be searching for just one more. I was reminded of some of those key pieces that I had forgotten, as I was perusing through a journal of mine the other evening. My journals are very random and scattered in their frequency. I have never been consistent in that area. I tend to write a lot more the darker I feel. Writing has always been a tremendous release for me -- a great comfort. This particular journal that I was reading through was from the end of 2004 and beginning of 2005, which is when I finally began making significant strides in pulling myself out of the filthy and adamant rut that I had been in for about 12 or 13 years.
In July of 2004 I had a couple major revelations of some aspects of the causes of my low self-esteem. One of my cousins and his wife and kids came to visit my family. We were having a great time. I was hanging out in the kitchen with my mom and my cousin's wife. The two began talking about one of my other cousins, whom is a few years younger than me. It suddenly hit me that, contrary to what I had always thought of as my first blow to self-worth (getting dumped by my first boyfriend in 5th grade), I had repeated blows earlier, which involved my cousin and my grandparents.
I have always felt, that in the eyes of my extended family, especially my grandparents, she was the perfect child. And I equated that as meaning she was better and more valuable than me. It was easy to play the comparison game because we are the only two granddaughters on that side of the family. I don't believe that anyone ever meant to make comparisons between the two of us. They maybe never even thought about who was better than the other in different areas. I know they loved us the same and still do. But I always felt inferior to her. All I ever heard about, especially from my grandparents was how wonderful my cousin was . . . how smart, how talented, and these days, how spiritual and godly. I didn't hear anything similar about myself. Perhaps they talked about me the same way to other people. But I wouldn't know. I never heard it.
This has made me realize just how important it is to make sure you tell people how you feel about them -- tell them directly, rather than to someone else. It has made me work harder to try to always tell my nieces and nephews how much I love them and how wonderful I think they are. And this is something that I will try so very hard to do with my own children, when the time comes. It was not so much the things that were said to me that built my empire of self-hatred. It was the absence of things that I needed to hear and didn't.
One of my most powerful memories was when I was about 7 or 8 years old. The whole family was staying with us for Christmas. My cousin and I, along with my aunt, gathered in my parents' bedroom, planning out the performance that we were about to debut to the rest of the family. Once we were ready we filed out into the living room and did our rendition of "I'm a Little Teapot." I don't remember anything specific that was said, only that it was all about my cousin. They praised her up and down for how cute, adorable, and talented she was. Granted, I understand that that is what happens with a toddler, in comparison to a kid in middle-childhood. That's the norm and it's human nature. But it still hurt. It hurt because I didn't feel like they cared about me or that I mattered. I felt as though I might as well have not even been there.
It was pretty much always like that. My cousin lived in Minnesota, close by to my grandparents, so obviously they saw her with much more frequency. It's no surprise that they knew her better and were closer with her. But somehow not being surprised didn't seem to lessen the pain. I have never had that close of a relationship with any of my grandparents. One of my grandfathers died a few months before I was born. And the remaining three all lived out of state, which meant that visits were few and far between. There is an immense void in me because of the lack of closeness . . . one that is still quite painful. And now, only one of my grandparents is still living.
While I was growing up I felt as though my grandparents didn't seem to try tremendously hard to reach out to me and get to know me. That hurt . . . to feel as though my grandparents never really cared that much about me, or were very interested. To think that I wasn't worth their time or effort. That is a pain that I didn't really understand or know I had until that July afternoon. In my heart I know my grandparents loved me deeply. I just needed them to show it a little more. I truly believe that they did all that they knew how; they would have never purposefully tried to make me feel these things. They would probably be heartbroken if they knew the negative impact some of their inactions had on me. I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad about having a hand in my struggles. No one had a greater hand in that than me. I hate, in some ways, to even write this and put it out there into the public forum. But in order to fully reveal my issues I have to be honest about all the factors that have contributed. I have to be prepared to share some of the uglier and more private stories. But it's not with the intention to hurt; it's with the hope of helping.