Contributor note: This guest post is written by my 18-year-old daughter, Jelise. She is sharing her story to remind moms how hard it can be to accept yourself and develop a healthy body image, especially in the digital age. But, as moms, we can also be a powerful influence on our kids’ self-esteem! Here’s her story:
Nobody likes to be the odd man out in anything. Well, I felt that all of my childhood, and it wasn’t from my family. It was from the cruel kids at my school. Being a child in the digital age sucks! That’s the best way I can put it. Everything is online in an instant, and you don’t have time to process your feelings. I always felt that I was not good enough, or I was not pretty enough to fit in. Let me say it again: being a child in the digital age SUCKS!
All I wanted to do was be accepted for who I was, flaws and all. But nobody saw past what was in front of them. If they had just taken the time to learn about this funny, creative, loving, sensitive, and compassionate person, they would have loved me. Maybe I would have, too.
I never knew what it was to be accepted outside of the family. That takes a toll on your self-esteem, and so food became my friend. Every time I had a rough day, I went to binge on anything of substance in the house. So, of course, the weight piled on, and I became more anti-social and withdrawn. Darkness was a safe haven for someone who craved companionship. I did not care about the weight anymore or the image that went with it. This went on for four years. I saw what I was “supposed” to look like, but I could not motivate myself to get there.
Then Junior year happened. My mom and I went shopping, and I saw her try on a ton of clothes that she did not like. You would think that this would discourage her and me, but at that moment, it made a light bulb go off. It brought us closer together. She never once said anything negative about herself, made herself sad, or went home to binge on snacks. She laughed at the top being too tight on her big ol’ boobies (that’s what she calls them, lol). My mom had a great time and felt confident no matter what she was in, because she loved herself, imperfections and all!
My mom has always been my hero, so if she could be okay with the skin she’s in, why couldn’t I? That’s when I began to do my make-up most mornings for school, dress in clothes that did not have me looking like I woke up in my pajamas, and I did not worry too much about what people said. My mom told me the trick is to not let words hurt me too much and to keep laughing. When you do not let others see you upset, and realize that they are just words, it gets easier one day at a time.
My body is not where I want it to be right now, but I am working on it step-by-step. I know that I have value just as I am. So to the young girl who is thinking she is not pretty enough: you are absolutely beautiful, inside and out. We can’t allow others to dictate what we think of ourselves. We are in control of our bodies. Never let anyone take that power from you!