I had absolutely no self-esteem from day one as a child. My earliest memories of my childhood are memories of being teased starting in sixth grade by my peers and it continued throughout the rest of my childhood and adolescent years. This phenomenon is significantly worse today in a variety of ways than it was then, but it definitely took a serious toll on me. The reason the teasing began is because I started attending a new school in sixth grade. The reason the teasing continued throughout my childhood and adolescent years is because I heard the same mean and nasty comments from the same kids day after day for years, which caused me to believe that they were true. In short, the teasing turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy, which means that if you hear the same comments repeatedly, you believe them to be true.
At the age of ten, I already knew I wanted to help people in a specific way, but I was too young to articulate the specific way that I wanted to help people. Even though I was too young to articulate it, I wanted to help people develop healthy levels of self-esteem and confidence to prevent bullying. In sixth grade, I had a math teacher I really liked and I performed well in his class. However, I will never forget him because of one incident. One day in his class, he was upset with us for some reason and started raising his voice at us saying things like, "If you don't like yourself, then no one else will like you either," and "If you don't like yourself, you won't have any friends." He "lectured" us with statements like these for most of the rest of the class.
These statements really affected me to the point where I pondered them for a long time afterwards. I kept thinking to myself, "I don't like myself, but I have friends," "I don't like myself, but it seems like I have friends," "I don't like myself, but other kids like me," and "I don't like myself, but it seems like other kids like me." I had these thoughts because it was typical at that time for kids to go outside and play after school in their neighborhoods until it was time for dinner. Since I went outside to play after school with the other kids in my neighborhood, I thought I had friends. I mistook "playing with other kids" to mean that other kids liked me and I had friends.It was like a big puzzle or word problem that I couldn't solve immediately or for a long time. It was a conundrum.
However, as I continued to ponder the statements made by my sixth grade math teacher, I came to the realization that just because the kids in my neighborhood played with me doesn't mean they liked me or that they were my friends. The teasing, which is called bullying today, continued through junior high and high school. I did not make any real friends until I was in high school. The only reason I was able to make friends in high school was because the kids from two junior high schools merged into one high school. So I was able to make friends with some of the kids who came from the other junior high school that I did not attend. The kids who came from the other junior high school did not know anything about me or the teasing I endured. They did not know that the majority of the kids with whom I attended junior high school did not like me and teased me. In a sense, I was a "clean slate" from their perspective, which enabled me to make friends with them, even though I still had not developed much self-esteem.
Because of being teased over a number of years and the teasing becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, I developed very little, if any, self-esteem during those years. Even though I made some friends in high school, the teasing that became a self-fulfilling prophecy culminated in severe depression. The teasing/bullying did not stop until I went away to college.
Early in my teenage years, I discovered the music of The Who. Until that point in time, I thought and felt like, I was the only one who was depressed and never had any real friends. In spite of this, I smiled most of the time around other people, including my family, to hide the pain. When I discovered The Who's music, I discovered that there were an infinite number of songs that made me realize that I wasn't the only one who ever felt despised, left out and depressed. In this, I found hope! It was because of songs like "How Many Friends" (The Who By Numbers), "Had Enough" (Who Are You), "I've Had Enough (Quadrophenia), "Is It In My Head" (Quadrophenia), "Behind Blue Eyes" (Who's Next), among many others that I found hope. Since I had "hours only lonely," I spent much of my time in my bedroom with the door closed laying on the floor with my head between my relatively large speakers with my eyes closed, and the music of The Who cranked up. I don't know where I went but I would let it transport me.
I knew I wanted to go to college and I knew that I wanted to go to a college out of state so that I could start over where no one knew me or my history of being teased. I reversed a sociological concept called the Looking Glass Self without any knowledge of the concept. I pretended to like myself so that I would make friends. As a result of making friends, I was able to develop some self-esteem so that I no longer had to pretend to like myself. In other words, "I faked it til I made it." It was then that I knew that I wanted to help people with their self-esteem and confidence.
In college, I discovered sociology which provided me with a world view and helped me make sense, not only of the world around me, but of the teasing I endured as a child and adolescent. I earned my Ph.D. in sociology and was a college professor for over ten years. Sociological research shows that when women dress up and accessorize their outfits, they feel better about the way they look, which in turn, means that they feel better about themselves. When they go out into the world feeling better about themselves, they will be noticed in positive ways (i.e., they will be complimented), which in turn, will help them to find their voice and ultimately become more confident. Increased confidence will empower them to be, do and achieve anything they want in the world.
Sociological studies have been conducted where the very same people, like Mary Jones, is treated very differently by the same people depending strictly on how she looks and how she is dressed. For example, when Mary Jones interacts with John Smith for the very first time wearing shabby clothes, no makeup, and without her hair styled, John reacts to Mary in very negative ways because of his judgment of her appearance. When Mary dresses up, wears makeup, styles her hair and goes back to meet Joe for the second time, he doesn't even realize that she is the same woman from the day before and reacts very positively toward her so much that he hires her for the position for which she interviewed! Of course, she turns it down because he reacted to her so negatively the day before and because she is going to establish her own business based on her passion for helping people!
Someone very close to me is one of the smartest and most unpretentious people in the world. At one point in time, he decided to stop shaving to grow a beard and since beards take time to grow in, he looked a little unkempt while it was starting to grow in; while it was stubbly. Because is so unpretentious, he primarily wears jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. During this time, he was living in New Jersey and spent a lot of time in New York City. He took the bus to go into the city and to return to New Jersey most of the time.
One day, he found himself in Grand Central Station dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, sneakers and a stubbly beard because he was letting it grow. He became thirsty and became aware that he was thirsty, so he walked into one of the establishments in Grand Central Station to purchase a soda. The guy behind the counter took one look at him and said, "It's going to cost $1.00 you know." The guy behind the counter was judging him strictly based on how he looked with his stubbly beard, jeans and t-shirt. The guy behind the counter was judging him for looking unkempt. The guy behind the counter assumed that this man asking for a soda was one of the many homeless people who hang out and sleep at Grand Central Station.
When I was in graduate school, I attended and presented papers at several conferences. I am not a morning person, so when I had to book flights that left early in the morning so that I could arrive at my destination by a reasonable time, I rolled out of bed, threw jeans and a top on without showering, putting makeup on, or styling my hair. By the time I arrived at one of my destinations for one of my conferences, I was really hungry so I checked into my hotel room and went straight back downstairs to an underground level of the hotel where there were stores and restaurants. I was seated by a hostess/waitress who seemed nice enough and I had an uneventful lunch.
I brought a very dressy, St. John's suit with me to this particular conference because I was on the job market by this particular point in my educational career and was planning on dressing up to the max the next day in my suit. The next morning, I did just that; I showered, dressed up in my suit, put makeup on and styled my hair. When I went back to the same restaurant less than twenty-four hours later, the same hostess/waitress seated me/waited on me. She didn't seem to recognize me though, so I asked her if she recognized me. She responded with a tone like "Should I recognize you?" She asked me, "Why, who are you?" I told her that I came into the restaurant and that she seated me/waited on me yesterday, not even twenty-four hours ago. I reminded her of the time I came in the day before, what I was wearing, what I ordered, etc. to remind her of who I was. When she finally remembered who I was, she was completely and totally shocked! She did not recognize me because she said I looked THAT different today from yesterday. To her benefit, she did not treat me any differently the day before BUT she was shocked at how differently I looked all dressed up.
Unfortunately or otherwise, it is precisely because people judge each other in both positive and negative ways that we either develop a healthy level of self-esteem or not. I truly believe that lack of self-esteem is one of the major reasons for the lack of love, kindness, compassion and respect in the world today. When you don't love yourself, no one else will love you either. By helping one woman at a time to become more confident and empowered, I can help to change the world to be more kind, loving, compassionate and respectful.I help you to increase your level of self-esteem and confidence, and ultimately help you to empower yourself so that you can be, do and achieve anything you want!