Monday, April 30, 2012

on self-esteem.

{photo by Annemarie Lawless}

I've been thinking a lot lately about confidence and self-esteem, about being real versus being beautiful, about feeling loved and accepted and wanted, about not caring what anybody else thinks.

I admitted last week that I've never struggled too much with my personal appearance. I didn't grow up with a mirror in my bedroom, didn't grow up knowing what anorexia or bulimia were until a junior high health class in which I watched a girl named Nancy bottle up her vomit in jars. (It was terrifying.) I've always just kind of liked myself, and I wonder why that is, why I kind of got lucky in that area and others didn't.

The other night I went over to my family's house for dinner. My "little" cousin is graduating from high school, and I was called over for input on invitation design, something I was more than happy to do since this weekend I missed her senior banquet and Senior Sunday at our church. (Guilt is a powerful motivator.)

We always have the greatest time at the dinner table, and in the middle of it all, my uncle interrupted.

"What does it feel like," he asked, "to be the person in the room that everyone wants to talk to?"

I laughed. "I'm not sure that's ever happened to me," I admitted.

My family just grinned. "It's happening right now!" my aunt said.

And I realized she was right.

I am like a celebrity over there. I don't deserve it. I am not particularly funny or intelligent or conversational. But they're my family. It's their job to think I'm awesome, even when I am really not.

And I began to wonder if that might have something to do with my confidence, if that might explain why as a scrawny, 80-pound 7th grader, I honestly believed I could one day play for the WNBA. I wonder if that's why I ran for 8th grade president against a popular, rather voluptuous cheerleader, or why I stood up to coaches and teachers and bullies and university presidents in unusual fits of boldness.

I wonder if my family's acceptance contributed not just to who I am, but to what I think about myself. Don't get me wrong: I have moments of doubt. I don't always like looking in the mirror, and growing up, I hated locker rooms as much as anybody else.

But deep down, I knew I belonged somewhere. I knew that no matter where I fit in at school -- whether I won school elections or made the team or got the grade -- I was loved. I had a place and a purpose and a home.

I wonder if family makes the difference in the battle for a kid's self-esteem. I wonder if one day, Jordan and I will have what it takes to raise happy, confident, Spirit-filled children.

I pray about that a lot, about our future children. Sure, I pretend to worry about having a scrawny, nerdy, less-than-cute baby or what to name our future little ones (my 70-year-old aunt has simply requested that I please avoid naming our child after any type of fruit).

But mostly, when I look around at the women (and men!) who I know and love who repeatedly feel "less than," I pray we have a child who knows they are redeemed. Yes, we are all broken. We are all flawed. We make mistakes and we hurt and we are less than perfect. But one day, I want my child to know, more than anything, that they are loved. They are accepted. They are appreciated. Their presence, their personality are needed in our home.

I want that knowledge to lead to their confidence and happiness, because I am becoming more and more certain that's what led to mine.


Anonymous said...

I think that is what the Kingdom is supposed to be. I place where you are accepted, encouraged, and applauded when success comes your way. May we all treat others with that kind of love and care. You are awesome.


Hailey Marie said...

Wow- my husband and I were just having this conversation yesterday, sparked by a mural alongside a local middle school that protests bullying- which has been making news a lot lately. We were talking about how parents and families are the biggest factors in how kids learn to deal with conflict, criticism, and confidence. I couldn't have said this better myself. Also- I too thought I could defeat the popular kid in the 8th grade presidential campaign. I made posters with markers and glitter and everything.

Kristin said...

I think you're right on target here Annie. Your home and family are a huge contributor to shaping who you are!

jenna said...

A thousand times "amen"!!! Amen, amen, amen!! I am so SO thankful that I grew up in a family that I know loves me and accepts me and values me!!! That has made all the difference, and if some of the parents of my youth group kids could only figure this out... if they could actually hear these words that we try to say to them... I know it would affect so much.

Erin said...

Yes yes yes. Family is so important, and I know for a fact that I am a more confident person because I have a family that thinks I'm worth an awful lot.
It is like Tina Fey's quote "I want to thank my parents for somehow raising me to have confidence that is disproportionate with my looks and abilities."

Lindsey Marie Greene said...

I just stumbled across your blog today, and I could not have needed to read this post on self-esteem more. Such a great topic laced with hope. Thanks for your honesty! It's refreshing.

Denise K said...

Hmm, this post was interesting to me because my family DID encourage me and tell me that I was destined for good things ...but my peers constantly ridiculed me. From about 1st grade (really) until about my second year of college (REALLY) I was made fun of, told I was ugly, told I was weird, dorky, and a slew of other hurtful remarks. I did not date boys. I did not go to parties. I had a few friends but they were dorks like me. I now struggle immensely with my self esteem, esp regarding my appearance. Sorry about this mega long comment but I'm just happy to hear that your family helped you overcome any crisis you faced in the world. While I came from a supportive fam, they seemed not to notice that I was struggling elsewhere.

annie said...

@ Denise - I think you bring up some interesting points, and I'll have to be honest: I wasn't teased a lot growing up. In fact, apart from a few "nerd" comments, I wasn't teased at all. I'm not sure why that is (I was never super popular or drop-dead gorgeous; I didn't date or have a large group of friends), but I know it was a gift. I think my family's support was helpful to me, and I hope that it would have still be helpful had I been bullied or teased as a child, but I guess the truth is that I just don't know. I do know, though, that aside from being comforting and supportive, my family is also ridiculously honest with one another. There really aren't many secrets (for better or worse, lol) in our family, and maybe that helped too. If a girl was mean at school -- because goodness knows that's pretty universal, right? -- my mom knew about it, and she knew what to say to make me feel better. Maybe that honesty and openness with one another also contributed to my confidence.

Skin and Blister said...

This post just made me cry. My little boy is three and I hope with all my heart he feels how you describe as he grows up!

Erin said...

I think family has been central for me to. And the family of Christ should be a big confidence builder, too. I think you guys will be fine as a mom & dad! Being thoughtful is huge!