I recently promised a friend that I’d dig up these absolutely atrocious pictures of us in spider T-shirts that we made for a class project back in the sixth grade. So I sat on the living room floor one night raking through album after album of old photos, and in the process, I got a photographic presentation of my life in review. From my first breath to my first apartment, every important event had been captured on film.
I started off cute… bald, but cute. Unfortunately, something went terribly wrong along the way. Actually, I think it was around 2nd grade. Maybe it was the glasses. Maybe it was the increasing unruliness of my hair. Maybe it was my expanding waistline. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good.
Here’s the thing. You know how you look back at old pictures and laugh at how dorky they looked? Well, usually, people wind up realizing that they don’t look worse than anyone else does. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for me. As I flipped through page after page of photos, it occurred to me… I really did look worse than everyone else. And it’s a drastic difference – noticeable to anyone. I’m embarrassed to think that I even walked around looking like that. And it’s not just the way I was dressed. Sure my clothes were awful, but they weren’t any worse than everyone else’s. We all wore tight-rolled jeans (or better yet, the kind that tapered at the ankle with the little zippers), lime green and hot pink socks (usually scrunched and layered together), T-ties, and airbrushed shirts. Those things were cool.
In spite of the fact that my clothes were the same as everyone else’s, I looked completely goofy! And it’s not just that “we all looked funny in grade school” kind of goofy, it’s really goofy. It’s like the “kind of kid who’s only attractive to her parents” goofy. Oh man.
Why am I telling you this? What I discovered, was that I had amazing self-esteem.
What’s funny to me is that I never felt like I looked worse than everyone else. I never thought I was an ugly child. I mean, I always knew I wasn’t as pretty as a lot of other girls in my class, but I never hated the way I looked. You know, they say hindsight is 20/20, and I must admit, it’s now clear that my sight back then was drastically compromised (evidenced, in part, by my enormous white-framed glasses)!
But in reality, I was so much better off.
What I would give for that kind of confidence now. I don’t even have the same hindrances that I did then. I no longer wear glasses as think as airplane windows. I no longer tuck my pants into my socks. I’ve learned that it is possible to blow-dry curly hair straight, and that hairbrushes are, in fact, our friends.
Armed with this, I should be so much better prepared to face the world. But I’m not. I’m more critical of myself now than I ever was then. Why is that? I want that confidence back. I’m not talking about confidence that I can do well in school, or be successful, or make friends, or simply be happy in life. I’m talking about confidence that I can walk into the world without people critiquing every aspect of my appearance. Confidence that people really would look for inner beauty instead of outer beauty. Confidence that my nose is just right, my hair is perfectly acceptable, and that it’s completely okay that my eyes practically disappear every time I laugh.
Don’t get me wrong - I don’t want to go back in time. I am so glad I don’t look the way I did then (I still can’t help but laugh when I think about how horrible I truly did look), but I do wish I could be as comfortable in my skin as I was then. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to get back to that point. I’m not even sure if it’s possible. A lot of things have changed since then. And maybe I won’t ever be that confident again, but I plan to do everything within my power to make sure that my children (and/or the children around me) have that same kind of confidence that I did.
Of course, it’ll probably help that I’ll make sure they’re introduced to contact lenses, hair brushes, and well-fitting clothes!