One message I received loud and clear was that I wasn't smart enough (my perception of the message....and, yes, there is a difference!). I can look back on the messages now, with adult eyes and 54 years of experience, and better understand the intention. Like, the first time I made the honor roll in 6th grade....
I came home, jubilant at the news. What I heard was, "That's great! Your cousin made high honors!" The intention? Most likely just sharing good news in an effort to celebrate both successes. My perception? Even when I make the honor roll, it's not good enough. If I made C's, they should have been B's. If I made B's, they should have been A's. The intention? I believe they were simply encouraging me to be the best I could be. My perception? Nothing I do is good enough.
When I was around six years old, and chubby, in the midst of trying on a new dress, I was told I (my body) was "solid." Not healthy or attractive, but solid. I'm not even sure what "solid" meant in this instance. I'm sure (I think) it was meant as a compliment. But the actual words weren't as important as my perception. What I heard was, "Your body is not OK as it is." Unfortunately, it wasn't the last of messages like that. There was the mom of a friend who called me "Fatty" when I was at their home (I was about 15% over ideal weight for my height/age). Then there was the guy I knew in college told me, "You'd be so pretty, if......". In my case, the "if" was lose weight. But the "if" doesn't matter. What matters is that there's an "if" to begin with. NEVER listen to the "if." You are pretty/handsome. Period.
Of course, I took over where they left off. For years, every time I passed a reflective surface, whether it was a mirror, glass or super-shiney marble or metal, I looked at myself and said, "You're fat, ugly, and disgusting." YEARS. This isn't an exaggeration -- none of it, I'm sorry to admit. The good news is that it has been years since I last abused and degraded myself like that. What, me? Body issues?!? Nah...... And I have said any number of things to myself when I've made a mistake or stumbled in some way. Things I wouldn't say to my worst enemy. Another "solution" for me was to twist myself into a pretzel for other people. Just tell me what you want me to be, and I'll be it! As long as you're happy..... After years of twisting, I lost Claire. I had to find me......without the internalized messages.
I started with a sign. A 4" x 6" laminated, calligraphied sign. It lived in my bathroom so I would be certain to see it every day. I needed to read it every day, to combat the negative messages, old and new, in my head. There was no author attribution, but whoever wrote it helped save my life. It reads:
I am a precious, valuable, worthwhile, healthy, lovable-loving, forgiven-forgiving, perfectly-imperfect woman-child of God and I am enough!
It still lives in my bathroom (it's probably at least 20 years old) and looks like hell, but I love it. And because I love it, and because I NEVER want you to feel like you're not enough, I created a variety of signs for you (two for the ladies, two for the guys)....just in case you need one. And don't forget to laminate!
For the ladies:
For the ladies:
For the gentlemen:
Have you received messages that you weren't good enough (totally untrue, by the way)? Do you give yourself those messages?
Have you been there?