I’ve had self-esteem issues ever since I can remember. I can’t exactly pinpoint when they started, but I do remember my neighbor’s mom sitting me down in front of a mirror when I was around 12 and forcing me to tell myself that I was beautiful, because she recognized that I didn’t particularly like myself. In college, I would sit in the corner of bars and cry in public because of how ugly I felt (obviously, there was also a large amount of alcohol involved because well, it’s college). At some point in my sophomore year of college, I realized that it had been about a year since I had looked in the mirror. I had even learned to do my makeup and hair without it. It took an entire summer of weekly cognitive behavioral therapy to get me to look in a mirror again, but I still often find myself avoiding my reflection for weeks on end.
From a rational standpoint, I know I'm generally pretty. I have good skin, nice hair, expressive eyes, and other attractive features, but I’ve also been struggling with weight since high school. I’m somewhere between overweight and obese, though thankfully my weight is distributed throughout my body, so I don’t look as heavy as I am. I’ve always blamed my self-esteem issues on weight, but my earliest memories of feeling shitty about myself are from when I was around 10-years old and back then, I was the thinnest and shortest girl in my class.
I remember how utterly inadequate I felt at 4th grade dances. When the DJ would play songs like Aerosmith’s "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing", my friends would immediately have dance partners and I would always be left alone. I even remember slow dancing by myself, holding out my hands in the air as if placing them on someone invisible’s shoulders.
This loneliness and feeling of inadequacy was a running theme throughout my teen years and my early 20's. I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 23-years old (and only because I pretty much begged a guy who showed mild interest in me to have sex with me), I’ve been on maybe a total of 10 dates throughout my entire life and the closest thing to a relationship I’ve ever had lasted about 2 months and a half.
A couple of years ago, after meeting a new co-worker, I started questioning my sexuality. After months of a sort of toxic friendship/tumultuous emotional relationship with her and TONS of retrospection, I figured out that she wasn’t the first woman that I’d had feelings for, and that none of the men that I had encountered throughout my life had really interested me all that much. So, at 26-years old, I came out to my family and friends.
Coming out was cathartic, as it usually is for people, and it made me realize a lot about myself. Mostly, it made me come to terms with the fact that a lot of my self-esteem issues were deeply rooted on my internalized homophobia. I had always had gay friends and grew up in a very liberal household, but I think subconsciously I didn’t want to be gay myself, and it was making me think less and less of myself as time passed.
It’s been two years since I came out, and I can confidently say that my self-esteem issues have significantly improved. My anger at the world and at myself has dissipated and I no longer dislike myself. I have moments of insecurity, but overall I enjoy my own company, which is a feat considering I used to have ongoing suicidal thoughts.
Now, as I am beginning to truly understand myself, I feel lonelier than ever. If the thought of dating and being alone forever scared me before, now it’s terrifying, because it feels real. Before, I just couldn’t picture myself being happy in a relationship with a man, hard as I tried, so I blamed myself and my “ugliness” and self-esteem issues for my perpetual single state. Now, I know that being with a woman would make me happy, but I can’t even fathom dating anyone. I’m afraid it’s just never going to happen for me. And maybe I need to come to terms with this, or figure out the root of my fears (and since I’m so overly analytical, I’m bound to do just that very soon).