Words by Hollie K. McCollister LPC
As a child and adolescent, I was always involved in something physical: swimming, biking, horseback riding, gymnastics, softball, etc. I was always encouraged to run and play. In the sixth grade, I was the first girl to “develop,” and that brought a whole new set of problems with it, not to mention the attention of all the boys in my class. I began to slouch and cross my arms a lot, which resulted in my mom buying me a soft brace to improve posture. In addition, she would walk up behind me, grab my shoulders and pull them back. I was just trying to get away from the attention that these new breasts were bringing on. Once I hit junior high and joined a new group of friends, my physical activity declined and I put on some weight. Alcohol and drugs made the pain of judgment go away temporarily. It got to the point that my mom was constantly commenting on everything I put into my mouth. And what effect did that have? I just ate more. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was really struggling with my weight. And the vicious cycle continued. Always thinking that everyone was looking at and judging me, the drinking and drugging continued to compensate for my feelings of inadequacy and failure. This behavior continued on through my first couple years of college. Once I started to excel in college, I found that I was feeling better about myself.
Let me go back to my father. From a very young age, about age 6, I never heard him say the words, “I love you.” I grew up questioning his paternity, always thinking I must be adopted. I didn’t look anything like my sisters, thin with dark hair and olive complexions. I’m naturally blonde with blue eyes and fair complexion. Well, this father of mine was NEVER satisfied with my performance in anything. I would bring home 5 A’s and a B, and the only comment would be about the B. I would play him a song on my guitar, and his comment would be that it didn’t sound exactly like it did on the radio. The derogatory comments and disdain were constant throughout my life. As a developing young woman, these comments and overall attitude towards me did a number on my emotional well-being and self-esteem, as you can imagine.
The effects of my “daddy issues” and low self-esteem were huge pertaining to relationships. I constantly picked partners that were unhealthy for me, and ended up with two short-lived failed marriages after college. In between marriage number one and marriage number two, I moved away from my hometown, and found myself in dire financial straits. I dropped down to a size 5 because of lack of funds for much food. A group of friends that I made there were in the same situation so we would go to the back doors of grocery stores, and wait for them to throw out the bruised fruit and day old bread. For a while, it was the most substantial part of my diet. A positive effect of this was that I quit focusing on the outer me and started focusing on the inner me. I came to the realization that it didn’t matter what size I was; what mattered most was who I was. That was my point of epiphany!
Now, some years later, I have learned to take care of myself and not depend upon others approval of what I look like. I try to eat right and stay healthy, and more importantly, take care of my inner being by doing affirmations on a daily basis, reading everything I can get my hands on, and surrounding myself with dear friends and family, and of course, my four dogs who love me unconditionally.
As a therapist, I’ve worked with many clients who have esteem and body image issues. Some of the books that I’m using in my practice that I’ve found to be very helpful to myself and clients are:
The Self-Esteem Workbook by Glenn R. Schiraldi (Sep 9, 2001)
The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Build Confidence and Achieve Your Goals by Lisa M. Schab LCSW(Jun 1, 2013)
Ten Days to Self-Esteem by David D., M.D. Burns (Mar 17, 1999)
If you have self-esteem and/or body image issues, they don’t go away by themselves. But I’m here to tell you, that it takes WORK to recover, and if you’re willing to do the work, it’s WORTH IT!! And I’ll leave you with this quote:
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. There are plenty of people willing to do that for you. Do your best and surrender the rest. Tell yourself, “I am doing the best I can with what I have in this moment. That is all I can ever expect of anyone, including me.” Love yourself and be proud of everything you do, even your mistakes, because your mistakes mean you’re trying.
If you feel like others are not treating you with love and respect, check your price tag. Perhaps you subconsciously marked yourself down. Because it’s YOU who tells others what you’re worth by showing them what you are willing to accept for your time and attention. So get off the clearance rack. If you don’t value and respect yourself, wholeheartedly, no one else will either.”
― – Unknown
Hollie McCollister is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She is currently President of the Mississippi Licensed Professional Counselor’s Association and President Elect Elect of the Mississippi Counseling Association. She is married and lives at her home with her spouse and four dogs Bella, Bacchus, Buster, and Booboonoodle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.