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A young person is standing in front of a plain, white wall, smiling with her eyes closed and both hands held up to her heart, like she is giving herself a hug.

Older and Wiser

mental health self-esteem therapy Sep 29, 2023

Written by a CSUCI student.

Growing up I had very low self-esteem. I believe this came from school bullies and family always picking on me about anything I would do. My mom was always comparing me to others, especially her friend’s daughters because we were all the same age, yet they always had better grades and stayed slim due to sports. I don’t think my mom realized that the more she would compare me, the more I wanted to do bad things. After high school, I would drink every weekend, was always going out with friends, and started running away from home with an ex-boyfriend. I was always being told that I needed to dress better, I needed to do better and how could I be with someone like my ex-boyfriend and I never understood what any of that meant because the way I was being told was in a negative manner.

At school, boys would always make fun of me because I had more arm hair than the usual person, but I’m Mexican so what can we expect? They always asked why I had so much and would just laugh, and this made me extremely self-conscious, and I did not show my arms at school until about the 6th grade when I decided to shave them. Little things like that made me have low self-esteem and me being so young, I did not know what it was. It’s also a reason why I grew up being so shy, I did not want attention on me because I did not want to deal with people looking at me and seeing any insecurities of mine. Being so young and having to deal with people belittling you takes a toll on a person because we think we are doing good for ourselves and then someone just shuts it down and you’re back at step 1.

When I turned 25 I decided to talk to a therapist, and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. This started because I found myself settling with men who would treat me like an option and never gave me my place as a woman. Men were constantly walking all over me, telling me I’m too sensitive, and getting mad at stuff that a partner shouldn't be getting mad about. My breaking point was when I really started to like this guy who would make it clear he did not want a relationship and I was constantly asking him why he wouldn’t just give me a chance. I felt like I was begging for something that I shouldn’t be begging for. My therapist told me I had very low self-esteem and that before I even started looking for a relationship, I should fall in love with myself first. This is where my journey to self-healing and self-love began.

To help me boost my self-esteem, I continued therapy for a few months, and I talked to my therapist about everything. I would ask so many questions about why I was the way I was and if I could ever feel better. I started to really listen to their advice, and I noticed just how much happier I became. I started to read books to help me with my anxiety, I started to work out to help boost my endorphins, and I started to isolate myself from people who only hung out with me to drink and party. This of course did not happen overnight, and it took a lot of self-reflection. The hardest part for me was saying no to those “friends” who only wanted to drink and party. After a while I saw that they did not invite me out at all anymore, which was fine. I did talk to them again one time and I told them that I don’t want to do the club scene anymore and I would appreciate it more if we went hiking, had breakfast dates, or even dinner. Setting boundaries for myself was always difficult because I was such a people pleaser, but when I finally stuck to those boundaries it made me feel empowered and it felt like I was really respecting myself.

I figured people who truly want to be my friends will not be hurt or upset at my boundaries, but they will understand and accept that we are growing up and there is no need to constantly drown ourselves in alcohol. I wanted to change my life for the better and I wanted to fall in love with myself because I never wanted to feel disrespected or give someone the power to hurt me. I was working at a supplement store where most of my co-workers were big gym people and they really pushed me to go to the gym, and this is exactly what I had been talking about. I wanted to surround myself with people who pushed me to do better, people who pushed me to a potential that I didn’t know I had. Joining the fitness community was one of the best decisions I had ever made. Not only was I learning to love myself internally, but my physical appearance was changing for the better and that brought up my confidence even more. I had people telling me how much healthier I looked, and how positive I sounded, and it meant the world to me because at some point I was so lost.

From 21 to 24 years old, I didn’t understand what it meant to love yourself, and I was always kind of afraid that I was never going to find out what that meant because I thought I already did love myself. The truth is, I was just masking my true feelings, I was embarrassed to show just how insecure I was and how intimidated I was of women who I felt were a threat or could expose me to who I really am. Now, I don’t need to prove to anyone who I am because I know who I am and that I am a kind and confident person. All this wisdom that I have obtained came to me throughout the years that were my toughest times. Growing older is not as bad as I thought. I love that I am wise now and I can pass my knowledge to other women or younger girls who maybe feel the same way I did.

If I can recommend something to young girls, it is to talk to a therapist. Speaking to a therapist does not mean something is wrong with you or that you have stuff going on in your life. A therapist can help with improving your life, can help you unlock new levels in your life that you didn’t know you could achieve, and give you advice that you can apply in the future. Breaking generational trauma is another way to boost your self-esteem. Creating an environment where you’re constantly learning new things and figuring stuff out is an amazing way to make yourself feel better. The more knowledgeable you are about the world, the more people find you interesting and want to talk to you because you offer amazing conversation, and bring a sense of peace to their life which makes people appreciate you.

I really wanted to cover this topic because I feel that a lot of young people but especially girls/women feel the same way I did. A boy makes you feel unappreciated and suddenly you feel that you are not worth it. I just wanted to remind them that there are so many boys out there that will treat you like the queen you are, and you should never let one boy lower your self-esteem. Always be sure of yourself and be confident in being alone because that’s what makes women powerful. One day the right man will come along and make everything you have suffered from disappear and he will show you what true love really feels like. Also, setting your boundaries does not make you a bad person, and if they think you are a bad person, then they are just people not worth being around you. Always put yourself first, walk away when something or someone is not benefiting your life, and find something that is going to satisfy your every need. That is what will make your self-esteem blossom and thrive!