“Remember yourself as a little girl, she is counting on you to protect her.” -Olivia Penpraze
I found the above quote while late night scrolling through Tumblr. I was deep in the shadows of my 23-year-old-post-grad existential crisis. With a BA added to my resume, I thought my future was clear. But after the months turned into years of not finding a job in a field I thought I wanted to be in, my clear future was darkened with the stormiest of clouds. I connected my self worth with being successful in a career I hadn't even started. So I let myself sink. It wasn’t until I tried to be happy again that I realized how miserable I had been. Drained by the fears of my unknown future, I was immobile, which led to the late night scrolling through Tumblr and Netflix binging + actual food binging. As I drowned out every emotion with entertainment, and swallowed each pound I gained, I smothered the little bit of self esteem I had had tucked away.
When I scrolled past this quote, I thought back on myself at different stages in my life as if they were different people than myself. The goofy happy kid whose thick glasses were too big for her face with a bucket of close friends. I miss those girls. The pre-teen whose body blossomed before she was ready. Could you imagine being 11 years old with a C cup!? She loved her body but not the attention it garnered from old dudes and mean girls accusing her of stuffing her bra. I remembered the preteen who lost her father so suddenly and tragically. Her laugh was louder than her cry. Maybe that is why no one hugged her. The girl in high school who met every challenge and soared so damn high academically and socially. The college student who struggled both academically and socially but didn’t try hard enough to improve either. The temp. If any of those versions of myself met me today, would I have made them proud? Would I make them hopeful for our future. If you’d asked me this question a year ago, my answer would be a flat ‘no.’ I was stuck on a loop of temp jobs with no passion for life and canceling plans with friends so I wouldn’t have to leave my house. I’m 26 years old, so I’m no beacon of wisdom. However, we can all learn something from each other, regardless of age or background.
All of our lives and their stages are full of stories to share that will make someone feel a little less alone.
While I work hard to build my self esteem, a lesson I’ve learned is that self esteem comes from within. You can have everyone cheering you on, but if you don’t believe you can succeed, you won’t. There is no external source that can encourage you the way you can. I used to know that the light guides you through life comes from your own soul for only you truly know what your heart desires. But the most important aspect of self esteem is bravery.
Self esteem is Bravery. I know who the happiest version of myself was and I know who was the saddest. The bravest version of myself, I think, was the girl in high school. Please do not think for a second that given the chance that I would do high school again or that they were my ‘glory’ days. Those days are still ahead. That I know. I would however, like to have just a little more bravery like I had in high school. Like being the actual fattest girl in a tiny private school but still trying out for cheerleading. Smiling through every basketball half-time show while wearing a skirt that was actually two skirts sewn together. Coach didn’t know I knew. But I did and it hurt to think I was the size of two cheerleaders. Still, big smile, stiff arms, ready? OK! Did anyone know how scared I was? Like feeling I’m not worth looking at but still auditioning for the school play and taking drama classes. Standing on a stage thinking all anyone can see is how fat I am but still delivering my lines with as much character as I possibly could. Having severe dyslexia so working extra hard to learn each line perfectly. I had found that bravery somewhat in college when I joined a sorority and choosing to stud a subject I didn’t think I was smart enough to understand.
Through every ounce of fear I felt on that gym floor or on that stage, I still just did it. I didn't let fear take hold. When I told my friends and my mom that I was going to cheerleadering try-outs, they laughed. Not maliciously. But because it was something that seemed so far out of the ordinary for me. It was! And it's exactly why I wanted to do it. I wanted to push myself. Every practice, every routine, every game I was scared. I remember there was this one game when the captain and co-captain were home sick so I had to lead our squad. I was used to being the back row. I put on a wig! I'm not kidding, I went to the drama department, took a blonde bob wig and wore through the game. I laugh when I think of it!
But all it took was some bravery.
To have a desire to succeed even if you're scared.
At the age of 15, I forced myself out of my comfort zone every day I walked down those hallways. I should be able to do it now.Through self doubt, body shaming, self negligence, I had suppressed my true self. The girls I remember as separate from me have always been in me, buried deep in my soul. I can love my body again - As is. I can be brave again by focusing on my goals rather than my fears. I can be happy again by living as freely and openly as a goofy kid with glasses too big for her face.
Yes, remember yourself as a little girl, she does need your protection. But remember that she can also protect you.________________________________________________________________