I've often wished my friends could both see themselves as I do and believe the marvelous things I see. So many of the people I know don't have faith in themselves, and few realize how impressive they truly are. I've been told that's true of me, as well.
I don't know when I lost my confidence. I think it was gradual, starting in middle school right around the time I was first bullied. Apparently it didn't show; I walk tall and pretend I am more confident than I actually am (fake it 'til you make it), but for years my foundations slowly eroded until I had no faith in anything about myself: intelligence, parenting, friendships, writing, my job. Above all I never believed I could accomplish anything. I've been embarrassed for years about the disappointing trajectory of my life.
I hit rock bottom around December of last year. I considered walking away, abandoning my current life. I thought about suicide a lot, even knowing I could never do that to the people I love. (As the child of a suicide I know something of the aftermath.) I thought about getting counseling, even though the last counselor I went to essentially told me I was being ridiculous. I almost opted for pyschopharmacology, which again would require going to a counselor.
I don't know what shifted, but in January I took control of one aspect of my life: my health. I started eating better, exercising, and getting more sleep. I started to feel better about my physical self. Then, instead of just griping about a toxic situation I was in I allowed myself to be irresponsible for once and walked away. With the encouragement of a new/old friend, I gave myself permission to stop trying so hard to make people like me. And I've started taking ownership of my life again.
I still have a great deal of rebuilding to do. It's been more than twenty years since I saw myself as someone worthy of friendship. Those doubts still creep up on me regularly – the bullies of yesteryear are unwelcome residents in my mind. However, I'm trying.
This month I have been graced with a glimpse of how others saw me for my first twenty years. As part of my college re-application process I went looking for some very old records -- IB and SAT scores in particular. My mother, bless her, had not only those but all my report cards from kindergarten through the end of my years at UWC. In each document someone had written a few words summarizing their experience with me. I read through them with tears in my eyes. I was described as bright and delightful to teach. Instructors saw me as a leader, a teacher, an intelligent and enthusiastic student. They believed in me.
For years my biggest fear has been that I am a completely forgettable person -- reliable, dependable, but the person in your yearbook you don't remember at all. I've been surprised by the outreach on Facebook from people I barely knew. Maybe I just need to see myself through their eyes.