One look at me and you would never think I grew up thinking the lowest of myself. You would see an athletic, courageous young woman. Maybe you would even be slightly intimidated by my sheer amount of experience despite my twenty-something-something years on this beautiful planet.
But for every great compliment I have received, I used to have one million reasons well up in my mind about why I do not deserve that kindness, about why I suck at life. This is all due to growing up with a severe inferiority complex, but I have overcome that lack of confidence and fought my low self-esteem. And I am here to say that you can too.
Feeling inferior did not happen automatically
I was like most cases: there was a past trauma or series of traumatic experiences that affixed to me an unshakeable sense of inadequacy. These false beliefs festered in the back of my mind, intermingling with a depression that clung to me parasitically. But what had been so terrible to cause me to develop in such a way?
I will echo what two therapists have asked me in the past: What was your relationship like with your family? I sat two sessions with two very different psychologists and came to the same conclusion that it was the environment in which I was raised.
For academics, this is the ‘nature versus nurture’ condition we hear about and witness throughout our daily lives. Now, I am not blaming my parents. They are not the sole providers of my low self-esteem.
Growing up, I was a picky eater
This was mainly fostered by a mom wanting me to be happy and not complain, as she’s not one for controversy. The poor dietary habits of the grandmother from my father’s side – bacon, Burger King, butter and fruity Tums for treat added to my malnourishment. I was also alone most of the time.
Granted there were adults around, but for the longest time, my best friend was the family German Shepherd. Asthma kept me from joining any sports; and I was always getting flack for being overweight, slow and uncoordinated. Can I also mention I had braces for several years, glasses for near-sightedness at an early age, and vomit-inducing levels of anxiety?
Read also – 11 Ways to Change Negative Body Image
I always responded with a pessimism
Like every unpopular wallflower wants to be friends with the ‘cool’ kids, I sought out some of the biggest cliques throughout the school. These tragic encounters with the cool kids paired with commentary from family put a dangerous strain on my psyche. It did not matter how I succeeded, I believed I was crap. Friends could say amazing things, and I would respond with a pessimism.
Here are the negative comments I encountered on a daily basis:
- Valerie, can’t you do anything for yourself? Alternatively: Why can’t you do anything right?
- You should be ashamed that your mother has to call the restaurant to find out if they serve chicken fingers and French fries.
- I don’t know why you can’t eat like normal person.
- About the time you reach high school, you are going to be 200 pounds with all the starch you eat.
- You took out the trash? I’m surprised you knew where it goes.
- Yeah, Valerie is awesome. Awesomely smelly.
- Valerie, your thighs are huge.
- If you want me to be your friend, you have to do this or give me that.
- She has nice tits. I’d do her.
- I can’t believe someone actually has a crush on you.
- You can’t do that. You are too fat/too stupid/too naïve/too gullible/too weak.
- You can always get liposuction when you’re older.
- Here! Try these diet pills (or Slim Fast).
- I don’t know what to do. The kid’s a mess.
The first love taught me to see another side of these weaknesses
In high school, I started keying in on these issues. It took one fated meeting with someone I would entitle ‘First Love.’ He was everything I wanted to be – athletic, sarcastic, talented. More than falling in love, I was inspired to become an individual just like that.
He never seemed afraid to seize the day. The amount of respect this first love gave me taught me to see another side of these weaknesses. More people like him have entered my life to teach me valuable lessons. And although many of them have come and gone, the empowerment remains etched in my heart and mind.
The inferiority complex still returns once in a while
Since then, I have had my ups and downs. I have suffered terrible blows that made me think I deserved death. Yet here I stand, recollecting the moments that have made me stronger. The inferiority complex returns once in a while to mumble insecurities in my ear, but I have an invincible counterattack.
Watch me. Watch me do everything you say I can’t do. Watch me surpasses the limitations of your short-sightedness. Watch me go out on my own in the world, paving my own path, breaking the rules, building mental and physical muscle, and cultivating that weirdness in an irreplaceable version of Valerie. I am me, despite all my insecurities and fears. I have chosen to achieve rather than to truckle.
Read also – 10 Ways to Develop High Self-Esteem
So if you want to overcome your inferiority complex, repeat after me: I am not the sum of my faults and weaknesses. For every weakness, there is a strength. Behind every crack is a new view. I can aspire, transcend and achieve my dreams.
Everything you are, everything you have done – someone out there is looking up to your right now. Someone out there believes in you. I believe in you. So be a star. Shine bright, and never, ever lose that light.