Dealing With the Anxiety of Feeling Ugly as a Child


I hurled the brush at the mirror, satisfied when it made a loud sound. My face was red, and the crying had started five minutes before that moment. Staring at my reflection, I felt ugly.

I was 7 years old.

Many struggles with self-esteem began at a young age for me. Nothing seemed
right. My face wasn’t the right shape, and my nose was too big. My smile before braces was an orthodontist’s financial dream waiting to happen. To
top it off, I was shorter than most of my peers.

Surrounded by family and friends all of the time, I was not socially isolated. I had good friends who I laughed and played with.

Not many knew how I felt about myself.  Most of the time, I was ashamed to say it out loud, preferring instead to beat myself up over my insecurities.

This outlook had an impact on a lot of aspects of my life that would stay with me for many years. Picture-taking was an absolute nightmare for someone with this kind of anxiety and low self confidence. I avoided looking at the camera whenever possible.

Sometimes people would say, “That’s OK. We didn’t want you in the picture anyway.”

It wouldn’t change my mind, even if that was what they were trying to do. How could I say out loud — that I didn’t want to be the one to ruin the photo?

Magical moments popped up every so often when I did feel beautiful. Happiness had a way of taking over. I would smile and say, “Cheese” loudly with my arms around my friends… not a care about how I looked.

Until I saw the picture. The doubt would creep back in like tiny voices that just Would. Not. Give. Up.

Looking back, it breaks my heart. I hope my children never feel that way about themselves.

Through the years of growing up and surrounding myself with different people and experiences, my self esteem grew and took on a more positive role in my life. I began to look back at old pictures and think they weren’t so bad after all. The self-doubt is still there, but I fight harder to be mentally stronger. I have kids now, and my son likes to grab my phone and take pictures. He thinks his mom is beautiful so I smile and just say…”Cheese.”

One day, I want him to look back on it and remember how beautiful we both were.

For me, I don’t need to see the picture. I know it’s perfect.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to your teenaged self when you were struggling to accept your differences. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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