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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, ‚ÄúThat’s OK. We didn’t want you in the picture anyway.‚ÄĚ

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, ‚ÄúCheese‚ÄĚ loudly with my arms around my friends‚Ķ¬†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.