Reflections on that Letter

The Dove Movement for Self-Esteem still has me thinking. There’s something about it that’s lurking on the edges of my mind, slipping away as I try to think about it. So what do I do? I write, to try to get it to sit still for long enough for me to really look at it.

Let’s just say I got that letter when I was thirteen. Was it what I needed? Would it have gotten through to me?

Probably not. I needed someone to hug me, hold me, and tell me it’d be okay. Someone to point out to me that I kept giving those girls who laughed at me fodder by my own actions (as in, stop singing songs from Les Mis on the bus to yourself, and for heaven’s sakes Susan is trying to reach out to you and you could help her too).  Some of the letter might have settled quietly in my mind to whisper encouragement to me now and then, yes. Especially the part about people changing the rules so you can never win.

Okay, so lets say I somehow wrote the perfect letter, got it to the thirteen year old me, and ta-dah, the 13 year old me has an epiphany. Suddenly, she’s full of confidence, doesn’t question herself or her place in society or her abilities or her beauty. Or her ‘worth’. Wow. Imagine the possibilities.

But wait.

There’s not a lot I would change about my life, and really? None of how I felt when I was 13 is really something I would go back and change. Because that strife, that struggle, that awful not-good-enough or less-than-them feeling is part of who makes me me. Sure, I might’ve made different choices. No, it was not pleasant to say the least. But would I be happier now? I doubt I’d have Cameron, that’s for sure. Would I have any clue how strong I really am? Possibly not – because much of what demonstrated that strength to me never would’ve happened.

Part of what brought about my current self-esteem is the lack of self-confidence, the self-doubt, the not-pleasant-feeling moments (hours … days … okay, years) of teenagehood.

You have to question who you are, where you fit in, how good you are, how strong you are, in order to really know who you are and believe it. It’s similar, in my eyes, to a child learning to walk – if you want to run, you’re gonna have to fall down a few times. Or a four year old, who has to push boundaries, often full-tilt-piss-off-mommy velocity running headlong into them, to really believe that they’re there. You need to feel those emotions and experience them in the relatively ‘safe’ forum of teenage years, in order to learn how to deal with them later in life, as an adult. That stage serves a purpose. Yes, in some cases it becomes maladaptive, and parents, teachers, caregivers, relatives, friends, doctors need to be aware of that. And this supposes that the arena is relatively safe, that the kid has a support network of loving family to fall back on, and if that is absent, then that is a problem that needs to be dealt with.  I think you’d be doing girls a disservice by completely eradicating those times of less (or no) self-confidence.

It’s a legitimate feeling. Just as telling someone to not feel sadness when they lose a loved one, or anger when someone wrongs them, isn’t helping them to cope, I don’t think that removal of the feeling of not measuring up is helping them to cope.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the Dove Movement. I’m all for people supporting each other during hard times, and I probably could’ve used some outside help in coping as a teenager from someone I trusted and felt close to. Although I’m sure it was offered and available, but I wasn’t able to accept it. Mostly I think I’m shifting my perspective a little. I think I was on the right track when I advised myself to just listen and absorb, tuck the knowledge away for later. And writing the letter was a great exercise in perspective, and evaluation of where I am now with self-esteem.

Thoughts? Men too – I know there are some guys out there reading, and I’d be interested to hear your take on self esteem. Heh – I know people from the Ogilvy Group and Unilever have been popping by to read – this is your campaign, I’d love your input too. Don’t be shy!


One response to “Reflections on that Letter

  1. I feel exactly the same way!
    I think I read your post, thought about what I would change about my past, and came to the realization that if I gave myself “concrete” (vs abstract) advice to make my past easier to live, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.

    Maybe I’d be someplace better – say, medical school. Or maybe I’d be someplace worse – which is more likely, as there are TONS more bad alternate futures than good ones out there. But even if I took the best case scenario and achieved what I had wanted to, I don’t know if mentally, emotionally and psychologically, I’d be a better or stronger person.

    My past has made me who I am today, and it’s given me insight into other people and society around me. There were some bad times, but they were learning experiences!

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