You’re fat…. you’re stupid…. you’re ugly…. you look like a boy….
These are just some of the messages inside my head. The voices repeating these messages don’t belong to me but they’ve been in my head from past experiences for so long that I don’t know how to banish them out of my head.
I chatted to my mom about it recently, she thinks I’m nuts. But obviously, we’re all a product of our life experiences, both positive and negative, they shape who we are and impact on how we see ourselves, most especially as children.
The messages I received growing up have made me profoundly aware of how I speak about myself and to my children. What I say to them could have a far reaching effect. My words will shape who they are and how they see themselves.
When I was in Standard 1 (Grade 3 now) I had a horrid school teacher who repeatedly showed me, through both her actions and her words, that I was stupid. She told my parents to take me out of mainstream schooling as soon as possible and send me to a trade school because I lacked the intellect to amount to anything worthy (in her eyes) in my life. That message has stayed with me, even too this day.
I am stupid.
In my family, I’m pretty much the odd one out, I don’t look like my sibling or my cousin, they look a like, I am the exact opposite of everything that they are. My brother, as brothers do, spent his early years telling me I was ugly and that my face made him feel sick and he didn’t want to eat in front of me because I put him off his food (I had extremely bad acne in my late teens).
That’s the message I took from that and it has stayed with me throughout my life.
When I was about 8 years old, I was sitting in church with my brother and my parents. A couple of their friends, who they hadn’t seen in years, came over to say hello and commented on my parents two strapping young sons! I remember sitting there feeling utterly mortified, to embarrassed to let them know that I was, in fact, a girl! I look like a boy…. that message I still struggle with today. I drive my husband crazy asking him if what I’m wearing is masculine, if I don’t look feminine.
I look like a boy.
Last week, I was having a Whatsapp conversation with Mandy from Pregnant in Cape Town. As a side note, this is one amazing lady, we have some of the best conversations, she is the type of person I feel I can be real with, without any judgement or being told I’m being ridiculous!
Mandy has similar dialogue running in her head too, the result of years of bullying at school. We got to talking about how no amount of compliments or persuasion can change those voices in our heads. In fact, compliments and persuasion otherwise is just plain uncomfortable and at times leaves us feeling embarrassed. How those voices don’t even belong to us and yet, they’re easier to believe than our own inner voices. We adopt those voices, let them settle in our minds and dictate how we see ourselves and as a result, how we interact with the world.
Why are other people’s voices so much easier to believe than our own? Why are compliments and positive affirmations so hard to receive? Why are they so easily overridden by the voices that have hijacked our minds?
I’d love to live just one day free of the effects of those voices. Just free of insecurities. Free of my own harsh judgement in the face of those foreign voices that have hijacked my inner dialogue. Free to just like myself for who and what I am, in all my flawed perfection.