Welcome back for another installment for #CenteredThursdays!

Let’s talk about Self Esteem.

I didn’t always have it, and my life choices often reflected that fact. But what is Self Esteem?

Self Esteem is the confidence in one’s own worth and abilities, and is also known as Self Respect. And Self Respect is pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity. Self Esteem and Self Respect are not just things you’re born with, like the feelings of hunger and tiredness. Self Esteem is tried in the fire, emerging as armor to defend you from the fickleness and insatiability of society.

i wasn’t always confident. Ha, sometimes I still catch myself doing things that show my lack of confidence, and i still have a lot of work to go. But you may not be able to tell by looking at my social media. Facebook, IG, Twitter, you can find a young lady who seems intelligent, seems to love taking selfies, and enjoys putting her thoughts and views out for public conversation. and on the surface there is definitely some truth to that. But what you may not know is that I struggled with loving myself. I couldn’t even say the words confidently until I was about 25, and that love include who i was on the inside AND the outside. As a youngin, I was always stumpy and thick and awkward, never the popular kid but i always had at least 2 friends. Not much has changed about me at 28-29, but the fact that I love who I am, awkwardness and all, makes me who i am and it makes the difference.

I suffered from acne from age 13 and since then had always been worried about my face. I’d tried every product imaginable and some worked and some didn’t. I based my worth on the clearness of my skin, and as you can imagine, that worth was temporary. To compound my outward lack of worth, I knew I was different, but I wasn’t confident in my differences and it was hard for me to make friends. I talked down on myself… I tried and I tried to fit in and be like everyone else because I thought that by being like everyone else would make life easier, but I just ended up feeling lost. I didn’t know who I was, and I had to figure it out on my own. No amount of love or pep talks from parents and other adults could make my journey easier because they didn’t know what it was like to be me. They didn’t have to deal with the acne and the jokes and feeling like an outcast. That hurt and pressure was all on me.

An unfortunate drawback of this society is that there isn’t enough emphasis placed on building character and loving yourself in the face of the demanding pop culture. Adults didn’t realize when I was growing up that there were way more messages telling girls and women what they needed to do to be liked by boys and men, to be pretty and compete with other girls and women, to have a certain body shape, to be smart but not smarter than the boys and to hush your opinions. I knew right away that I wasn’t a competitive person, but I wanted people to like me, too. I was doing wild things just to try to fit in in middle school, but I ended up feeling lonelier than I had ever been.

Seventh grade was the worst and I almost failed and had to repeat. But by the time I had reached 8th grade, I got a little taller and my body spread out a bit, and I found and gained more friends who were experiencing some of the same things that I had been going through. I had finally found my tribe, but looking back on this, what united us can be boiled down to our mutual feelings of being outsiders, being unconfident, and dwelling in the unsureness of our adolescence. We were kids; we didn’t know any better. And we didn’t think highly of ourselves.

So fast forward to 18 years old: I’m still dealing with acne, but I’m getting better at my makeup, so we’re good. I had lost weight and I wasn’t the chubby and awkward kid anymore. I had started exercising and eating healthier, and cut down on the negative self talk. I had a core group of friends and they loved and accepted me for who I was. I get to college and I make new friends, but now the confidence baggage I’m carrying is in my grades. I don’t know how to study, but I’m naturally smart so I get by. As if college classes weren’t enough of a culture shock and I’m having the worst time adjusting, my mother dies on my 19th birthday. I was so lost. Everything I thought would save me and support me when I needed was gone. So now I’m out in the world and I have to figure out school, a career, and what it means to be a woman and I am lost beyond comprehension. I gain weight and this time, I don’t fight it. This shift in my world view forced me to deal with whom I was on the inside, and she needed some major work. I had to learn and become comfortable with how I experienced life, how to think of others before myself, how to move through life the way that I thought my mother would like. Losing her made me grow up fast, so the issues I had with my appearance had to be dealt with quickly because I had real life to worry about. I had to figure out who Jazzmyn was in the world.

I started to gain an understanding of who I was and who I thought I wanted to be at the time. I thought I would marry my high school sweetheart, be married by 23 and have kids by 24. I don’t know what I was thinking or why I was in such a rush to be an adult with responsibilities, but if you think about it, these are the expectations placed on women: Find a husband, get married, be a young mother, start your family, and your career only comes after the needs of your family have been met. So when I thought that the path I was on and whom I was with was not on the same trajectory as I was, and that communication as 19-20 year old kids wasn’t important to him (I was on the right track about communication but I had no idea what all communication would entail), I ended that relationship in search of a mate whom I thought was more mature and had a handle on responsibilities. Enter into adulthood, ages 20-27.

I was a kid, fooling myself into thinking that I was capable of making adult decisions. 20 years old in a relationship with a 24-year-old married man with a newborn. Wow. Most definitely not my proudest chapter in life for obvious personal reasons, but I was in love and wanted to love this man and this child and help him heal through the hurt that he entered my life with. I grew as a person, but it wasn’t without hurt and heartache. I questioned my self-worth tirelessly, cried myself to sleep at night over the decisions that I had made, but don’t think that I always acted remorseful about the situation. I loved this man and the family he gave me, and took my lumps as growing pains. We laughed the hardest I had laughed, we fought the hardest I had fought and we learned what it meant to be partners throughout the relationship. But it was during this relationship that I had to make the decision to love myself when I was the most unlovable and really dig into who I was at the core: I was focused on growth, I had made mistakes, I had apologized and repented, and I wanted to define what being a woman meant for me. But I didn’t get there without tears. I didn’t get there without facing my own internal battles and bouts of depression. I didn’t think I deserved anything good in life because of the decisions I had made. I had to figure out how to make friends after I had lost them all due to the decisions I made. I had to reconcile with my faith what my relationship and family meant to me. I had to define me for me. And when the dust settled, around age 25, that’s when I emerged with Self Esteem. I had done my dirt and paid for it. I tried my best to right my wrongs and not compound my misdeeds. I focused on my happiness instead of relying on a relationship to make me happy. I was finally doing me, thinking positively about myself and I was loving the process.

Fast forward to age 27 and I’m going through yet another quarter-life crisis. Who am I? What am I doing? How do I really feel? Who do I really love? I had entered into a polyamorous relationship for the wrong reasons, but that did not mean my feelings were not real or valid. Yet again, I had placed myself in a situation that made me question myself, my worth, my wants and desires. I later found that that relationship wasn’t for me but I grew from it when I was able to learn from my partners’ perspectives. Of course my hurt and drama was in the forefront of my mind, but the real growth didn’t occur until I stepped outside of myself to see how my decisions affect others and the hurt I caused by not communicating effectively. After that relationship, I vowed to stand on exactly how I feel, to try not to lead anyone on and to communicate effectively and from the very beginning. I didn’t want any guesswork with the people that I dealt with, and if we weren’t on the same page, I moved around and kept doing my own thing. I found a partner that I’ve grown with, and no doubt we have had our rough patches, but this is where the journey is different: I know who I am, I know what I’m worth and I know what I will and won’t stand for. My partner is the same way, and our journey is all about communication: how to, when to, how often, and making it plain. We’re committed to growth and that is essential for Self Esteem and Self Respect. Now, I can finally say that through all my experiences that I love my outside, I love who I am to the world, and I love who I am inside. I know I can do whatever I set my mind to, but even that is sometimes a struggle still, but I’m working on it. And it hurt to get here, but I made it.

So why did I go through and tell you my business from the past 15 years? If you don’t get anything else from this piece, dig this:

Self Esteem is not an easy badge to earn. You have to go through the fire, external fires and internal fires, to come out on the other side refined and new. You’re gonna make mistakes that you regret. You’re gonna make decisions that will make you proud. But know that Self Esteem only comes from Self. It will be hard work, but you are worth the hard work. Loving yourself means always improving and becoming the best you there is. You can do it. Push through.

Growing Self Esteem is an original post and appeared first on BYNKradio.net by Jazzmyn Blu.