My friend Byron at Trauma Dad wrote an amazing post yesterday about being targeted by peers (and society) for his appearance. It hit me right where it hurt: my insecurities.
I don’t think one ever really overcomes their insecurities. I know I didn’t. My insecurities are still here, still lurking below my forced tough exterior, but I have come a long way from the girl I once was.
If you’re new to my blog and do not already know, I have a chronic pain bone disorder called Multiple Hereditary Exostoses. I have bone growths, or tumours, growing off of my other bones. I’ve lived with this conditional all my life, and the only “treatment” was to have surgery to remove the bone growths if they were causing too much pain or discomfort. More often than not, my bone growths do cause pain and discomfort – it’s quite uncomfortable having a bone trying to force it’s way between other bones, or squish aside tendon.
I had a lot of surgeries when I was a kid, and I usually had to walk with crutches afterwards (if the surgeries were in my legs, as they usually were). I missed a lot of school due to bad pain days…and in grade five, I struggled with simply wearing shorts.
I went to a small public school, and my classmates were used to my “appearance”. I still received the occasional bullying remark from a peer (“disease girl” and “crutch girl” to name a few), but grade five is when I really started to notice my difference…when I started to cover up.
I tried to start out grade seven with confidence. I told myself that I wouldn’t hide behind layers of clothing. I would wear t-shirts and shorts if it was summer. But on that first day, surrounded by a bunch of people I didn’t know…I couldn’t take my sweater off. I didn’t take my sweater off for the rest of the year. I couldn’t. I always wore clothes that covered my limbs, but my peers still knew I was different…they still guessed. The surgeries I had in middle school didn’t help. I think I had 3 surgeries between grades 7 and 8, two of them resulting in needing crutches.
Having to go to school with walking aides caused me extreme anxiety. Each day, I prayed that I would go unnoticed. People weren’t intentionally cruel to me (as Byron experienced), but the comments about my “twisted legs” and jokes about “Crutch Girl” dug deep into my already tattered self-perception.
I entered high school believing that I wasn’t pretty, that no boy would like me, and I wasn’t worthy. Any crush I had went unrequited, and I pegged it on my bone disorder…on my crutches and scars.
It didn’t help that my first serious boyfriend told me, after I lost my virginity to him, that “I was just another notch and that bone thing was freaky.” Just what an insecure teenage girl needs to hear…right?
I honestly didn’t believe I would ever find love, until I met Matt. Cue the barf noises now, I know. But seriously…anyone before Matt made me feel like they were doing me a favour by being with me. Matt made me feel like I was desirable, like I was….beautiful. He helped me open my eyes.
I realized a lot of things after he opened my eyes to myself. I am beautiful. My scars and my extra bones are just that…scars and extra bones, and yes, it’s hard to face people staring straight at them and it’s hard to keep my chin up with pride…but I see the way my husband looks at me, and I know that I am desirable. I know that any boy in my past who told me or thought that “my bone thing was freaky” wasn’t the kind of person I deserved to be with anyway. I’m worthy.
Sometimes, you just need someone to see you for who you really are. It just takes one person to remove the film away.
To those of you out there still struggling with insecurities, still battling it out with the narrow-minded folks in our society that feel like the majority, don’t worry…you are not alone. We all struggle with our self-image, and the narrow-minded folks in our society are actually the minority. They can be loud because it’s easier to focus on the critical voices. I’ve done it, I still find myself doing it. But please know…you are invincible.