When I was young, say in my early teens, I was a very naive person. I believed most people were good and most people were happy with themselves and the world. Back in the old days, the kids in my area went to elementary school (grades 1-5), middle school (6-8) and then high school. I was in middle school in the early 70's, I graduated 8th grade in 1972. In those days, boys got to take shop classes and girls took home economics classes. No choice involved. These were the days of separate boys and girls gym classes.

As a girl, I got to take Cooking, Sewing, Family Living and Homemaking. Cooking and sewing are self explanatory but Family Living and Homemaking were different. We learned how to set the table and how to make a budget (both worthwhile skills they STILL should teach) but there were also classes in appearance.

When I was growing up, my dad was starting his business and money was tight. I regularly got boxes of hand me down clothes from family members and I remember loving it. It was like Christmas going through the box. Rarely did we get new clothes. There just wasn't money. I learned to treat my clothes well to make them last. That was a good lesson to learn. I had a fairly good self concept at the time and really didn't think anything of it. I liked myself.

But, back to Homemaking. There was a young,unmarried, female (of course) teacher. One day in class, she asked what we would change about ourselves if we could. Now, we were 14 at the time. A very vulnerable age for a young person. When she came to me, I said I didn't want to change anything, I liked myself as I was. She didn't believe me. "Everyone has something they want to change" she said. I said that I liked my hair and eye color and I was fine with the shape of my body. I liked myself. This was unacceptable and instead of just saying "good for you", she insisted I find fault with myself.

This made me start wondering what flaws others saw that I didn't. Maybe I should have a new hair color or maybe I should lose some weight. My parents weren't the type who would sit and talk about this stuff. Their response was "don't be silly, you're fine just the way you are". And so the insecurity was born.

I'm not sure where this memory came from this morning but I was thinking about it in the shower. Where do our insecurities come from? If our earliest memories are of acceptance, are we more confident? Is it internal or is it from others that we get our sense of self acceptance?

I've managed over the years to come to terms with myself. I'm not a perfect person but I'm not all that bad, either. I could stand to lose a few pounds and I'm working on eating better for my health so that may happen. I'm patient and kind and generally positive in my thinking. I'm sentimental and cry easily (hallmark commercials are good for a few tears). I'm also very strong. Not physically but mentally. I'm thoughtful and good natured and easy to get along with. I'm bossy and stubborn and sometimes impetuous. I'm a good homemaker, I like to cook and I don't mind cleaning (ok, I mind. But I like a clean house so I do it). I am a good mother and a good wife and generally a good woman. And I don't get mad easily and rarely hold a grudge.

This is part of who I am. Who are you? Where did your ideas about yourself come from? I know this is profound for the early morning but this is where my thoughts were going this morning. Weird.

Em update. Her surgeon is consulting with a neurosurgeon to determine the best way to remove the tumor since there is some spinal involvement. They're not sure how much of the spine is involved and another mri may be in order. Surgery date should be forthcoming.


amy said…
What a rotten teacher. At that age I had no idea if I was pretty or not. I tended to think not. I didn't trust my own judgments. My grandmother used to make comments about me like, "You have a runner's body, nothing extra." I ran cross-country at that age, but I didn't need to be told I was flat-chested. I knew that, and it was excruciating to be reminded of it. My father & brother were no better. In my family, teasing was considered just fine, but it's not okay in my book if it's making someone feel bad. In junior year of high school I got sick of hearing girls say how awful they looked, how fat they were, etc etc, and a friend and I decided we'd tell each other how beautiful we were. We laid it on pretty thick and got a lot of looks, but you know what? You say it enough, you believe it. I hated the whole teen girl self-hatred and decided I wanted no more part of it. From then on, I was done. I still had some lingering body issues into my early 20s, but then those were gone, too.

As for the other stuff, well, I get down on myself a lot for not being a more patient mother, and I wish my house were cleaner. But overall, I feel like you do. I'm not a perfect person but I'm not all that bad, either.
Roxie said…
I read a study that said that 98% of the women in the US are unhappy with the way they look. I started asking the stunning young amazons at the gym if they were happy with the way they look, and not one of them would admit that she was. It's almost as if it's wrong to admit to being satisfied. You're too full of yourself if you're not neurotic like everyone else. Why is it wrong to say, "I look good!" ?
Geek Knitter said…
I had no problems with my body image until about 7th grade. Every fall they would send us through these assembly-line stations in gym class, checking height, weight and vision. The woman at the height-weight station told every single girl in line how much weight she thought they should lose. I was 5'2", very active, and barely tipped the scale at 115 lbs. She told me I needed to lose 15 lbs.

It took me years to stop hearing her words in my head every time I reached for something to eat.

I don't hear her anymore though. I like who I am.
Galad said…
Thanks to a loving and supportive family I made it to about middle school before realizing how much I had "wrong" with me.

Middle schoolers can be so nasty, and it really did a number on my self confidence for years after.

I still have to watch the tendency to beat myself up and instead rejoice in who I am.
Bezzie said…
We had to take both shop class and Home Ec. I dropped out of Home Ec. and became a library aide instead. I learned more from that than that witch of a woman Home Ec teacher trying to teach me to sew in straight lines and harassing me about the proper term for a spatula (rubber scraper).

I have a big round head, but I'm too lazy to do anything about it.

Middle school was much worse than HS. I laugh when people say HS was awful.
Tinniegirl said…
What a wonderful post. It's great that you shared such excellent early morning ponderings with us. I'm going to ponder the topic now.
Bells said…
Oh it must be a day for reflecting. I just published a post a bit like this.

I think that teacher was wrong. So very wrong but she might not be alone. Many people might think you were not being honest but what 14 year old would say that unless they really felt/believed it.

I admire that so much. I'm riddled with insecurities and could expound at length on where they come from. I'm just trying to change them, one at a time. It gets easier with age.
TinkingBell said…
Appalling awful and beyond!

My family always said that I wasn't pretty but had great bones and a face full of character - they also added that I would look great when I was 80 - I hope so! (This makes up fo the big nose - sorta!)

Wonderful news about Em - hugs all round I think!
Rose Red said…
This is a most interesting post. I'm sorry you had that experience in school - although the fact you had it says a lot about you as a good person I think.

I was and still am fairly happy with my physical self. I know I should lose a bit of weight and exercise for health reasons, but don't feel bad about the way I look in terms of weight or general appearance. There are things about my personality I am working on, but again, overall, feel ok.

I don't know why I am like this. Objectively I'm no beauty and I'm definitely not the nicest person in the world. I guess I just take a balanced perspective - I remember this, and that no-one in the world is perfect, so on that level, we're all equal (if that makes sense).

Not sure if I've explained that well, but a great topic for a post. Thank you.

(and so glad about Em!! Fingers crossed for a straightforward surgery soon).

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