A turning point in my recovery was a realisation that I am worthy of the air that I breathe. That sounds dramatic but it takes an acceptance at that very basic level of self-worth to move forward and feel worthy of health, fitness and ultimately happiness.
I look back now and realise that a feeling of self-worth was probably always lacking in my life. As a very small child I was painfully shy and relied heavily on my mother to protect me from the world. When I was a little older, at around 6 or 7 years, mum decided that tap dancing would improve my confidence and I embarked on what was for me a horrendous experience. I was extremely tall and equally as uncoordinated. I was always stood at the back and given the minimal as far as participation was concerned. I have vivid memories of forgetting a tap dance solo and having to go back on stage three times at an eistedford until I finally got all the way through my performance. I got loud applause, I thought because the audience wouldn’t have to endure another attempt.
Fortunately at about age 10 or 11, I started swimming and turned out to be quite good at it, never a superstar but certainly not the big girl in the back row. I was also academically good at school. Despite this I never felt my parent’s pride or approval. They were supportive and certainly attended swimming meetings, were time keepers, I just do not ever remember them saying, “Well done,” or “We are proud of you.” They were both quite reserved people and, looking back, their attendance was probably high level support for them.
My father died when I was 21. I don’t ever remember telling him that I loved him or him telling me that he loved me. That hurt in the time following his death but at that time, you did not really talk about things like that. After dad’s death, I ensured that mum knew that she was loved and I have no doubt that she loved me too.
I remember thinking that I was terribly ugly as a teenager. My picture of beauty always had long straight, preferably blond hair. Mine was short, dark and curly. Looking back at photos of myself in my late teens, early 20s I can’t believe I was so hard on myself. I look in the mirror now and grey hair, wrinkles and all, I say, “Not too damn bad!” and I genuinely like what I see.
Perfectionism is a significant contributor to my feelings of lacking in self-worth. I have to be able to see a positive outcome before I undertake anything in life. I have recently embraced breaking any challenge down into bite sized pieces so that tasks are not so daunting and success can be frequently acknowledged and celebrated. I remember when I started putting on weight that I thought I may as well keep going because I didn’t look ‘perfect’ any more.
Similarly with alcohol, once I started I had admitted that the day had defeated me and that I might as well keep on drinking.
As I write this, it is so flawed and conflicted. I cannot believe that I allowed imagined sleights from my childhood to colour my self-perception as an adult to the extent that it did. There is no doubt that I was loved, nurtured and well cared for. I guess that I was just very needy. I have always craved positive feedback and assumed that, if there was none, I was not doing well enough to warrant it.
I am now able to tell myself that I am doing well, that I am worthy and believe it.