When I was thirteen years old I had no self esteem. I am sure it was evident in the way I walked with my head down as to not garner any glances. I felt ugly, stupid, and worthless. I had been in a school where I had been bullied daily. My parents were on the verge of divorce. We were dirt poor and my family circumstances were pretty sad at that time. I had short hair and was teased about being gay or a boy. I wasn't gay nor a boy, not that anyone should be abused or bullied for either one of those things. They shouldn't period. I was called hopeless. I was called a freak, a waste, a pathetic excuse for a human being. I was many things but beautiful wasn't one of them. Not only did I hear this from my "peers" but I heard it loudest from myself. I felt completely broken. OCD is something that makes an idea in your head a broken record, your albatross, your repeat setting on the radio, your alarm clock. If you build it they will come. If you think it you will dwell. It never ceases to amaze me how much I can think about the same horrid things over and over again. If your obsession is that you are worthless then you have a big problem. I had a problem....a big one.
I tried to fit in and the more I did the more I failed. It was exhausting not only to fight my peers but more so the fighting of myself. A war of the demons in my soul. The plague of ghosts that haunted my mind. I wanted to be someone important. I wanted to be heard. I wanted to be beautiful.....I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be accepted and understood. I wanted what all children want but I felt I was too far gone to be accepted. Too wounded to be normal. Too broken to be anything but ugly.
Then it happened. A gift from God. A blessing. An angel in disguise, whatever you want to call it. For me it was a profound moment in my life. It was the chink in the armor. The broken brick in the wall that helped me to tear it down. It was one simple incident and it changed my life. I doubt he even knew what the power of his words did for me.
My mother and I were at a flea market. We weren't buying anything, just window shopping, as it were. I was wearing some ghastly nineties plaid multi-colored shirt and jeans. My glasses were constantly fogging up when we walked into the flea markets for some reason, leaving you blind for the first thirty seconds. My mom was looking at a booth and I decided to look at my feet and shuffle along like I always did. Never dare looking anyone in the eyes. I was quiet and demure, after all, what did I have to say that could be remotely important. I had walked by a handmade jewelry booth. There were hundreds of beautiful mother of pearl and beaded earrings. They glistened and I felt almost blinded by their beauty. They were precious and I felt out of place standing there looking at them. I started to walk away and as I did the man that ran the booth walked up to me. He was a nice looking older man with dark perfect coffee colored skin. He smelled like spices that were unfamiliar but pleasant. He handed something out to me. He had a strange accent foreign to me, maybe African and he said,"These are for you." I hesitated and said I had no money. He smiled and said,"They are for you," He kept shoving them in my direction. "These are for you because you are beautiful. Beautiful earrings for a beautiful girl." I was stunned. Surely he was talking about some other girl. I had been called many things by others not related to me, but beautiful sure wasn't one of them. He was insistent that I take them. They were dangle earrings that had pink bead on top of a mother of pearl long bead and a pink bead on the bottom. They were gorgeous and they sparkled in the light as I held them up. He smiled once more and then he was gone. I walked by his booth again with my mother and he was no longer open. I never saw him again.
It seems strange but what this did for my self esteem was huge. Had he not stepped in, I am not sure that I would be who I am today or that I would even be here at all. He made it possible for me to begin to believe that I was so much more than I thought I was. Someone thought I was beautiful. Someone believed in my worth as a person. Someone thought I was worth looking in the eye. Someone believed in me. He had no idea what kind of person I was but he must have noticed that I was unhappy and insecure. His simple gesture made me believe that if some stranger could believe in me than maybe I should try to believe in myself as well. He gave me back a little bit of my sense of dignity. A little bit of hope and even maybe a shred of self awareness. He planted a tiny seed of doubt that I was as ugly as I had been led to believe. A seed that grew into a tree the older I became. I realized that his simple gift had made me stronger. He didn't have to go out of his way to help a broken sad girl but he did and I am ever so thankful. He changed my life with his words. Who knows why he felt compelled to do this for me. Maybe he had been bullied or picked on? Maybe at some point he had felt insecure and ugly? Maybe he just needed to get rid of a pair of earrings? Maybe he just wanted to see a sad girl smile, I don't know. What I do know is that he started me on a path of self confidence with his single act and I will always be truly grateful.
It became ever so clear to me that there are many broken people walking around afraid of their imperfections. They feel lost and insecure. They feel like outsiders. They feel ugly. It can just take a few words of encouragement or a few words of kindness to help them begin to believe in themselves again. It can just take one word and it can change not only just their day but their whole lives. Some people are literally just waiting on one kind word. Maybe we should be more cognizant of that. Maybe we as people, especially those of us that have wrestled with this before, should make sure that when we see someone hurting, we offer a few words of kindness. After all, everyone in this world is unique and special. We are all beautiful and everyone deserves to feel that way at some point in their lives. Why not let it be now?
Why not tell the saddest, most scared, and insecure the truth? They are beautiful too. You are beautiful.....