As a young girl I cried into my pillow, on my mother’s shoulder, into the arms of friends, or just into my hands more times than I can count. The world was unfair, people were cruel, and nothing made sense. One moment everything was fine then the next I was slapped in the face with yet another proof that I didn’t measure up, more evidence that I was lacking and unworthy.
Please, like me.
I wanted to be liked. I wanted the girls to like me enough to be my friend. I wanted the boys to like me enough to be my boyfriend. If the boys liked me, the girls didn’t like me. If the girls liked me, then the boys just wanted me to help get those girls to like them. It was all very complicated.
Add to that I lived in a military town with an equal number of churches to strip joints–I didn’t learn the term gentleman’s club until much later. This seemed to make it dichotomous for the kind of girl you could be because there were seemingly two kinds of men in town, though I’m sure there were some that visited the churches and strip joints equally much. I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that people aren’t just one way, though back then I was clueless to this.
If a boy (those that went to school with me) or guy (those I met at the mall) did take an interest in me things became more complicated because of the inevitable question I’d ask out of curiosity and a need to understand.
Why do you like me?
Every answer to this question is both the right answer and the wrong one when you are a teenager, especially if it’s an honest answer. The reason is because any answer based on how cute I looked was sexualizing who I was. He was male, I was female. Don’t you know what that means? If the answer was because I was nice it meant I wasn’t pretty enough to be a girlfriend, but I could help them get one. If I did have a boyfriend who said I was both nice and cute, that really didn’t make me feel any more secure.
How did I know I was with the right one–you know, the one I’d spend the rest of my life with? What if this one was only dating me to get to one of my friends? What if this one was only dating me to get back at one of my friends? What if this one only wanted to get into my pants? What if this one was moving at light speed because he wanted to marry me AND get into my pants? What if this one wanted me knocked up? Why didn’t this one want anyone to know I was his girlfriend? Why didn’t this one want me to have any friends?
Like me because…
I wanted to be thought of as pretty, but liked for more than my looks. I wanted to be thought of as nice, but not just relegated to the friend category by the boys. I wanted to be sexy, but not sexualized. I wanted more than just to be on some guy’s arm. I wanted my relationships to mean something. I wanted my friendships to mean something. I didn’t want to compete with other girls.
I spent most of the time locked inside myself wondering if I’d ever be really liked because of everything I was. Part of the problem was that I was so young, I wasn’t even sure of who I was yet. I didn’t always date the nicest boys, and one in particular was very bad for me. It took college, mature friends, more dating, and a closer look at my value system before I made any progress. I still don’t have it all figured out–I don’t think anyone really does–but I do know that being imperfect isn’t the worst thing.
I have a family that loves me, a man who shares his life with me, children who adore me, friends who stand beside me, and a divine presence in my life that I am still trying to understand, but that has never abandoned me. If I were so unworthy would I have any of that? I have to remind myself from time to time that though I am imperfect still I have value, not because of any one thing, but simply because I do.
Struggling to find self-worth isn’t easy when those around you seem to only value certain things about you. What We’re Worth: A Community Collection explores this. Come and read more, and add your story.
*Photo: butterfly on lavender by BotheredByBees, obtained through Flickr.