This is a picture of me from the early 80s, along with my mom and my sister.
You can’t see the pain behind my eyes, can you? Yet it’s there, like so many others; bubbling, boiling just below the surface. Why? I don’t know, why do people hate themselves so much? There are so many answers.
Molestation (leading to self-loathing and addiction, among other things), bad family relations, weight, lack of love and on and on.
Researchers have found the majority of our self-deprecating feelings stem from a feeling we are DIFFERENT from everyone else. Not different in a good way, but weird…odd…and freakishly so. I certainly felt this as a teenager.
To those who partied, I was boring, since I didn’t drink.
I was good in math, but not much else, so I figured the brainiacs wouldn’t accept me. (Wait, did you catch what I just typed? I “figured” they wouldn’t. I had no clue they actually would have welcomed me, I just ASSUMED they wouldn’t).
I started having back pain my sophomore year, so I stopped playing football (the ONE thing outside of “girls” I truly loved). Thus, the jocks wouldn’t accept me anymore. To many of them I was a “quitter,” or in my mind, a “loser.”
Having no interest in—or sense of—style, the preps would’ve shunned me, I assumed, so I really didn’t fit in anywhere. That’s why I dubbed my small group of friends, consisting mainly of two awesome dudes named Kurt Hankins and Fred Limback, “the freaks.” Kurt, Fred and I were those odd puzzle pieces you just can’t seem to make fit anywhere.
“But different is GOOD,” my mama once told me. “Normal is boring. God’s gonna use that DIFFERENT someday, just you wait and see.”
And so He is.
In 2014, a pretty, 15-year-old dancer from West Hampstead, London, named Tallulah Wilson, committed suicide. Now, if she would’ve been covered in boils or morbidly obese, people would read about her and just say, “Oh, that’s sad.” Since she was young and beautiful, however, her death seemed to be thought of as “even more of a tragedy” (a mindset which makes me livid, to be honest).
As if the lives of the beautiful people are of any more value than the rest of us. Don’t get me started.
Despite her mother’s attempts to make her feel beautiful, Tallulah was convinced she was ugly, fat and inferior. We know this because she left behind a diary that said so. She was obsessed with what she thought was her own hideousness, her own worthlessness, and would often spend hours talking to people on the internet who felt the same way about themselves.
Darkness fed darkness until she could take it no longer, and stepped into the path of oncoming train.
Well, I’m here to share with you a happier story.
Growing up I learned to hate myself, much like poor Tallulah. Again, the answers to “why?” are part of my therapeutic process, and I won’t delve into them too deeply. I’ve done this on occasion with other blogs, but that’s not specifically what this one’s about.
I know some of you can relate to the self-loathing thing. You HATE the person who glares back at you in the mirror. You see an ugliness others don’t see. We are our own worst critics, to be certain, but in addition to my faith in Jesus Christ, one thing which gave me hope as a teenager was this:
If OTHERS don’t see this hideous beast I suspect me to be, maybe I’ve been lying to myself all these years. Maybe, just maybe, the Devil is playing some kind of Jedi mind trick on me. Perhaps I’m NOT the ugly person I assume.
Maybe I AM worth loving.
My mom thought so, anyway. Her name is Connie, but you can call her “Mom.” Or “Nana,” or “NeeNee.” Like many grandparents, and great-grandparents, she has a few different nicknames.
I was carrying a lot of baggage by the time I hit my teen years, and add to it the fact that I put on some weight and was fighting acne, and I was just a SELF-DETESTING mess, I’m tellin’ ya.
But my mom would delve into the darkness of not only my room, but my psyche, and tell me I wasn’t ugly. She’d tell me she loved me. She’d tell me I was WORTHY of not only her love, but God’s. “Someday, life will make a little more sense,” she’d say, “but you WILL make it through this. I promise. You are handsome and talented, and I believe in you.”
In the early-to-mid 80s, I sunk deeper and deeper into depression, and life just seemed to get harder, darker and uglier.
Yet she NEVER gave up on me! Never. I would practically beg her to, for if SHE let me go, there was nothing keeping me in this world.
“Don’t hold on to me,” I would silently beg, not in words but in actions. “Let me go. Please, I’m no good to anyone here. For the love of God, just let me go, mom.”
But she refused.
I made it challenging for her and my dad, to be certain, but they persevered.
“You’re amazing,” she’d tell me. “I’m so proud of you!!”
I didn’t get it then, but now I do. I can never pay her back for saving my life; the best I can do is try and help others the way she helped me. Try to help others like YOU find the beauty inside which everyone else but you can see.
In a world where everyone else seemed to be out for themselves, she was giving of her time, love and encouragement. She’s always ready to give out a hug (our family is BIG on hugs), and an encouraging word.
Later, my wife, Laura, would save me in ways nobody else could, but it was my MOM who got me through those terrible adolescent years. Were it not for her, I could’ve gone the way of poor Tallulah.
But I was saved by a mother’s love.
She even taught me how to make a MEAN pancake.
Thanks, mama. I love you so much.