As a youngster growing up in Grenada, I developed a severe case of low self-esteem. My poor self-image was intensified because I was always being compared to my beautiful and talented cousins. They would shine in the spotlight while I was the jealous, ugly duckling with no talent.
The girls were nicely shaped with soft hair and lovely skin tone. I had more curves and muscles from being athletic. I also grew up with seven brothers making me a tomboy. I was teased and bullied about my appearance, lack of talent, and slow development. The teasing made me very shy, and I didn’t say much to anyone. I would walk with my head towards the ground and avoid face to face contact. I felt that a face like mine was too ugly to be looked upon.
In the early nineties, poor families who couldn’t take care of their children gave them away to families willing to give them better lives. Some of my beautiful cousins went to these great homes. During the summer break, the cousins would come back to visit the community. The rest of us left behind would listen to stories of their new and improved surroundings.
We talked about all the food they had to eat and the nice clothes they got to wear. I was so envious of them and prayed that someone would take me. I would even beg my mom to find a family who would care for me, but I knew that no one wanted me based on my looks and shyness.
A few years into high school, I came close to being given away when my mother approached a male teacher to take me into his care, and he agreed. She couldn’t afford to send me to school, so this would be a great opportunity. The principal of the high school was against the idea and said no to the teacher. I was crushed. This rejection just confirmed that I was so ugly no one would ever want me.
The first nine months in Canada were hell when I came face to face with my evil stepmother. She would ridicule me endlessly, picking out my “flaws”. In her eyes, I was never good enough. The woman nit-picked, continually saying things like your face is too round, your nose is too flat, your hair is so short, you’re too fat, your skin is so bad, and you have bad teeth. She even hated my accent, so communication was almost nonexistent between us. However, she loved having me around to cook, clean, iron, clean her shoes, and carry her bags around. Her harsh criticisms cause me to hate my reflection in the mirror. I felt I was hideous and remained a loner.
I made my first visit back to Grenada in 2003. During my stay, I paid a visit to my old high school where I can recall the principal saying: “that’s Charlyn? Oh my, you have gotten pretty”. I came to realize over the years that not everyone would like me or think I was beautiful. I had to love myself and feel comfortable and confident in my skin. I started to walk into every room as a proud me.
Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. I couldn’t let another person’s negativity cloud my judgment of who I am. I came to terms with my curves, my round face, and my accent. If someone isn’t going to like me as a person, I feel no need to have them in my life.
I refuse to let another person’s insecurity dictate my worth or self-esteem. You are beautiful, flaws and all. You are unique. Own them.