When I was a little girl, before puberty, I dreamed of a wedding someday. As many little girls do, I went through periods of dreaming of marrying a prince. I dreamt of a movie-type romantic love. I dreamt of being a mommy someday.
When I hit puberty, I still had these dreams, but they were tainted with fear and worry. As many girls do, I suffered from self-esteem issues related to my appearance. I worried people thought I was ugly and fat.
But, I also had added worries, and they haunted me for years. Well, they still haunt me sometimes.
As most teens encounter, I began developing some acne. I felt so gross, because nothing seemed to help clear it up. I was sure people thought I was crazy hideous.
Next came a change on my arms. I started noticing the hair on my arms was darker and thicker than it once was. I thought maybe I was part man. It sounds stupid, but I had nightmares. I tried shaving my arms a couple times, but felt it worthless because it would just grow back, quickly, dark and coarse. I resigned to wearing long sleeves as much of the year as possible and just cry about it. I was certain I was a freak. And I was pretty convinced no one would ever think I was pretty.
And then toward my 20s, I started gaining weight. I wasn't really any less active in college than in high school. In fact, I would argue I was more so, walking campuses constantly, for example. But it didn't seem to help.
However, by the time the weight gain had started, I had met a new friend. His name was Jake. I thought he was pretty good looking. I had a crush on him I his from myself, or tried to ignore, for over a year. I met him in 2001, and the crush started a few months later when he caught a ride with his best friend and surprised me for my 18th birthday party, having traveled hours to get there. He wrote the sweetest, longest message in my birthday card (I still have it), and after, we emailed, talked on the phone for hours, wrote letters, and visited as much as possible. He would drive five hours to come see me for one night. He would kidnap me for a weekend.
I just never imagined he could love me. I was too nerdy. Awkward, ugly.
But, in the fall of 2002, as I lay on my dorm room bed, he told me "I love you, Nicole." And I confessed that I had fallen in love with him, too.
It was surreal. There have been countless times since then where I have doubted him. Not necessarily his love, but his attraction to me, and whether or not I could believe if he said I looked great, or was beautiful, or sexy. And I would doubt whether or not he could just honestly love someone he wasn't really attracted to.
I love myself. I've gotten there, by the grace of God and support from family and friends. I do. But I still suffer from self-esteem issues. Especially from the symptoms of PCOS that I suffer. These things that haunted me since puberty, made me question if I was really a woman (or if maybe at birth my parents just decided to raise me as a girl). These things I didn't understand until college when I researched them more, and after college when I was diagnosed with PCOS after we began trying for a family. (Oh, I married Jake, in case you're new to my blog).
These symptoms cause me the most self-doubt and negative thoughts when meeting new people for the first time. At job interviews. Around groups of kids. I still opt for long sleeves if the weather allows it. I try not to show my arms or full body in photos, if I can help it. Kids, as blunt as they are, sometimes ask me about my arms, or if I'm part werewolf. (Depending on the kid, sometimes I say yes, and they think that's so awesome.) I worry that one day my kids will get made fun of because their mom looks like a gorilla. Or is hairier than their dad.
I worry that the first things everyone notices about me when they see me in person is that my arms are hairy, my skin isn't clear, and I'm pudgy. I worry they are embarrassed to be seen with me. I hate it. But I am pretty good at hiding my dear and carrying on.
Last night, I took this self-portrait for my August Moms group, because someone asked the pregnant mommas to show off. I was in a hurry and not paying a lot of attention, and uploaded it without "proofing" it to hide my flaws- those ugly symptomatic arms especially. In my caption, I apologized-ish for showing my gorilla-esque arms because they're unsightly and embarrassing.
And one momma replied she hadn't even noticed until I said something.
And this morning, she reminded me that there are some people who see me as beautiful, for whatever reason, or who don't see what I see in the symptoms that cause me so much self-doubt. She reminded me that my husband thinks I'm beautiful, and attractive, even if I don't see it. He even told me I was last night (or it may have been the night before).
It reminded me that some people really like me for me.
On my blog, I sometimes wrote serious topics. I write for me, but also on behalf of the countless others who may relate but not be able to express.
I cherish every comment my blog receives. If you wish to comment, but prefer anonymity, you may comment that way. If you need someone to talk to, but don't feel comfortable commenting here, you can reach me at Nicole.m.worthley[at]gmail[dot]com