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“Why would a girl like you hate yourself?”

So many people think that how you feel about yourself depends on how you look. People think that if you have a beautiful body, you probably feel really good about yourself and you have a strong self-esteem. Nothing could be furhter from the truth! I have always had a very beautiful body, and I spent the first 30 years of my life hating myself. Why?

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I was not a happy child growing up. On the inside I was screaming with pain, but no one noticed. No one helped me. I went through a lot of difficulties, my father was an alcoholic and I was not allowed to tell anyone about his drinking. I was sexually abused by three older boys on my last day at kinder garden when I was six years old. I never told anyone about this either because I felt it was my fault. I was afraid of how disappointed my parents would be if they found out. So I kept quiet about it. I never, ever told anyone.

I loved my parents so much, but it was extremely difficult to grow up with a father who drank too much almost every day. The older I got, the more he drank. My mother drank too, but only a few times a week and she never passed out, like my father did, so she didn´t have any problems with it. However, she could be very hurtful with her words. I remember that she told me that she wished anyone of my friends would have been their daughter, instead of me. She told me how ashamed she was of me, and those words hurt a lot.

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When I began school I thought it was fun for a while, I had some friends and I kind of liked it. Whem I was nine years old my teacher at that time told me and my mother that I had huge problems with reading and writing. She told me that I would never learn to read and write like the other children. I didn´t agree with what she said because I knew I wanted to become an author one day – but I didn´t say anything back to her since you were not supposed to talk back to grown ups. After this I started working a lot on improving my reading and writing, and I did it all by myself. Within a few years I was getting top results in all subjects in school and I wrote long stories and read many books each week.

At the same time as my teacher had that conversation with me, when I was nine years old, I felt that I needed to do something in order to make my parents like me. I looked around at some older girls and I noticed how skinny they were. I thought that if I only got skinnier like the other girls, perhaps my parents would be proud of me and love me. So at the young age of nine years old I started working out a lot and stopped eating so much. I deliberately began starving myself and quickly got really skinny. I got what the doctors call anorexia. All my friends went away and I no longer had anyone to spend my sparetime with or to be with in school. I was painfully alone and felt that I needed to change myself even more so that people would like me… This went on for a few years until my parents took me to a doctor who forced me to start eating properly again. But no one helped me with how I really felt, on the inside. No one. I was around 13 years old now and my body started to look really feminine, curvy and beautiful. During these years I had also become really, really good at studying and I kept getting really good results in school, but I felt that no matter how much I succeeded in school, my parents where never satisfied with what I had accomplished.

In my early teens I started getting a lot of attention from boys, this felt so good to me since I was starving for affection on the inside. Everytime a boy gave me his attention I felt so good, I felt liked and valued. However, my father drank more and more the older I got and now he started calling me very mean things. My parents said how ashamed they were of me. How I looked like a whore, a slut and so on. My father used to say to me that I was so stupid for not understanding that boys where only taking advantage of me. So the love and approval I was so starved of did not come from my parents, it came from the attention of boys. That attention was the only thing that made me feel good about myself. I was so insecure and had litterally no self-esteem. This was my only way of feeling liked.

I didn´t understand how right my father was at that time and since I was so starved of love I started dating boys that treated me like crap. It didn´t matter to me then because the attention I got from them felt better than anything I had ever felt before. Of course this didn´t end well. When I was 17 years old, two boys sexually abused me one night in a public toilet close to the beach where we had our summer place. I was in so much pain I could hardly walk. I could not find my underwear but I put on my other clothes and tried to walk back to our summer place. Every step I took hurt so much, I was so swollen and the pain was intense. But all I could think of was how right my parents were and that I could NEVER, EVER tell them about this. I would never tell anyone about this. My parents would hate me if I told them, so my one and only focus as I walked back to my summer place that nighy was: don´t let them know. Fortunately my father had passed out on the couch from all his drinking, as usual, but my mother was still awake. When I got in she looked at me and asked me how my evening had been. I smiled at her and said I that it had been a fun night and that I was really tired and needed to go to bed. I walked into my room, gently closed the door and started crying quietly. I cried the entire night and I was in so much pain. But I never told my parents or anyone what had happened. Two weeks after this I met an older guy. He fell in love with me and I saw him as a way out of my alcoholic home. So I ran away from home, moved in with him and refused to move back to my parents. My parents were so angry and disappointed with me and my behaviour. They could not understand why I was acting like that. For me, it was a relief. I though that things could only get better once I got away from my parents house, but I was wrong.

The guy I moved in with also had huge problems with alcohol and he started physically and mentally abuse me. Around that time my mother found out that she had cancer and she passed away a few months later. My boyfriend hit me a lot over the 1 and 1/2 years I lived with him, he also called me a whore and a slut and so on. Just like my parents had done earlier. I never told anyone about this either. However, evetually someone alerted the police and it all ended with him getting one year in prison for what he did to me. Now I was all alone again. I had no friends left, my mother was dead and my father was drinking more than ever and was going in and out of an alcoholic and drug abuser´s clinic.

I had started studying at a university in Jönköping, to become a teacher. My studying was my rescue. I was really good at studying and chose to put all my effort into becoming really good in school. I had no self-esteem and I felt like I didn´t want to live anymore, but my studing kept me alive. It kept a small sparkle of hope within me, a hope for a better future. I met a few new friends and I started hanging out with a lot of boys, especially during the summers. When I was almost finished with my studies I met a guythat I fell in love with. My best friend didn’t approve of me seeing this guy and she told me I had to choose between him or her. I chose the guy. The guy became my boyfriend, we moved in together and we have now been together 12 years.

Directly after my university studies I got a job as a teacher, I loved it! My job gave me so much joy and I have worked as a teacher at that school for 12 years now.

I had no self-esteem what so ever the first 24 years of my life. Then I started, little by little, working on improving my way of looking at myself. I realized that I was the only one who could make me feel better. I didn´t feel bad about myself because of what had happened to me or because of how others had treated me – it was my way of thinking that made me feel bad about myself. This was something that I could change, and that was what I began doing. It took time, a lot of time, but I succeeded. I went from hating myself to staring to like myself. It was not easy, but I did.

I am the one I am today because of everything I have been through, it has inspired me to work on my own thinking. Has my life been easy ever since then? Of course not! My father suddenly died, I have gone through two abortions and a lot of other awful things happened to me. However, I kept working on my thinking and felt stronger and stronger within. I educated me further to become a special education teacher, I got pregnant and gave birth to my two little babies, we bought a new car, a new house… and life seemed to turn out really well.

I have a strong self-esteem today, I really like myself and no matter what happens to me now – I can handle it. However, this is a journey and I will continue to work on my thinking. Self-esteem is not like a degree, something you aquire once and then you have it forever. You have to work on it, every day. Life is not perfect, really awful things happen – but how you feel about yourself is something you can always work on. So, don´t give up, you can do this. One small step at a time.

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