My own skin

It seems that all women struggle with self-esteem issues, especially when it comes to their physical appearances. I am no different. I have spent pretty much my entire life feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.

When I was a pre-teen I read an article in some beauty/fashion magazine that listed the bodily dimensions of the top super-models at the time. To this day, I remember the inadequacy I felt comparing my own body to these women's impossible proportions.

I was the tallest girl in my class at the time and I wore a 32C bra. Developing at a young age is really tough on girls. I was treated differently, not only by my my peers but by adults too. I was actually sent home from school one day for dressing "too provocatively." I clearly remember the colorful, striped, wide-strapped Stussy tank-top that caused all the trouble. I can also recall defending myself in the principal's office, stating matter-of-factly that my shirt was no more revealing than the shirts that the other girls were wearing. And, I will never forget my disciplinarian's response: "You're different from the other girls. You are causing a distraction for the boys." According to him, it was my fault that the pubescent boys in my class were more interested in boobs than in mathematics.

Sometime around that same period in my life, I developed an eating disorder—the classic binge and purge technique. I also started taking diet pills, which I got from a friend who stole them from her older sister. I wound up getting suspended for 10 days and sentenced to drug treatment/therapy at the local family health clinic when I got caught with them in school.

It wasn't until my early 20s that I would even consider wearing a bathing suit without shorts in public. I was in a horrible car accident when I was nine years old that left me with a huge scar down my left thigh and what is now a barely discernable limp. I spent the next decade obsessed with and embarrassed of my "disfigurement."

By the time I entered high school, I was attracting a lot of attention from older men who would try to pressure me to do things with them that I wasn't ready to do. I remember when I was 14 years old being at a house party and this guy Mike had cornered me in a bedroom and was forcefully pushing me onto the bed. Luckily for me, someone heard me yelling and busted through the door to yank the scumbag off of me. On another occasion, I was left on the side of a road after refusing to give a guy a blow job in exchange for a ride home.

At 16 years old, I started dating men in their 20s. I saw nothing wrong with it then, but now it literally makes me feel sick to my stomach. If I had a 16-year-old daughter bringing 20-year-old men around, heads (or nuts) would roll. Being sexualized my men at such a young age wrecks a young girls self-esteem....

I moved out of the house immediately after graduating from high school and moved into an apartment in Philly with my boyfriend at the time. He was a 22-year-old bum with no job. My mother was completely opposed to the idea and cut me off financially. That's how I wound up working multiple waitressing and odd jobs to pay my way through college and to support myself—and my boyfriend who never seemed to keep a job.

When the bum boyfriend first started showing signs of aggression, verbally abusing me, punching holes in the apartment walls and busting up my things, I just ignored it. I guess years of being emotionally abused by my drug-addict father had led me to believe this sort of behavior was acceptable. It wasn't until he shoved me down the staircase in our apartment building that I finally left him.

I will never forget that night. We were in the apartment arguing. Fed-up, I went into the bedroom and called my friend Nadine to tell her I was coming to the little South-Philly bar she was working at. I needed to get away. The boyfriend heard me on the phone and stole my shoes to try to stop me from leaving. He started pushing me out the door, barefoot, screaming at me to "go ahead and leave then." He pushed me hard the last time, and I fell down the stairs in our apartment building hall. I jumped to my feet and ran out the door. Tears streaming, barefoot, I walked down Washington Ave. towards the bar. I called Nadine, and she informed me that she had called the police and they were on the way to my apartment, so I should go back and have them take me inside to get my car keys and some things to come stay with her.

When I got back to the apartment, there were two police cars. The boyfriend was screaming at the cops, and when he saw me, he threatened to kill himself if I left. I left anyway. I left him with the apartment and everything in it and moved into Nadine's place. He didn't kill himself.

For the next couple of years, I hated men. Really hated them. Maybe I had always hated them....I certainly didn't trust them.

Jack has helped me through a lot of my issues with men. We were friends for years before we started hooking up. It took months of dating exclusively before I would call him my boyfriend and even longer before I would stop flinching when we had even the slightest disagreement. He is so unbelievably patient with me...

Until now, Jack was the only person I had ever told about a lot of the things I have written about in this post. It feels really good to get these things out. I feel one step closer to becoming "comfortable in my own skin."


  1. My entire focus in my psych major in college was on developmental psychology, specifically how maturing earlier or later affects boys or girls. It was fascinating (and heart-wrenching) stuff. I'm so glad to hear you came through your struggle okay... we all have our own "puberty was hell" story, of course, but that doesn't make it any better.

    Thanks for sharing this... someday maybe I'll be brave enough to share mine.


  2. You are a brave, brave woman for sharing all of that with us... I admire you very much for that...

  3. That must have been hard to share- Organic Meatbag is right, you were brave to share that.

    I'm happy that you are now more comfortable with yourself...it shows real growth. You should be very happy and proud of yourself.

    Glad to hear that Jack has been patient and good to you.

    Hope you continue to heal...

  4. I started reading your post thinking that I know how you feel, that I too have self-esteem issues that come from not being comfortable with my body, but as I continued I realized that my issues are worlds away from yours and I appreciate you sharing this story.

    You're a really amazing and strong person and I'm glad we're online blogger friends!!

  5. i had no idea you had gone through all of this. You are such an amazing person & you should be very proud of yourself!

  6. Wowww... Just when I was about to type "I know how you feel...," I kept reading to see that I, in fact, don't know how that feels. You are so strong for overcoming all of that. Amazing, and I'm so glad things have turned around for you.

  7. What an amazingly strong woman you are! Thank you so much for sharing such personal, intimate heartbreak and the ultimate power that you took away from it. Wow. Just, wow.

  8. I think it's awesome that you shared this part of yourself - and I think you are really strong and amazing for perservering. And I think it's wonderful that you've found someone who treats you the way you should be treated. It gives hope to everyone who has struggled through the same types of situations.

  9. What a tough story!When I was a sophomore in high school, we were to describe the type of guy we wanted to marry. Being a child of divorce, I so knew what I didn't want. Writing that mini-essay was like creating a contract with myself. I put down in writing what I wanted that guy to be like: someone who loved me for being me, someone who loved Jesus, not just on Sundays, but brought him out of the box,someone with a sense of humor,but not too funny--and the list went on.

    My husband fulfilled every part of that contract! He allows me to bloom and become me. God only sends us the best when we ask Him! (See my post Are You Man Enough)

    Keep blooming and discovering how beautiful you truly are!

  10. I think we may have lived parallel lives... Stussy tank top and all. I was a short, flat chested kinda girl but other than that... it was really quite the same. Wow. Thanks for posting this.... really. I loved it.

  11. hey, kudos for putting this out in the open!

    A couple things I'd like to blurt out...

    Even if you have a scar on your body or whatever, it doesnt take one bit of appeal out of you.

    What a loser that put you out on the road because you wouldnt blow him, that's just stupid and I'm glad you didn't. And...I'm glad you got the heck out of the abusive relationship, its so frustrating hearing about girls who stay with these losers who push and hit.

    You're awesome MJ!

  12. WoW! I read this post 3 times, you are so brave MJ to share all that...I remember when you dated the bozo and I thought how much it reminded me of my bozo I ran from (What exactly does a 25 year old have in common with a 17 year old?) Yeah. I am glad Jack and you found each other, you desearve an amazing life.

  13. Wow, you are all so awesome and supportive--I love you guys.

    This post was supposed to be some sort of social commentary on how negative body image leads to low self-esteem for so many women. I hadn't planned to tell you about the abusive boyfriend. It just happened. I guess it makes sense. I don't think I would have allowed a man to mistreat me like he did if it weren't for my lack of self-esteem. I certainly would never let it happen again. I guess knowing that is what gave me the strength to say all these things publicly. And, I'm glad I did. It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

  14. Jack probably realizes that though he hates that they happened to you, all of those experiences made you who you are - the person he loves.

    Thank you for sharing this. I think where you are right now could give so much inspiration and hope to younger women who are in situations like some of the ones you were in years ago.

  15. That needs guts and even you know that. :) To write like this takes many a things.
    Nez...it was a great read and i do share your feelings about men partly. Your bucket is always full. Be it the adventures you had or the places you have seen or the family/personal life of urs. You have done it all. And at the end thats what matters...the number of matches we play.
    And good to know about your comfort. people like you always get that or have that. And thats well deserving.

  16. this makes my heart hurt but i'm so glad you came out strong and resilient! you are very brave.. not only in leaving him but in opening up and letting love in again. this guy must be something special :) don't ever believe dysfunction means you can't overcome and find something healthier and more balanced. i'm always afraid i'm going to keep repeating my patterns but i have to hope that the awareness and willingness to try again means i won't..

  17. Thank you for sharing. (I found you through Lora, BTW.)

  18. Wow, you have been through a lot. Good for you for getting out of that relationship before you ended up in the hospital, or worse, dead. I consider you to be one of the strongest women I have ever met. I have felt that way since the very first time I read your blog. You seem to know what you want, aren't afraid to go after it, are well cultured and educated, and you truly see yourself for what you are...an amazing, beautiful woman. You are so lucky to have found Jack. I hope you continue to become more comfortable with yourself. And I love my scars...they each have a story and remind me of a different time in my life...they help to make you who you are. Great post!

  19. I've been through a lot too and I really applaud you for posting this! I've had so many problems with myself and with men before I met Vic. I'm always here if you need someone to talk to!

  20. Thanks, Jo. Saying [writing] about my experience definitely made me feel better. I have gotten so much support from everyone here--I really appreciate it!

  21. Thanks for sharing this. That sounds so trite, but truly, thanks for sharing what must be the deepest darkest part of yourself.

    Whenever I see these matchups in the movies between a 50-something male star and a 20-something starlet, I literally want to throw up. It's basically pedophilia.