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by Alanis Baluyot McNeal

As children, we are influenced by the environment around us — we absorb the words we hear and the way we are treated like a sponge. If you grew up like me, you grew up to feel like you weren’t beautiful, special, or worthy of love, whether that was fed to you by outside influences (like bullies or the media) or even by the people who “loved” you (like family or friends). Essentially, you grew up feeling like the ugly duckling.  The effects of childhood trauma and bullying have lasting effects on your brain and mental health. The way you take compliments, see yourself, and interact with others is all affected by how you’ve learned and healed from childhood trauma. 

Nowadays, you see so many young girls growing up fast as a response to that childhood trauma. Whether they are getting boob jobs at 16 or wearing a full face of makeup in middle school, the sad reality is that many girls grow up feeling that they aren’t naturally beautiful, so they have to change themselves or enhance their beauty at a young age. Even grown women show their insecurities in the form of envy and shame towards other women. The point is that as women, we are fed “the standard of beauty” so young that we start to think that we have to look or dress a certain way for others to deem us as worthy, and we automatically see other women as our competition. This mentality, in turn, makes it hard for us to see the beauty in ourselves. 

So how do you fix this “ugly duckling” mindset? 

  • The first step is being aware. Knowing yourself from the inside and out allows you to create a deeper connection with yourself. Taking yourself out on a date, cooking your favorite meal, and even telling yourself affirmations in the mirror are all ways you can get to know yourself on a more meaningful level. 
  • Next is monitoring what you allow to enter your life, whether that is sexually, emotionally, or physically. Interactions create energy – positive and negative – and by allowing more positive energy to enter your life and blocking out negativity, you’re making a thriving environment full of love, peace, and confidence. 
  • The last step is letting go. This is done by forgiving the people who made you feel lesser than, by dealing with your insecurities head-on, and by getting rid of the negative mindset that held you back for so long. It’s like shedding dead skin and coming out renewed and refreshed because you’re letting go of the weight others held over you or you held over yourself. 

Although this guide is a great way to start learning self-love, it’s not as cut and clean as you think. Growing out of our insecurities and building confidence is a mindset we have to adopt and practice every day. We all have those moments where we are down on confidence and feel as if we aren’t enough, but we shouldn’t let them hold us back from seeing the full potential of our beauty. 

Corinne Dorsey is a freshman journalism major at Howard University. Corinne is currently a freelance writer for theGrio and a contributing writer for The Hilltop, Her Campus, and Teen Graffiti Magazine. Corinne is also a radio show host for “Hard to Swallow” on WHBC 96.3. In Corinne’s free-time she enjoys spending time with friends, trying new foods, reading the latest magazine issues, exploring the city, and improving her photography skills. Post Graduation, Corinne plans to work in the media as a multimedia journalist for a magazine or TV network. Digital Portfolio: https://corinnedorsey.journoportfolio.com/
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