Insecurity. This word alone is enough to make people cringe. I chose to write my post this week about insecurity while I was looking through some old middle school assignments I completed. One assignment in particular, my eighth grade scrapbook, caught me completely off guard. There were two portions of this assignment that required us to reveal personal information about ourselves. The first was called a “Bio Poem”. This very short poem was meant to be a biography condensed into a few lines. Mine read:
Nerdy, smart, short, happy
Daughter of Merry and Dean
Sister of Courtney, Whiskers (cat), and Lou (cat)
Lover of animals, school
Who feels sad that people don’t understand me
Who fears dogs, being stabbed in the back
Who like to see no one special
Resident of ______, Tennessee. (omitted for privacy)
While reading this poem, I was instantly transported back in time and became painfully aware of how little I thought of myself. I could have written any four adjectives to describe myself and the first that came to mind was nerdy. I saw myself how people labeled me in school. I did, however, list happy to describe myself, and that was reassuring. Then I read on and saw the line that said I was sad because I felt that people didn’t understand me. This was due to the fact that everyday of middle school, I allowed people to pick on me and ridicule me for being smart. I was never popular, so I figured if the only way I could get attention was to be the object of people’s amusement that was good enough for me. I remember being very lonely at this portion of my life and the phrase in my poem “being stabbed in the back” meant that I was afraid my friends, the few people I would allow to get close to me, would one day become just more of my bullies. As for listing my cats as my siblings, I was so unhappy at school that I used to come home and confide in them, and they honestly were like family to me. They were the two individuals that I could tell anything to that wouldn’t tear me down or laugh at me. It may seem odd that I was so open in this assignment, and I had two main reasons for doing so: I thought this was a private assignment that only the teacher would see, and I was reaching out for help. Much to my horror, my teacher posted these poems in the hallway of our school. My classmates immediately began to tease me about listing my cats as family members, and made fun of the fact that I thought people didn’t understand me. Then my biggest fear was made real, the people I thought I could trust had broken that trust. Looking back now, I know my teacher didn’t post the poems to hurt me. She simply wanted to post the poems for other students to read and to show the school what we had been doing in our poetry unit. At the time, though, it revealed all of my deepest insecurities to everyone in the school and I was devastated.
The next assignment I found in my scrapbook was a letter we wrote to ourselves at the beginning of the year and we weren’t allowed to open until the last week of out eighth grade year. For length’s sake, I won’t post the entire letter, but here is one section that stuck out to me:
You hope to change the impression people get about you this year. Instead of seeing a dork you hope people just see Caitlin. You also hope to change your attitude toward others. You would love to improve your knowledge. And you want to know all there is to know about eighth year.
I remember receiving this letter at the end of the school year and being overwhelmed with sadness because not only had people’s impression of me not changed, it had gotten worse. I put so much effort into hiding my insecurity, but it was all to no avail. People still saw me as a nerdy dork whose only friends were her cats. As a 13 year old girl, the opinions of your classmates mean the world to you, and to them I was nothing, so I started to actually believe that I was nothing.
This feeling of nothingness carried with me throughout high school and I remained in a constant state of depression and unhappiness. I had learned to put on a pretty good mask and stopped reaching out for help, because I assumed people didn’t care anyway. This is a dangerous state of mind to be in at all, much less for a long period of time. I began to consider suicide as an escape. To me, this seemed like the only logical option to end my pain. It would also rid the world of me, especially since I seemed to only upset people just by being myself. I honestly believed that my life had no value, and I would be doing people a favor.
You may be wondering why I would tell all of you this, and I have a very good reason. I want people to know that insecurity is extremely dangerous, and our actions can negatively affect others (regardless of our intentions). Luckily, my mother caught wind of my depression and was determined to pull me out of it. I will never forget her coming home from work one day with tears in her eyes and saying she wanted to go on a walk with me. She took me to the edge of our driveway and we sat on two stumps for hours while she told me how much value I really had and that people really did love me. I can’t imagine the strength it took for a mother to look into the eyes of her daughter, who thinks she has no worth, and plead with her to change her mind. I know deep inside she felt responsible for not noticing sooner, but I made a point for her not to. My mom saved my life, and for that I owe her the world.
I still struggle with insecurities every now and then, but I have never been back to the place I was in in the eighth grade. Believe it or not, college was a huge relief and served as an escape from who I used to be. I never want to feel that way again, and I pray that no one else ever has to. Thank you guys for reading my story of insecurity and I hope that it can help at least one person out there find hope. You’re important, you have value, and people do love you. I can’t stress the truth of that statement enough. Please call (1-800-273-8255) if you feel like suicide is your only option. Call anytime, the people here would love to listen to you.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or insecurity at our university, please do not hesitate to email Jason Kishpaugh at jason.kishpaugh@LMUnet.edu
I am also more than willing to listen and/or talk to you. Just send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.