When I was 18 and figuring out my place in the world, I decided to join a community of models and photographers called modelmayhem.com. I wanted to try my hand at the world of modeling for some god-awful reason. Boy, was that a lesson in self-esteem and dating.
At the time of writing this, I’m a couple of months from being “dirty 30,” so I have a fuzzy recollection of the events of this time. However, I remember looking at other models’ profiles to try to figure out what it took to “make it.”
To start, I posted self-portraits I took with a timed camera that, looking back, had the naive, unflattering energy of 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon when she was trying to make it in show biz as an actor and before she became a comedy writer.
I also had acne like a warty pumpkin, and my face was so oily that the oil could have been collected in bottles and sold for suntanning. #tmi
Oh god, this is all coming back to me now… Make the images stop!
At some point, a few sympathetic Jack Donaghy-like (another 30 Rock reference) photographers offered to work with me for free to help me build my portfolio (and build theirs, I guess). We went to parks, or I visited their studios with a friend to make it happen, trying to tap into my inner Tyra Banks and all of those American top models.
The above image is an example of their magic that transformed me from a dungeon troll to a swan, along with this one:
When I Came to My Senses (and Self-Esteem)
A few months later, I started to have a decent portfolio (albeit of unpaid gigs), so life was going well.
…except for the blaring part about feeling deeply insecure about my appearance.
I couldn’t get my acne under control. I felt like I needed bigger boobs. I thought I had to be taller. I worried my face was too long for the camera. I was anxious about my weight and thought I had cottage-cheese-curd thighs. My hair was still like a frizzy, lion mane Jew poof that needed a lion-tamer-strength product or hair dresser.
And I continued to compare myself to other models on Model Mayhem, thinking I could never be like they were. Something didn’t feel right.
When I was stuck inside my head about the vanity of it all, a little voice reached its hand to help me out, and I decided to call it quits.
That little voice was my gut telling me this world wasn’t for me, and that I was more meant for a nerdier, dorkier, hobo-like world of bad fashion, no makeup, and dirt.
Today, I look and feel more like a happy dungeon troll.
Self-Esteem and Dating Lessons
So, what does this story mean for you? You might be looking at yourself in the mirror, comparing yourself to women in magazines (or even to your Facebook and Instagram friends), and feeling like absolute stanky shit.
First off, it’s completely normal to feel like the grass is greener on the other side–to want someone else’s body or hair or to try the latest diet so you can look just like that woman on the billboard–because it always seems like those women are getting all of the love and attention.
It’s depressing to feel like you were born with a bad hand, such as a Joker of flat chests or a 7 of big ears. You begin to think, “Nothing a little plastic surgery can’t fix…”
Well, I have a few things you, a smart, successful, and fiercely independent millennial STEM woman, need to hear:
- I’m going to give you some tough love: Stop it. Just stop it. You’re wasting your time. How much does it serve you to keep comparing yourself to others? (Hint: It doesn’t!) How much does it serve you to mope around? (Hint: It doesn’t!) How much does it serve you to put your body in jeopardy or morph it like a balloon animal so it can look a certain way? (Hint: It very much doesn’t!)
The National Association for Self-Esteem said it well: Self-esteem is about meeting life’s challenges; not feeling victimized; taking responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and actions; and making conscious decisions to support and care for yourself.
Try this on for size: Toot your own horn in a journal, an iPhone Notes app, or whatever works for you. What do you have going for you? What makes you fucking amazing? What have you accomplished in your life? What makes you irresistible to the opposite sex?
Do you feel great without makeup? Great, write it down. Can you think of times when you’ve overcome adversity? Great, write it down. Do you have a bangin’ pair of boots that make your ass look like the cat’s meow? Then fuck yeah, write it down.
- I have nothing new to say here, but looks aren’t everything. Trust me, even a model gave an entire TED Talk about it, revealing that even she feels insecure. Imagine living in a world where appearances matter above all else, a world where all substance is in an image (booooorrrrrriiiiinnnnng) instead of in a meaningful conversation or a groundbreaking scientific discovery.
I lived it and couldn’t even last more than a few months. It fucking sucked. I felt like I was reduced to a piece of meat. That’s why we STEM women are in our element when we can flaunt our intelligence and personalities. In the end, those help us earn the big bucks!
- Dating. Think of a time when you used the Law of Attraction to attract a good quality mate (or even just someone) into your life. What was your mindset at the time? How were you being your best self? What power did you have in your hands that made someone salivate over you?
Or, think about a time when you attracted a new friend into your life. Obviously that person found you badass enough to want to hang out and keep in touch. Also, I bet you didn’t need to dangle a single modeling photo in front of their faces to get them to like you.
One time, when my boyfriend Phillip and I started dating, we were sitting at a local restaurant and I showed him an Earth science mobile app I was working on at my day job. After I showed him how it worked, he said to me, “Wow, I’ve never nerded off with a woman before.” Obviously, confidence, brains, and personality trump all–and make a relationship last.
Are you feeling down on yourself and need a pick-me-up? Are you struggling to love yourself while getting back into dating? Do you need help attracting amazing people into your life? Do you want to regain the power you feel like you’ve lost? I want to help! Comment below, sign up for my regular emails, or get in touch with me so we can work together toward a life of badassery.