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How We’re Taught to Not Like Ourselves by Those Closest to Us

I find some things about growing up in this life so…odd. For one, most of us end up spending so much time as we get older trying to simply…like ourselves. Shouldn’t that be a given?

We literally are who we are, and yet we seem to like others a hell of a lot more than we like ourself—which actually sucks, if you think about it.

Why do we learn to not like ourselves? Because it is a learned behavior. At some point, we were taught through whatever means that we’re not meant to like ourselves…

Whether that’s comments about being too “full of yourself” or someone saying something bad about something you THOUGHT you liked about yourself…

When I was in the 5th grade, I really wanted to get into modeling. I was obsessed with the transformations of girls on America’s Next Top Model (though my mom tried to stop me from watching it – silly her for using her cell phone’s last 4 digits as the parental code, as if I wouldn’t guess that). But it wasn’t about looking good or wanting to BE one of those girls, really. It was about the process of transforming and turning your body into cool shapes and finding angles that were interesting and cool. It was the skillset.

So, me being exactly who I was at 11 years old, hopped onto my mom’s severely slow laptop as we sat in the apartment on Talcott Avenue we just moved into after her divorce from my sister’s dad, and I google modeling agencies nearby.

I went through the application process.

Pretending to be my mom filling out the form for me, of course.

Soon she got a call and even a letter in the mail, both saying they wanted to meet me and do a test.

I’m not sure why she went for it, thinking somehow they “discovered me”, but she was excited—and she sure as shit did not think I had applied myself LOL. But we went…

We drove to Madison, Wisconsin and I wore jeans, a jean jacket, and a cute little red tank top I thought I looked so grown-up in.

We talked to a few people, we did some test modeling shots in which I got to pose and strut for the camera for the first time EVER (I definitely pretended I was on ANTM as I walked toward the camera, staring it down), and I also read a Smuckers commercial…and they loved it.

They loved it so much that when then normally charge $500 to get a portfolio put together (this isn’t a scam, you need a portfolio to book jobs and a photographer/editing/admin time needs to be paid for), they decided to wave the fee for me. They literally wanted to sign me and would cover all the costs…and I couldn’t have been more excited or happy. I felt like I was on top of the world! BUT…

She still had to discuss it with my dad first, who I was actually going to visit soon.

At my dad’s, he confided in my 11-year-old self and said my mom didn’t want me to do it. When I asked why, he responded with:

“Do you think you’re smart?”

I shrugged, “Yes.”

“Do you think you’re pretty?”

I paused, probably wrinked my eyebrows, and said, “Yes.” (why else would I think I’d make a good model? Duh, Dad!)

And he looked down at me and said, “That’s why. She thinks you’ll get a big head.”

And that was one of the first instances that I learned not to like myself (before I even knew what a “big head” was..ummm?)—not to even talk positively about myself or let other people know I liked myself.

I was 11. I got good grades—so I thought I was smart. I liked how I looked—so I thought I was pretty.

And I lost out on an opportunity because of it. And this is how I learned that liking things about myself = sadness.

We all have our own versions of these stories.

The society we live in builds you up only until a certain age, and then they start bringing you down with their own doubts.

Who knows what my life could have looked like, and maybe my mom couldn’t do it because of the time commitment in driving me around when she was a single mother of 6 (which is the more likely of the reasons, I know). It took me a long time to be okay with feeling good about being intelligent and acknowledging that I’m a good looking human being.

I just think it’s dumb to not like ourselves. Even if you don’t like parts of who you are, you can work to improve them—unless those things aren’t something you have any power to change. In which case, what is even the point of not liking them? lol better to just learn to!

It’s probably more about unlearning than learning at this point…

It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it can be done overtime. Find people who are unapologetically themselves and clearly love who they are & learn from them.

How We’re Taught to Not Like Ourselves by Those Closest to Us

Bella Rose Pope

Oct 16, 2021


We literally are who we are, and yet we seem to like others a hell of a lot more than we like ourself—which actually sucks, if you think about it.

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Hi, I'm bella

29. Longtime writer, longertime reader. Just here to share thoughts that keep me thinking, learning, and growing.

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  1. How interesting and well written to describe this perspective! I think about what you are saying a lot in regards to the Art world of painting and of expressing yourself. Countless adults today have told me the Art teacher causes them to doubt themselves and their ability to see and to paint when they hit 3rd-5th grades. Then a “block is established” in creativity that they cannot seem to overcome later as an adult. Your point is well received!

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