My shameful secret, which no one believes
Outwardly it’s hard to take in that this bubbly girl has been bullied for 23 years. That since the age of eight her peers deliberately left her out and laughed at what her mother dressed her in. Or that when she reached the age of twenty-nine, young children at her church would go out of their way to make fun of her, because their parents had had mocked her in their presence.
But it’s all true and that bubbly girl is bubbly because she’s mentally crushed inside, and she just wants to be liked. So, she’s figured that if she’s outgoing and cares about people, there’s a chance they may want to be her friend.
But she’s also sick of being told that because she wanted to wear her hair wild and free and natural and not straighten it and cut it to shoulder height, that she’s frumpy and doesn’t care about herself. She hates having to attend wedding after wedding of her peers who get picked, while she knows the years are ticking by and she’s not being hit on even once, and feels like throwing up when she’s obliged to tell the happy bride how lovely she looks when their judgment and bullying rings loudly in her ears still.
Finally, enough is enough. Tossing over her options she sees they that they consist of suicide or starting a new life somewhere else.
So, in December 2017 she opts to start a new life. She’s scared and excited at the same time and unbeknown to her she’s suffering from devastatingly low self-esteem.
She has no idea how to talk to the opposite sex, in large part because she’s never been noticed by them before. So when she’s hit on by a misogynistic neighbour she’s flattered.
Her new life is full of freedom and she finds herself stepping out of her comfort zone over and over again, so she decides that as she’s started over, the free boudoir photoshoot she’s just spotted might be one step she can take toward healing all those years of bullying. She books it but she’s not quite ready yet, so she cancels it. A few months later with more pluck inside her she books it again.
She’s completely freaked out, but the photography company do everything they can to reassure her — they’ve seen this with many of their clients. That day she is photographed not just in lingerie but also topless.
Years of ‘frumpiness’ is peeled away and no, she might not be all diamonds and ribbons but she’s beautiful and the compliments flow in.
She experiences a high she’s never felt before! External validation and it feels amazing! She gets more daring and books a photoshoot with another company — pushing herself this time to do a fully nude shoot — she’s keen to accept this body that she’s been bullied for, for so long.
The compliments keep coming, and so do the euphoric highs of the external validation.
Like a drug addict she finds her way into modelling, finding more and more photographers who offer their services for free. And so, begins her year of ‘modelling’. The external validation keeps coming, and now her friends want to know how she’s able to get such amazing photographs all the time.
She offers to put together modelling events because she believes that every woman can model. She brings photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists together and her friends have a blast!
Meanwhile men all around the globe are turning up in her inbox — the odd one or two make the classic mistake of assuming she’d love to see their genitals; the others though have a different tack. The compliments turn suggestive and the requests turn personal. They tell her how they’d like to see her photographed and ask if they can buy her used underwear. They pester her and won’t leave her alone. She is stalked, receives anonymous mail, and is harassed.
She has fallen into the view of regarding her body as an object for other people’s pleasure. She finds herself in unhealthy relationships with men who do not care for her.
Feeling indescribable pain, she reaches out in desperation and takes part in 2 workshops where it’s clear just how low her self-esteem really is. Internally she’s still believing the 23 years of bullying. She’s been enjoying the compliments, but she doesn’t believe them to be true.
Now that she sees that she starts to understand what healthy respect looks like and takes steps to move away from those she feels disrespect her.
As she does so, her path crosses with a different kind of man, a ‘gentle-man’. Like so many others he falls for her bubbly outgoing nature but it doesn’t take him long to see how her value of herself is far lower than it should be and instead of taking advantage of that like so many before him, he chooses instead to show her what she deserves.
With his guiding she is able to see just how much her low self-esteem and low self-worth have led her to be disrespected over and over again.
And she chooses instead to retire from modelling, where the men with camera’s were focused solely on how much clothing she was prepared to strip off, and she stopped hosting her modelling events as she saw how she was inadvertently offering her friends up for the same treatment.
And then she began her true healing and I am proud to say that girl is me.
Previously published on Elephant Journal
Jessie Shedden is a British-Australian chicken-loving, cult-escaping badass woman, who has become a sought-after speaker, consultant and inspirational author of Tomorrow’s Not Promised.
Visit www.jessieshedden.com to download the first chapter of her book for free.