How Girls in Foster Care View Themselves Differently

Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, People, all these magazines have tips and tricks for women on how to please others (particularly men) and how to be pretty, according to society’s twisted conception of what beauty is. That being said, in general women young and old are bruised by media’s notions of beauty and what makes you important. From tweens to teens to adulthood, girls have a hard time loving themselves, because we are raised by our society to believe our looks are what give us our worth over all else unfortunately. So already we hurt, and we feel inadequate and insignificant. Now, girls who grow up in stable homes with loving parents still have these issues. Imagine growing up in a home that made you feel like you didn’t matter, on top of already feeling like you weren’t good enough, then you become a number in a computer system and a job to somebody. It makes things tougher than tough, it can be scarring. You often feel like somebody’s work, an object, a number, like less than a person...you often hear “you can’t love others until you love yourself”, but how can you love yourself when you don’t feel loved at all?

Let me give you an example from my own life. Growing up, my dad was a very hateful man. He was constantly ridiculing and hurting my mother and knocking not only her down but women in general, and I was no exception. Seven years old, my dad called me a “fat miserable b-”. Over the years he has called me far worse things, but that one sentence he spoke seriously and directly to my seven year old eyes and seven year old heart has never left my mind, and chances are it won’t for a very long time from now. Throughout elementary school I had a tough time as well, I was the girl with the circular glasses and bad teeth, who wore overalls and turtlenecks and khaki pants, and had very short hair. I was good at school and tried to befriend everyone, but I was always the target for bullying - physically, mentally and emotionally. I was made fun of for the way I dressed, acted, looked, talked, etc. Even the few I called friends would join in on the harshness of my school peers. It was painful to go from being bullied at school to being bullied at home, and seeing my mother be bullied as well. When I got in to foster care, in addition to all the hurt I had that flooded my heart, the bullying didn’t cease.I was constantly called white trash by at least three of my foster mothers, ugly by two of them, and was time after time treated as though I was nothing more than some unappealing, ridiculous, awful thing.. Not even a person. Less than a person. On top of that, at this point in time I was starting middle school. One of my foster mothers wouldn’t buy us clothes and our school uniform was bought from goodwill, my pants at one point were completely falling apart, I kid you not. My friend had to sneak me pants while passing classes once so my foster mom wouldn’t get mad at me for asking for new ones. I was breaking out, gaining weight, I was just learning how to do makeup and increasingly becoming interested in boys, etc. All of that middle school goodness that we all miss, I’m sure. And of course, my desire to be accepted and loved only grew stronger in time. As you all are well aware, teenagers are painfully judgmental and can be very mean. We’ve all witnessed this! So, my heart grew heavier. All in all, I am nineteen years old and I just recently started to discover my worth and look for it in better, healthier places.

Where do foster girls look to find their worth, when they come from a background of being told their worth is basically nonexistent? Sex, rebellion, drugs, etc. We’ve already given up on people and feeling loved by people, assuming we are unworthy of it, so we go looking for anything else that can make us feel good. One big one is boys. We begin to feel as though the whole “family” or even “friend” thing just won’t happen for us or ever feel genuine, so we begin to throw ourselves into the arms of anyone willing to love us, but love...how do you think we define love at this point? That’s the point, is we have no true definition for love, so we will let others define it for us and we don't question it. Thus creating toxic, abusive relationships.. What do you think that does to our self worth? Not what we thought it would of course.

In summary, girls have it hard, and in a sense foster girls have it harder… often because we end up making it harder for ourselves, whether or not we realize it. We sabotage what we have that is good because we feel we don’t deserve it, and we destroy ourselves because that’s what is familiar to us. We know no different, so what I have to say to you adoptive and foster parents, is show us different. Know that most foster girls are extremely aware, and are on the lookout for anything you do or say so we can pick it apart in our brains and use it as reasons why we are unlovable, unworthy, etc. React with compassion and consideration at all times, think things through, because sometimes the most innocent statements or punishments can become something that scars us and hurts us, whether or not it was intended to do so. It’s because of how our brains already are, so show us what it right. Show us love unconditionally, show us compassion, patience. Help foster girls see their worth, because chances are it has never been seen before. It’s not easy, but it is doable.

And as a final statement to foster girls in the system, letting someone new love you doesn’t mean you are betraying those who have loved you in the past, and if you feel you have never been loved.. allow people the privilege of seeing all that there is to you and who you are that is far more worthy of love than you can even begin to imagine. You, are more than worthy. You are precious. Lastly, be important to yourself. Your worth is not defined and does not stem from how everyone else sees you and what everyone else thinks about you, it comes down to how you view and think of yourself. So fall in love with the beautiful being that you are and never forget your importance.

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all”
-Mulan