I hated myself. Every day I woke up I gazed in the mirror and wanted to be someone else – anyone but me. I came to despise that person whose face was utterly inhuman, frightening and so not what I wanted to be.

I fantasised about a miracle operation that would change me when I reached 21. That was the only thing that made my life as a teenager – a very torturous period, full of self doubt, self-loathing, negativity and hopelessness – somehow bearable.

So when I reached 21 and I met the consultant my expectation was high, my self-esteem so low that hope was crushed when he said there was little he could do to improve my face.

In the years that followed I sank so low I often wonder how I came out the other side. I cried so many times, my mental anguish reached such depths I considered – but quickly discarded – the notion of taking my life. There seemed nothing to live for, no reason to carry on in a world I felt had rejected me.

It took me a long time to realise the problem wasn’t the world outside, but my perception of it. I simply wasn’t giving people a chance, not letting them know that here was a guy who may look different to others, but who was reasonably witty and could, once he relaxed enough and trusted his own personality, be good company. Whether there was a girl out there for me was another matter. But not socialising to any meaningful extent certainly wasn’t helping me.

So I began to work on my confidence gradually. I started to believe a little more in myself and say goodbye to the old me. it didn’t happen overnight – there would be many slips before that day arrived – but the journey had begun. I don’t know if many people were aware of the changes in me, but I was. There was a lot less negativity. I built on whatever I had that people liked, so I laughed more, cracked a few more jokes, became better company even if it was among people I knew or worked with. I believed in me. I cared about me. And most of all I began to trust in myself a little more.

Looking on the positive side, I had survived a serious burning accident, overcome some early disabilities, and was in decent physical shape. I had a good job with fine colleagues, good money. Life could be worse. Positivity. Play to your strengths. Easy to say, harder to do. But I did it one step at a time, occasionally blundering, but moving forward. I dared to dream. Positivity. It took me too long, but the fault was not in others though I had blamed them.

And then I met my first girlfriend. I was 29. Yeah, you read that right. My first proper kiss, lips on lips at 29. Positivity. I may have been late to the party, but that first kiss was magical. Positivity. Always look on the bright side of life; every second, every minute, every hour, every day. Take courage in your hands and believe in yourself. It comes from within. Take that step. Believe.

More to come in a few days.

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