If your self-worth is boosted by a self-love sticky note in a public restroom by a stranger who’s never seen you, does this mean you have poor self-esteem?

This is a fair question. After all, the person who wrote the “You are worthy” note has never seen you, let alone interacted with you to get a feel for your personality and social skills.

I didn’t have the best self-worth as an adolescent. If I had walked into a public bathroom and saw a sticky note on the mirror that said in some stranger’s handwriting, “You are worthy!” it would not have made an ounce of difference.

Why should it have? It was written by someone I didn’t know who had no idea who was going to read it.

What matters is when a person who’s important to us and a part of our lives says we’re worthy.

When my MOTHER told me one day, “Your opinion counts around here,” then this affirmation boosted my self-worth.

That makes tons of sense, because our mothers interact with us constantly, and kids tend to internalize how they perceive their mothers (and fathers) think of them.

Relationship with Parents

If you didn’t feel validated by your parents, and/or if older siblings belittled you, bullied you or otherwise behaved in a way that made you feel worthless INSIDE, how is it possible that a total stranger’s self-worth Post-it Note on a public mirror is going to fix your inner wounds?

Shutterstock/Volodymyr Baleha

Yet apparently, it actually happens – at least on a transient and superficial level.

But if repeated invalidations by family members throughout the developmental years have left a young woman feeling inadequate, “not worthy,” not good enough, dislikeable, defective or too weird for anyone to want to be friends with … these wounds cannot be mended by mere notes.

Many such women (and men) with these kinds of wounds improve only when they’ve undergone months of counseling or therapy.

They may stand before a mirror and repeat over and over, “I am worthy,” yet this doesn’t quite work to undo years of ridicule, insults or criticisms from a parent.

These criticisms or negative comments by the parent don’t necessarily relate to body weight or physical appearance, and in fact, often do NOT.

This is why even kids with conventionally attractive bodies and faces can still grow up feeling like shit inside.

Freepik.com

Displacing the Blame

A girl may begin to attribute her feelings of “not being good enough” to some perceived imperfection in her body.

My niece grew up having a conventionally attractive body, yet throughout high school was obsessed with not feeling worthy enough.

She blamed this on lacking a thigh gap and not being skinny. She had a lean, toned athletic body without any excess fat, chubbiness or jiggles.

But to HER, it wasn’t good enough. She obsessed over calories, constantly worried about her weight, and hated on her athletic thighs because they didn’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model’s thighs.

Why didn’t my niece feel worthy? This is years in the making, and a sticky note on a mirror – even hundreds of them over a period of months – written by strangers – aren’t going to fix this.

The root of the problem is how she was pressured by her father to be the best.

With this came heavy analysis of her high school sports performances, criticisms for missing shots, and just an overall feeling of pressure to excel to please Dad.

My niece transferred this relentless pressure to the lack of a thigh gap. After all, pining for a thigh gap was a lot easier and less intimidating than facing the REAL source of the problem: her Alpha wolf of a father.

I guess we can say that the girl subconsciously displaced her origins of “not being good enough” onto something less threatening: her perception of how a young woman’s body should look.

Getting Back Some Control

This way, she had SOME degree of control, such as repeatedly taking leg and waist measurements, weighing herself, tracking daily calories comparing her legs to those of runway models, documenting all sorts of relevant data into a secret notebook, etc.

This way she reclaimed some control in a world where she felt overwhelmed by a domineering father with ultra-high expectations.

Freepik.com, katemangostar

She also had binge eating disorder in her teens and early college years, and prevented excess fat gain by hardly eating the next day.

I’d bet the farm that a psychotherapist who specializes in eating disorders would place nearly all the blame on the father-child dynamics rather than on Victoria’s Secret shows or the models in Seventeen Magazine.

Sticky Note’s Power Over the Longterm Bully

How can years of being railroaded by her controlling though well-meaning father be undone by a sticky note on a mirror?

Now in her 20s, she claims to have it all together as far as body positivity. But I bet her father is still very controlling towards her.

Heck, he’s even attempted to control ME! It’s absurd how he’s attempted this.

One example is when he refused to accept my preference for “almost well-done” steak when he was grilling steaks for a family gathering.

Instead of saying, “Sure, I’ll leave your cut on for an extra few minutes,” he went off about how it was ridiculous that I wouldn’t give medium rare meat – which he believes is the only way people should eat meat – a chance.

I told him I’d tried medium rare in the past and didn’t like it.

He accused me of basing my opinion on the appearance.

I added I had not liked the texture nor TASTE.

But he kept harping on the subject and hovered a piece of medium rare meat literally two inches from my mouth and ordered me to try it.

Folks…one need not have a master’s degree in human psychology to recognize this for what it was: a quest for control.

I absolutely refused to take that piece of meat. He was so miffed that he couldn’t control me.

He also tried to get me to eat Nutella (a chocolate-hazelnut spread) on a bagel (which he was binging on) after I told him I hated hazelnuts.

“You can’t even TASTE them!” he declared.

Yet I’ll bet that every hazelnut lover out there insists that they CAN taste the hazelnuts in Nutella!

Imagine being RAISED by someone like this. He’d videotape many of my niece’s games.

What do you think he did afterwards? Chuck the film? Come ON, he made her watch them and hear his intense analysis.

The poor girl felt so pressured all those years. Could this have been the origins of her binge eating disorder and obsession about body image and feelings of low worth? You think???

If a sticky note on a public bathroom in a mirror makes your day, that’s great. But it only makes one’s day. Or maybe hour.

There’s something deeper going on when you need a self-worth note by a stranger, who’s never met you, to feel better about yourself.

That deeper issue needs to be pursued so that you no longer need an anonymous person’s mirror note to feel worthy.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.