Shay’s story

On the outside, I am a picture of confidence. An outgoing and vibrant individual who is always smiling and surrounded by people.

On the outside.

I could fake confidence really well, but never really felt it for myself.


On the inside, I am enduring a constant struggle with my self-esteem. I have always felt like an outsider; someone who is on the sidelines, never fitting in. Growing up I was a weird kid, and kids can be mean. I never felt cool enough, or good enough, or simply enough.

I’ve spent almost all of my social interactions analyzing what others thought of me, despite what they said or did. I’ve lived my entire life based on how I thought other people perceived me. My sense of self-worth and happiness became based on other’s opinions. I never thought there was anything I could do to change that, but I found inspiration in people who had the ability to accept themselves and their mistakes. They would be so confident; so genuinely accepting of themselves. I could tell that their confidence was more than just skin-deep.

I always wished I had that attitude. This is me, take it or leave it. Instead, I focused on my insecurities. I could fake confidence really well, but never really felt it for myself.
I accepted the fact that I needed to take control over my own happiness. I began seeing a counsellor at Calgary Counselling Centre who helped me talk out all of my troubles and she recommended a group class. When approaching my family about going to the group counselling session, their shock was yet another reinforcement that no one understood how deeply rooted my feelings were.

“You don’t need that, do you?” my father responded.

I did. I had doubts about group classes because it seemed awkward to sit in a room full of strangers, but I was tired of feeling trapped in my insecurities. I was willing to try anything that would help.

The first couple sessions were intense. I truly was bearing my soul to strangers. There were so many minds and different worldviews to show me different sides I hadn’t considered. I knew nothing about anyone in that room, yet I got to know their souls. They told me about parts of themselves that they hid from everyone else, and that was really special. Everyone came from different walks of life, yet we all had the same misgivings.

My counsellor was great at helping me talk everything through, but it was much more powerful coming from a group of strangers who were also there for support We ended up guiding each other by reframing each other’s feelings and perspectives. I walked out of every session feeling empowered and with a fresh outlook.

My self-esteem has improved a lot. I still have a long way to go, but I am happy with where I am now. Accepting myself as I am is the biggest breakthrough I made. Maybe it is not where I picture myself being, but I am okay with where I am and that in itself feels incredible.

I honestly think that everyone could benefit from counselling. I know it is a scary thing because it is so stigmatized. I know that you might not want other people to know you are doing it. Maybe you are scared to do it because of what you might discover about yourself, or are afraid of challenging yourself. I am here to tell you that these discoveries will lead to your growth, and the challenges will help you get stronger.

Reaching out is the ultimate step towards accepting and loving yourself.

Nick Heer