She Turned Insults Into Life Lessons



Lynda Murphy, whose maiden name was Dumm, remembers the day at Eureka High School when a group of her peers presented her with another girl named Linda.

"They tapped me on the shoulder," she said. "They said, ‘Lynda Dumm, we'd like to introduce you to Linda Smart.' At that moment, I wanted to prove to all those kids that I had worth and value."


Lynda Murphy

By then, although Murphy had grown accustomed to snide remarks such as those, the words still sliced through her flagging self-esteem.

"I was just ‘Dumm,'" she said. "If you're told something long enough. You begin to believe it."

But Murphy refused to allow it to destroy her. Instead, she embraced her childhood trauma and morphed into a self-image guru.

For 25 years, Murphy has made a career out of helping teenagers and adult women overcome poor self-esteem through her faith-based, personal-improvement program, Total Image.

"Somebody points out a bad aspect that you might not have noticed," she said. "It's the things people say. Parents and peers have an amazing part in that. Poor self-image comes from hurts from your past that you cannot let go of."

Murphy grew up in the cool, misty beach air of Humboldt, Calif. As a child, she struggled with dyslexia and a reading disability, but back in the 1950s and 1960s, many educators, health professionals and parents misunderstood the condition. People considered slow learners to be stupid.

The painful experiences hark back to early elementary school. In third grade, Murphy's teacher alphabetized the students by last name. To distribute report cards, she called them one by one to her desk: Dumm, Linda.

"It was the longest walk," Murphy said. "All the kids snickered and laughed."

At an early age, Murphy sought activities to boost her self-image.

By sixth-grade, ballet classes had planted the seeds of grace and confidence. In her sophomore year of high school, Murphy's mother enrolled her in modeling school.

They taught her manners and poise. She learned to tailor makeup and clothing to fit her body type. The personality tests focused her career interests and personal goals.

"We compare ourselves with other people," she said. "We're either less than or more than. Girls will pick someone and model after them. A model is the small version of the real thing."

And that's where Murphy's expertise comes in.

She's written books, provided image counseling and relayed her story to women and teens all over country. She even operated an esteem-building summer camp for teenagers in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The goal: To break through the shell of self-preservation and tap into the beauty underneath.

"So many girls hunger for affection," she said. "Girls are trying to boost their self-esteem through provocative dress and promiscuity."

Murphy said parents can begin esteeming their children --boys, too -- through positive words and actions. To augment good energy at home, provide activities that take children out of himself or herself, such as sports, drama, art classes and volunteering.

To learn more about Murphy, and to ask about hosting a seminar, contact her at or check out her Web site:

Facts about self-esteem

  • Ninety-percent of our self-concept is built around what we believe other people think of us.
  • Learn how to look your best on the outside.
  • Discover how you are wired on the inside.
  • Avoid comparing yourself with others.
  • Do not model yourself off another.
  • Learn how to feel comfortable in social situations.
  • Forgive others who have hurt you.
  • Avoid negative thoughts.
  • Nothing gives a person greater satisfaction and a sense of well-being than helping others.

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