Beyond the Bullying Series #Entry 3
The Day I Knew I Was Different | When My Body Shaming Began
How do we connect our little young self to who we are today? Why does it matter? How do thought patterns happen? Can we really change our thinking pathways through visiting our early years?
At a time in my life where I felt very physically and emotionally confident, I was still experiencing road blocks, fear, and nasty phrases in my head. I’ve always been great at turning negative into positive ( which I now know is a survival skill) so I wanted to try and get to the bottom of my limited beliefs.
I took a walk down memory lane to the first time I can remember it being pointed out to me that I was physically different. The first time I was made fun of for my appearance. The first time I felt a shot of pain towards who I was as a person based on anything other than my personality.
First I took out a picture of my 6 year old self and looked at it .
The little girl in the picture was so alive, As I looked into my 6 year old eyes, I saw true windows of happiness.
In the picture I am wearing my favorite pink dress that my mother made and little pink clips in my hair.
My thrill in life was to make others smile. I dreamed of being an entertainer . Singer mostly, but I also really wanted to be an actor, and a dancer.
I would dress up, and dance and sing in my room, and I would pretend my bed was a stage. I believed I could do anything and I had a little stubborn streak in me that would just not give up.
I had and felt so much love from my parents and friends. When I saw others sad or distraught, I felt the obligation to share my love.
It was intuitive.When I helped others find joy it gave me bigger joy than anything I could manifest myself .
I remember my mom telling me that I would be a great psychologist or counselor or even a nurse. But no, I wanted to be a performer. I didn’t really understand why people kept telling me that I didn’t have the right body type.
“Oh, who knows” they said, “Maybe she'll grow out of it....Maybe it’s just baby fat.”
I didn’t see myself as being different. My mom made my dresses because she was good at it and liked to sew. I knew I had wide feet ,chubby cheeks, and baby fat that “ I would grow out of. “ But I was happy.
Then it happened...the first time everything I believed in myself and my abilities was delivered a blow.
My parents wanted to fuel my desire to perform and since at that time I wanted to be a ballerina, ballet it was.
First there was the search for the proper clothes, the tights,and the slippers. It was a struggle to find all the right sizes. I remember the sales ladies would look me up and down, and say quietly, “It’s not exactly her most flattering look”. I looked in the mirror and I saw me. I saw a ballerina. I saw a famous performer. I was beaming with joy and excited to start classes.
The day finally came for my first class. I had butterflies in my tummy, as I entered the building.
The room was painted beige, and there were large mirrors on one wall and a bar along the other side. I didn’t know any of the other girls, but I was far from shy and made a point to introduce myself.
It was strange. I felt awkward. The other girls were talking, giggling, twirling, and looking at me every so often like I was a part of the room. Another group of girls giggled as one whispered in the other’s ear, and they all looked at me before continuing with their whispers and giggles. I stood there alone feeling very uncomfortable. I wanted to go home.
The teacher asked us to all line up by the bar. The sound of soft slippered feet pitter pattered across the floor to take position. I suddenly had plain view of what the giggles and exclusion was. It wasn’t me the girls were laughing at, it was my reflection.
I had a wildly different reflection than any of theirs. As I looked across the room, my eyes scanned every little picturesque ballerina standing there, and then fell on me. I stood firmly planted in the floor, a solid presence with much larger limbs and frame than the other girls. It was the first time comparison entered my world. I was different. I felt ashamed, unwanted, and for the first time ever shy.
We started at the lesson, and honestly I don’t remember much of it but I remember feeling awkward, clumsy, unpretty. The beautiful ballerina I had seen myself as when I danced around in my room had somehow vanished. At the end of the class the secrets and whispers came out , “I knew it...she’s too fat to be a ballerina” they giggled.
I think I managed a couple more lessons before I begged my mom to pull me out. She did, but I didn’t tell her why. I was embarrassed, and I was scared that if my parents knew what happened, they might think less of me. Like I deserved it.
What about the teacher? Why didn’t she intervene? Quite honestly, I don’t think she knew. As I got older and bullying became part of my everyday world, it became clear. Teachers only caught about 10% of what was really happening socially with the students and it’s not their fault. Kids are really good at hiding subtle bullying, but the recipient feels every single morsel that comes their way.
How can we change it?
I wish I knew how to solve it. Awareness helps but the more we teach our kids self love, the better. I think some young children are not really sure how to be themselves and turn to peers for acceptance. When it’s not there, school years can be a very long lonely road.
To be continued...
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