I remember being teased a lot for many different reasons. I was teased for being a church girl, not having a perm, my hair being short, being dark, being chubby, not wearing the flyest clothes or having a boyfriend all the time. Do not feel bad for me. I did my fair share of teasing and it was not just in defense of myself, but as a way to mark my territory. I was very good at hitting you where it hurt and laughing about it loudly in your face. Despite being teased all through primary school, I think the words that always hurt the most were those that came from my father.
My father would say things like, “I hope you don’t think you are cute, because you are not?” or “You are so fat.” or “No one will ever want you. You are going to turn out just like your crackhead mother.” or harsher words that cut much deeper and left internal scars that took years to heal. Looking back at my pictures, I was actually pretty thin. I was in ROTC and the marching band, which forced me to workout a lot and we never had a lot of food to eat, so it wasn’t like I over ate. He said those things to hurt me and to control my perception of myself. His words always stuck with me. When I looked in the mirror I saw someone who was ugly, fat, and never good enough.
I was the late bloomer. I was shaped like Taylor Swift my freshman year of high school but the following summer the Lord saw fit to allow me to blossom. As I started to become more shapely, my father’s words became harsher and cut deeper. By this time, my stepmother had moved back to Connecticut and I only had my girlfriends to help me get through these fragile years. Thankfully, many of them had older sisters and their words of wisdom helped me to appreciate the young woman I was becoming ,but that only helped on a superficial level. I understood that I was physically changing for the better but my self-esteem remained the same. Low. The foundation of your self-esteem is built at home and my home was filled with destructive words instead of words of love and power.
I never realized how hard I was on myself until my sophomore year of college. I cannot pinpoint the moment or the exact set of events that led up to my epiphany, but I remember being in the car with my friend and she turned to me and said, “You look different. You look very pretty. I don’t know what it is but you look good.” I remember that moment so vividly and I looked in the mirror and there wasn’t anything different about me except the fact that I had decided to just be happy. I made the conscious decision to stop being so critical of myself and pointing out all of my flaws because I wasn’t going to change. I learned to accept myself and find the beauty in my being.
My journey towards a happier me was slow and riddled with pitfalls, mistakes and setbacks. I reached a pinnacle of happiness the year I prepared for my friend’s wedding. I set a weight loss goal and focused on cleaner eating. I worked hard at my job but I was also having the time of my life. That year was amazing from start to finish and I vowed to only go higher from there.
When I look in the mirror I still notice my flaws but I don’t use them to deconstruct myself down to the studs. I see an issue with my skin, I go and find a treatment regimen that will clear it up. I don’t like how I look in my clothes, I prepare a workout regimen or set a running goal and stick with it. If I am ever unhappy, I try to get to the root of the problem and deal with it accordingly. This is the new me. The me that arrived in 2005 and believed that I was beautiful because I am.
Our words changes lives. Our words empowers. Our words destroys. Use your words wisely. Build up yourself and those around you. Be proud of who you are and work hard to be better each day. Believe that you are beautiful.
Be you. Do you. Tell your own story. On your own terms.