I have thought and thought and thought about this post for about 2 1/2 years now. Perhaps even longer than that. But this feeling has been so much stronger lately that I can no longer ignore it. This is a very personal post and has very little to do with jewelry. So just be warned it is a step away for a moment.
People are so surprised when they hear my story of growing up. They stand there shocked and think that it isn't possible and are stunned that I am the person I am today. In many ways that is the greatest compliment I can receive.
As a little girl, I was pretty darn cute. Big blue eyes, long strawberry blond hair and just enough pudge to be soft, but not too squishy. Then, in 3rd grade things started to change. I headed into that awkward stage, got glasses and somehow became REALLY uncool. So uncool that I WAS the ugly kid that NOBODY in my grade would play with or liked. I was always last to be picked for games and other group activities. I had "cooties." I was reminded daily that nobody liked me. It was awful. I can only imagine the heartbreak that my parents must have felt watching their beautiful little girl develop a very low self esteem, constantly come home crying after school and just be crushed. They did everything they could for me to make certain I excelled where I had talents. I was in dance, I took piano lessons, I read a lot of books, I was even in counseling. They made sure I had friends outside of school, though still very few.
The comments from the kids still haunt me, even now that I am 37 years old. I still remember standing in line for lunch, already self conscious about the way I looked and always eager to gain the approval of others, one of the kids asked if I would like to know how to get rid of 10 ugly pounds. At this point, I was probably 10 years old maybe 11. I stupidly said yes. The reply? "Cut off your head." I laughed. But inside, I was crushed. At night, I would lay in bed and build myself back up. I would imagine myself walking to class with my held held high and a smile on my face. I would imagine myself being successful in my classes and then making friends. Of course the next day would come. My held was held high, until I rounded the corner and bullies were lined up at the door waiting to go in and I would see their sneer as I joined the line. Then the comments would begin. My head would drop and I would wilt.
At church we are taught to love and support one another. We are taught that we should treat everyone as Jesus would. I didn't have that with the kids my own age at church. One week when I was 13 or so, one of the boys prayed I wouldn't come back. I went to girls camp and ended up staying in the tent with the leaders because the girls were so mean to me. In all cases it was the kids, and the adults did object. The adults went out of their way to make me feel loved and cared for. But honestly, the damage had been done. I felt worthless.
As a little girl my father would come in to tuck me into bed and talk with me. He would ask, "Who loves you?" Any loving parent would expect their child to reply with "you do." But I didn't. My response was "nobody." I only recently learned how much that affected my dad. As a parent now, I can only imagine. My answer would remain "nobody" until he tickled me so much that I would give in and say "you do, you do, daddy loves me." LOL. He is a good dad.
Once I was in junior high school, there were new kids from other schools. They didn't know who I had been in the last school. Sure, I still had to deal with my elementary school and church bullies, but I had a new chance. But again, the damage is there. I don't feel worthy of anything. I did make a few new friends. I even played flute and piccolo (a dream I had from the time I was 6.) But I still had bullies. I dealt with threats that people were going to beat me up. I dealt with awful prank calls. I constantly had a sick feeling in my stomach. I always looked for ways to keep people happy and give me their approval. I overcame those bullies with kindness and eventually was able to call some of them "friend."
God has given me one of the greatest blessings he can give His children. A kind and forgiving heart. I am still hurt. But I have never really been angry. If at any time any of those "bullies" came to me and said they were sorry, or even if they just started to be nice to me, they were forgiven and we moved forward. People ask how I have been able to stay active and faithful in my religion after dealing with that growing up. In short, I knew it was the people, not the church or God that was doing this. My own relationship with God was strengthened as I looked to Him for support, love, peace and strength. He has given me ALL of that and more.
Now that isn't to say that things were rosy. They weren't. I dealt with feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. I pondered the whole point of it all if nobody wanted me here. Suicide was thought about, never really attempted, but the thought was there, sometimes stronger than others.
By high school I had finally found some real friends. I developed somewhat of a "who cares" attitude about things. At least on the outside. But I still always sought approval and never really believed that people liked me. They were just being nice. You know, kind of how you might be if you don't want to hurt someones feelings. Most of my true friends in high school were guys. I did have some "girl" friends, but they weren't like my "guy" friends. I never really had close relationships with girls. At least not until later in life.
So why am I writing all of this? Honestly, I am not entirely sure other than the fact that I know I am supposed to. There are a lot of long term ramifications of bullying. We have seen more and more about these young kids who have taken their lives because of bullying. My heart aches for that child and their parents. I was very fortunate to have wonderful parents. They did what they could for me, but they can only do so much. Only what I would allow, if that makes any sense. The rest of it had to be done by me. Do I believe what I am told? Do I get angry? Do I get mean? Do I shrink down to nothing? It is all personal. And when you are dealing with this starting at age 8 and 9, I think it can go any way. My parents always told me how impressed they were with me. They said that if anyone ever had a reason to be angry and bitter, it was me. But I wasn't. I remained forgiving and loving.
How does this all affect me today? I know that I am no longer the Ugly kid. In fact, there are times where I look in the mirror and actually see a beautiful woman looking back at me. That woman stands there only occasionally. The other woman that I see has a weight problem and anger issues from time to time. She still doesn't feel worthy. She still feels that the compliments that come her way are because people are being nice. After all, every now and then there is a bad review on a video or a piece of work or whatnot (yeah, they get deleted. LOL) Because I can't have anyone seeing the "not perfect" things that I do. I still seek approval and acceptance. But I still question the sincerity when it is given.
People ask me all the time why I don't sell my jewelry much. The short answer to it is that I don't really believe anyone would really like it and pay for what it is worth. It was made by me. Why would anyone ever value it. I know it is untrue. It is a battle that I fight everyday. There are two sides of me. One left over from the bullying and tearing down of a little girl nearly 30 years ago. The other that has grown and learned that it was all wrong. One side always tells me of my failures, imperfections, stupidity, etc. etc. The other side knows that she has become beautiful, talented and amazing. So why does the first one win so much? Why do the negatives affect us so much more than the positives? Why do we allow the Devil to win this war when any parent, including our Heavenly Father would only want us to know how much we truly are worth?
I don't have an answer. I only wish that our children now were really able to see the damage that is caused by an unkind word or deed. I wish we could abolish all bullying. I wish nobody had to suffer the way I did, and still do. I also wish I were more eloquent with my words and conveying how I really feel about all of this.
Spend time with your children, your friends children, your neighborhood children. Build them up. Let them know how much they truly are loved, how much they are are valued. While it was an awful time to go through and I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy, I am so much a better person for it. I am strong. I have compassion. I have a real sense of the value of life, talents, love and relationships. I also have a great respect and love and gratitude for my parents for making certain I knew I was of worth, loved, beautiful, and could do better than what the bullies were telling me.
Today, I am beautiful. I am loved. I am worthy. I am talented. I am surrounded by friends and people who love and care for me. In another hour or two, my answer might be different, but I am happy with how I feel right now.
This is what has become of the ugly little girl. She is successful and has been in nearly everything she has tried. She is beautiful. She is strong. She is loving. She is forgiving. She is vulnerable. She is compassionate. She is passionate.
She is loved.
The inner bully that remains still comes out and my poor girls sometimes have to deal with the ramifications of her thoughts and words. It is a constant battle. I am working on building myself up rather than tearing myself down in front of my girls. They are the first to tell me how beautiful I am. How talented I am. And how excited they are that I am "famous." LOL. After all children don't lie, right?
My heart melts when I ask my three girls "Who loves you?" And without missing a beat they all reply.... "MOMMY!"