We hear every day in the news about kids being bullied. The shaming and beat downs come from all sides and for all stupid reasons. And social media doesn’t help. I mean, I was bullied as a kid because I wore glasses and because I wasn’t thin. (I wasn’t fat, either, but I heard it enough to believe I was.). Even my own brother called me ‘ugly’ almost on a daily basis. But when I was a teen in the ’70s, we didn’t have computers or social media, so the bullying had a short-range effect. Nowadays, social media takes bullying and shaming to a whole different level. I mean, it’s not only confined to your school. It’s nationwide, and people that don’t even know you comment on whatever was posted about you, the victim. Man, that’s just insane. I mean, it’s one thing to deal with 50 kids at a school. It’s something else to be a young kid, especially a girl, and have the whole world viewing your latest fight or bullying saga because someone with a damn cell phone thought it would be cooler to film it and post it on Facebook than it would be to get in between you and the bully and tell the bully where to shove it.
My mom always said to remember the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Well, I’m here to tell you, words do hurt, and anyone who has ever been bullied will tell you the verbal wounds are worse than the physical ones. They remain etched and burned into your soul forever. No matter how often you try to tell yourself that it’s all bogus, that what they’re telling you are lies, it’s bullcrap. When you have so many people telling you that you are this way or that way, you begin to doubt your feelings about yourself. Afterall, if 100 people are all saying the same thing, then it must be true, right?
Sad thing is, it took me 50 years before I had the courage to say to the world, “I don’t give a damn what you think of me. I’m beautiful the way I am, and I am worthy.”
50 years, girls, of feeling unworthy, unloved, unwanted. Even now, it is difficult for me to praise myself, for patting myself on the back for a job well done. I’ve been beaten down for so long in my life that my self-praise comes along with a built-in sledgehammer to remind me that I’m not all that special. Even at my age, I struggle with self-confidence and self-degradation, with the degradation winning out in most cases. Even as I stare at myself in the mirror and give my self-affirmations every day, there is a voice inside of me that says “who are you trying to kid? You’re not pretty and you’re an ok writer and a suck-ass mom.” The thing is, I know in my heart of hearts and deep in my soul that I am beautiful in my own way, I’m better than an ok author and I wasn’t, nor am I, a suck-ass mom. In fact, I was a damn good mom who made some crappy mistakes.
But saying it and even writing it doesn’t make me believe it. I mean like really believe it. And I know it’s because I waited too long in my life to tell the world, and more importantly myself, that I am a wonderful, good person who deserves an amazing life because I’m amazing.
So, I’d like to offer up some words to you young people that might come across this blog in search of some wise advice.
Don’t wait until you’re 50 to make a change and start loving yourself. Don’t believe the bullying, the shaming, because you are beautiful and worthy, and you deserve a rich, full life. And more importantly, don’t become your own worst enemy by being your own self-bully. Start now at your young age by tossing off the negative vibes around you. Find like-minded people who know how you feel. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Love who you are and what you are. You are unique, a glorious present to the universe. So what if you’re a nerd, or wear glasses, or might pack on a few extra pounds. You have worth. You are amazing and special and are so many more things outside of your peer group’s definition of who they think you should be. Don’t worry about who they think you should be. Who do you think you should be? That is the question to ask. Be strong. Be beautiful and be your own cheerleader. Love yourself.