I was this little girl. Just like the author, any popularity that I had (what little there was) sadly was more about my intelligence than about me being “thin enough” or “pretty enough” to be allowed any standing in childhood’s pecking order.
Note how I edited the first paragraph.
Why did I edit it? Look at the image in the aside above, and then look at this second one to the right. Both photos are of me during my childhood. The above photo is from my kindergarten school photos, while the photo to the right is of me and my best friend (at the time – I have no idea where she is or how she is at this point in my life) Betsy (I’m the larger child on the left, and Betsy, who was the same age as I, on the right).
If the above is kindergarten, that means I was approximately 5 years old. (I tested into kindergarten, because I turned 5 in December, and they needed proof that I was “advanced enough” to enter kindergarten – all because I was just 4 years old)
The one on the right? I was probably 8 or 9.
If you’ve been following my blog with any kind of regularity, you’ll know that I struggled with self-worth for most of my life. It seems almost ludicrous for someone with my outspoken, opinionated personality to have that kind of an issue. But, for me it’s not. Because the self-worth issue is exactly why I developed that kind of personality.
I grew up “KNOWING” that I simply wasn’t “enough” for the world around me. That I had to be somehow “special” in order to succeed at all at life. Every doctor, every teacher, every adult authority all said the same thing, most often in the most sickly-sweet, concerned tone of voice. Because my parents and grandmother Rose taught me to be polite, particularly to my elders, I had to smile and say “thank you” to these people who were in effect telling me that I was garbage. I had to “accept the criticism” like these people had a right to define who I was or who I am.
So, yes, I became rebellious out of sheer desperation. I had to become strong, or buckle under the strain of every human being (in my mind – remember, kids tend to believe that the world revolves around them) telling me “out of concern for my health and happiness” that I was a waste of oxygen.
Someone in my life (not my blood family, although they accept my strengths and try to support and help with my weaknesses) told me a few months ago that they thought I was the “strongest person they ever met.”
Do you realize exactly how shocking something like that is to me?
I took as truth far too many negative comments, both in my childhood and in my adulthood. And because those comments were supported by our society as a whole, I had absolutely nothing to tell me that those comments were lies.
But as I work through some of my preconceptions about myself, my life and my choices – because I want to learn from my mistakes, and live a better life – I’m still finding those places in myself where the lies are still being repeated inside my own mind.
Let me tell you, women are NOT the only ones being told these lies. I know a number of larger men – both straight and LGBTQ – who are overweight, and who repeat those same lies to themselves. We are all sitting here telling ourselves that we are garbage.
I’m not saying that we need to raise our children to be arrogant, entitled assholes. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t raise your children to be healthy. In fact, I encourage you to do so. But “being healthy” is not defined by how big your child is.
DO NOT assume that just because a child is large, that they are couch potatoes. The photo to the right above was a child who WALKED or rode her bike to school every day. I walked from this house on Mae Street (note, the pine/fir tree to the right of Betsy and I, is now quite a bit older and taller) to Holden Elementary School. According to Google, it is 0.8 miles (since I remember it as 0.7, I wasn’t too far off) one way. That means during the school year I walked (more often than not, I was walking) 1.6 miles per day. Plus physical education classes and recess. I routinely played outside, biking and walking to the playground at the end of Mae Street (which is now, sadly, a parking lot). So, as much as I was told I was a “lazy” child (what would be called a sedentary child now), I really wasn’t. And even when we moved away from there, I still had to do a hell of a lot of walking, and often swam on top of it. I’ve already discussed how much walking I did in high school in other posts (You Are NOT Alone and Screw Your Judgement of Someone Else’s Health).
I know for a fact that I am NOT the only one in the world who was quite active and it made absolutely NO difference in my weight.
Teaching your child to have a positive self-worth and to be able to self-validate is a huge challenge. You have to walk the line between supporting your child’s emotional health and teaching the child that the world somehow “owes” them everything. Sometimes you even need to let them fight their own battles, so they know HOW to do so when they become adults.
But NEVER, EVER let your child be told that they are garbage because they are different.