Have you ever considered how adulthood insecurities may stem from childhood experiences?
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Do you remember that rhyme? I do … I remember it very well. I remember saying it to other kids on the playground whenever I would hear someone call somebody else a bad name. My mom told me it was the way to live – to not to let words hurt you.
My Childhood Glasses
It’s sad to say that the truth is words do hurt. The little girl in the picture below – she didn’t know how hurtful they could be. She didn’t know her curly crazy hair and big glasses were dorky. She didn’t care what anyone thought.
I’ll never forget when I finally got my first pair of contacts in eighth grade. I was so excited to get rid of the glasses that made me feel like super nerd of the year. Glasses were cool in elementary school – but NOT middle. In my group of friends, the pretty girls did not have glasses. They had amazing bangs, straight hair, and awesome clothes. I was not one of the pretty girls.
I thought, hey maybe, maybe the boys will finally start to like me if I don’t wear glasses. I had finally figured out how to wear my hair down and curly, so begone was the gelled messy bun. I thought I had the right clothes – and even if I did have braces, my new glasses-free face would distract everyone from my teeth. In a good way of course.
I probably skipped the whole way into school that day. My heart was a flutter – thinking about how everyone would say, “Wow you look AMAZING!” When I got to my locker, I waited around to see if anybody would notice the difference. My girl friends noticed first. They said I looked great! But no one else seemed to notice my big change. They were probably too busy getting ready for the day to say anything. The bell rang and it was time for homeroom. I thought, “This is it. The moment of truth. Will the boys notice?” I held my head high and walked in the classroom – glasses free – and waited to hear all the compliments.
No one said anything.
And then I heard it. I heard a boy say, “She looks like a mouse!” The whole class laughed loudly.
Those words felt like a knife to my heart. My hopes of being pretty were shattered into a million pieces. My stomach dropped to the floor. I wanted to run and hide my face. I frantically searched my purse – hoping I had brought my glasses so I could slap them back on my face and avoid any more mean comments. But there was nothing there.
I missed my glasses more than I ever thought possible. The frames I felt stuck behind were now what I wanted to protect me. I even considered throwing out the contacts my parents had just paid for so I would have no choice but to wear my glasses. My mom, dad, sister, and brother convinced me otherwise. They told me I was gorgeous. They told me to not let those words ruin my chance to show off my beautiful eyes. I’m glad I listened to them…
It took a few months for people to get used to the new “me.” It took a few years for the boys to finally notice me in the way they noticed the other girls. I think part of the reason they didn’t think of me that way is because I didn’t have the confidence the other girls had. I always felt mousy and unattractive, even if I wasn’t, so I acted mousy and unattractive. It would be a lie if I said that I forgot about the mouse comment quickly. To this day I am insecure with my looks – even my body – and a lot of my insecurities in adulthood stem from childhood experiences.
I have a husband who loves me for me – in all my dorky glory – when I look just like the girl in the first photo. I have a family who loves me for me – and a daughter who doesn’t even know that looks can matter.
In my classroom and in my home, I do not tolerate hateful language. Words can leave permanent scars on our souls and hearts. While that chant is great to teach our children – to empower them to stand up against bullies – it is important that we also teach them how to be confident in themselves. To love the way they look, no matter their size or shape. We have to fill them up with so much confidence that no one can pull them down. I believe I was able to eventually embrace “me” after all those awkward middle/high school years because my husband and family overfilled my bucket with confidence, love, and wonderful words.