Scrolling through Instagram today, I came across a post that read, “I wish I was as fat as I was the first time I thought I was fat.” I couldn’t help but cringe and try to imagine my own thinking along these lines. My eyes flipped end over end inside my head, swimming around the synaptic circus of my past. Halted by the phrase told to me over and over when I was merely eight years old. “You’re so beautiful, if only you could lose weight, then you could catch any man you want.” Shamed by my mother and over the years, myself and societies incessant need for beauty to be a slender caucasian with blonde hair, blue eyes and definitely not me.
How words hold us back
The lens with which we use to see our selves in comparison to others becomes skewed by those awful words. The video tape then continues to play each and every time we begin to think positively about our life. It highjacks our goals, dreams and wishes. Many of us don’t even know it’s there and go about trying to figure out why we aren’t able to get anywhere.
School classrooms are full of kids with those tapes and many struggle to focus because the video tape plays for them: “You’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re stupid, you’re not good enough, you’re annoying, you’re a bully, is ever-present and plays over and over again. The idea of being able to accomplish simple tasks becomes more difficult and shame, embarrassment and self worth take over. Even though my mother told me there wasn’t such a word a ‘can’t’ I found other limiting words which made me feel the only place for me was the classroom, where I excelled and did extremely well.
As a teacher and having gone through this myself, it’s imperative we teach our young kids how to socialize with one another. They are so enthralled by technology, social media and memes it’s almost their only form of communication and face to face becomes less common. Bullying is often the outcome from middle school kids in our world, mostly on social media, but definitely through the rumor mill. Kids are sometimes ruthless and because many of them have those tapes playing in their own minds, poking fun, teasing and harassing someone else makes their pain a little more bearable. This is why I teach my kids about stigma, a word none of them even knew what it meant. I teach them that it’s about someone being disgraced and thereby shamed. We discuss how all of those messages inside their heads is wrong and I remind them to be mindful of words that come out of their mouths. Most importantly I let them know I’m human too and my vulnerability helps them listen better because they know I care and I’m real.