4th grade was when we decided whether we wanted to join the band or the orchestra and which instruments we wanted to play. True to my chronically indecisiveness nature, I decided against the orchestra, then changed my mind a million times until it was too late and I HAD to join the band. With no clue which instrument I liked the most, I decided I would follow in my older sister's footsteps and play the flute. She seemed to enjoy it well enough, so why not? I don't remember the details but I remember letting my band teacher, Mrs. Russo, know that I would be picking up the flute. I remember she laughed a little bit and told me:
I wasn't offended. I didn't know to be offended back then. I was pissed because she was telling me I couldn't do what I wanted to do and I hated being told that as a child. I looked at her and in an act of defiance against being MADE to do anything I declared that I would rather play the alto saxophone. And so there it was. I became a mediocre saxophone player from 4th grade through my sophomore year of college. Yes, I was one of THOSE kinds of musicians. You know, the kind who hated to practice but wanted to be great like the other kids who were getting solos and asked to join the jazz band. But I digress.
Somewhere around my senior year of high school, I was sitting around with my family at some event and random moments from childhood came up. I told the story of how Mrs. Russo told me my lips were too big. I laughed.
I was the only one laughing.
I looked over and noticed that my mother was absolutely seething and I was like, 'Whoa... what's the big deal?'
She said, "AJ, why did you never tell me this? She had no business telling you that!"
My response was, "I don't know. I didn't think it was a big deal."
My mother, sister, godfather and aunt proceeded to discuss how highly inappropriate the whole thing was (in their own choice words) and how dare a teacher tell a student something like that?I laughed it off for the sake of keeping my mother from trying to look up my FOURTH GRADE TEACHER in the phonebook 15 some odd years later. What a catastrophe that would have been. Thank You, Jesus for stopping that train in its track.
When I got time to myself after that I started really thinking about the whole situation and how I've felt about my appearance since childhood. My lips were a sore spot for me when I was younger and the more I thought about it, the more I realized my insecurity about my lips manifested itself AFTER the incident with Mrs. Russo. Was she the reason I was insecure about my lips and hated when people pointed them out? It might be a bit unfair to place all the blame on my insensitive 4th grade band teacher.
My family had a hand in it too. Sometimes in jest and good fun, family can create wounds and hurt places you didn't know could hurt. Thus was the case with my lips. I remember hating hearing anything about my lips because it would always be followed by everyone laughing. It wasn't funny to me.
It got me to thinking, the insecurities we realize and begin to deal with as adults HAD to start somewhere. More often than not, they start in our childhood and we don't even realize it until we stop, take some time and reflect. In reflecting, my goal wasn't/isn't to place blame but to cover the little girl I was with affirmation and love so as to deflect some of the more hurtful experiences.
I believe insecurities are part of human nature. No person will ever reach a point in life where they are completely void of feeling a pang of discomfort when viewing themselves or completing some task. In a way, it keeps us humble but in another very destructive way, if focused on too much, insecurity can absolutely break us.
It took me many hard years to wriggle free from beneath all of the mean, petty, torturous things that people said to and about me when I was a little. Am I completely free? No. But I choose now to be very honest with myself and face each insecurity. My big forehead. My big lips. My small size. My frizzy hair. I tell myself that I love each of those attributes. As women, we subconsciously wrestle with ideals of beauty that much less than even half the population actually fit. There is a need to begin to embrace who we are. Some people say to do it little by little but I say to jump right into the center of yourself.
Take a dive deep into who you are both physically and emotionally. If more girls were encouraged to do so, so many of us grown women wouldn't be making horrible life decisions, intimidated by our insecurities. How does one take a dive into who they are? Be 100% HONEST WITH YOURSELF.
- Ask yourself why you have trouble accepting any aspect of who you are. Is it because you honestly think you could do better in that area or is it because someone else has made fun or shown disgust? Once you know the reason you dislike a certain part of yourself it makes it easier to address it.
- Pray about it. Many times we look to other people to help fix us when all we need is to draw closer to God. He created us. He has the answers. Our duty is to consult Him about our purpose. Think about it, if God created us each to do something unique, then what would be the point in making us all look alike and act alike? It may sound crazy but I know that my big forehead and big lips are part of God-given purpose. Had I not experienced the many years of near-depression over my physical attributes I never would have overcome those insecurities and found that part of my purpose is to help enlighten other women. He is always listening and He is ready to answer. Pray.
- Affirm yourself daily. I've heard some women say that they write an affirming message to themselves on their bathroom mirrors in lipstick so that whenever they look at themselves they can't help but to see "You are beautiful and worthy of love," or "Your hips do not define you." Other women say that after they've woken up in the morning and had their time of prayer and devotion, they repeat their own affirmation message to themselves.
- Surround yourself with positive things and people. What we allow into our lives we also allow into our minds. What we allow into our minds frames our way of thinking. If your 'friends' are constantly picking you apart your view of yourself won't be much. Surround yourself with honest people who build you up instead of tear you down. Read uplifting books. Watch positive television. Seek out inspiration. It's out there and it's waiting for you.
Be encouraged. Get lifted ;)