We are living in an era that gives us permission to bully. Is this a result of the new administration? Is it the result of the internet, wrought with cyber-bullies protected by a keyboard? You figure it out. I am putting on my armor and gearing up like I did back in school.
Trying to disappear in the huddle of pubescent boys in the gymnasium waiting to be picked for tag football, my 4th grade brain went into panic mode. “Don’t pick me for skins,” was the mantra replaying over and over in my head. You see, we played shirts or skins. To differentiate between the two teams you either kept your shirt on or you took it off. Taking off my shirt in 4th grade was a nightmare, and if I got picked for skins I would immediately go to the coach and feign some sort of rash or illness or whatever as to why I couldn’t take my shirt off.
Driving with my family on the first warm day after a harsh winter, everyone’s window rolled down, the mild breeze hitting our faces. My body would tense if I saw a school bus. As we passed the big, yellow clunker I’d have to quickly roll up my window and make everyone else do the same, so as not to hear the kids scream ugly words into the car. I’d blast the radio to drown out the bullying and the fat shaming, but I could hear. I always heard.
My family heard as well. That was the worst part. I could handle the insults. Bring them on. I was a tough, thick-skinned kid. But my family was another story. I was embarrassed for them. What did they do? They encouraged me to eat healthy by eating healthy themselves. My mother read every single label on every single item that was brought into our house. They enrolled me in karate, soccer, basketball, rowing and purchased very expensive home gym equipment, all in the hopes that I would lose weight. And I lost weight. Then it would creep back, so I would lose it again. Up and down, round and round, that was the merry-go-round of my life. It never bothered me, though. It’s as if I picked the swan rather than the horse each time I’d get on. The swan doesn’t go up and down. She’s a bench. She just looks gorgeous.
Early on I knew that I wasn’t going to win the “battle of the bulge.” I could keep it at bay at times, and I could manage it other times, but a win was not in my future. A better approach was acceptance. Be as healthy as possible and embrace who you are. Love yourself. Love the body you’re in. That’s what it’s all about: Love. When you are loved, nothing else matters and nothing stands in your way. I had the love of my family, who never made me feel different. They’ve always made me feel fabulous. Everything I did was perfection in their eyes, so I grew up thinking I was flawless.
I didn’t realize I was different from the others until I went to school. That’s where it all changed and where my love of myself came into practice. I’d walk down the hallways of my high school like I was Naomi Campbell on a runway. They can’t call you fat when you are stomping down a runway, darling. It’s also where I honed my sense of humor. Make them laugh with you, Teddy, before they laugh at you. And it worked! Laughter and a strong sense of self got me through some pretty rough times.
I studied and gained knowledge. I trained and gained skills. And in turn, I gained confidence. I have been told by many that my confidence turns them on. Let me tell you something: confidence is a turn on. Use it. Be who you are and make no excuses. Walk with your head held high. Know that you are the only you out there, and you matter. You are fierce.
We come in all shapes, sizes and colors, but there is beauty in all of us. Find that beauty in one another. Love every inch of your body, and treat it well. Love the curves, love the wrinkles, love it all. And do the same for others. Love their curves, love their wrinkles, love them all.
We are not here for very long. Do it now. Don’t waste a minute.