I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I was an awkward child. I had an unusually long face, big teeth and an embarrassingly large forehead, which resulted in other kids creatively naming me “five head.” Mix that in with several bad haircuts and bad outfit choices, and you’ve got yourself a pretty typical childhood, right?
My childhood was different than most. I was born two and a half months early, and by age 2, I was diagnosed with something called Cerebral Palsy. “CP” as it is commonly known, is defined as the loss or impairment of motor function. Cerebral Palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, reflex, posture, and balance. I was known as “the crippled girl” throughout most of my early school days, in addition to being made fun of because of my awkwardness. On top of my disability, I was clearly still growing into my own skin, and that made growing up so exhausting and uncomfortable for me. I would come home from school almost every day with tears in my eyes, not understanding why or how my peers could be so heartless and mean-spirited. I was a late bloomer, as they say, and though I am grateful my childhood is something that I will never have to experience again, I am appreciative of the lessons it has taught me.
Some may call me crazy when I say this, but I learned to love myself and accept who I was by loving others. Yes, you read that right. I learned what self-acceptance was by reaching out and being kind to others, especially to those who had been mean to me because I was different. This didn’t come to me out of the blue, and I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to forget everything that was said to me. It took a few years to learn that my mother’s advice to “kill them with kindness” would actually work out for me in the long run. One day, after having enough of the sadness, depression, and self-pity my childhood had caused me, I found that being open to the process of forgiveness and the ability to be kind to others brought me more happiness and joy than I could have ever imagined.
A month ago, I logged into Facebook and found a message waiting for me. I opened the message to find that it was from someone who hadn’t been nice to me in the past. She wrote that I was such a beautiful person and that she admired my positivity, kindness, and strength. She went on to say that she was blessed to know me and thankful to call me a friend.
I’ve learned that everyone wants to be loved, everyone wants to feel needed and wanted, and that mean people are just fearful people. The kindness you extend to others may not be returned tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that, but it will returned one day, in some form or another. By being kind to others, regardless if they deserve it or not, I’ve learned to be kind to myself. I’ve found acceptance within myself, rather than through certain things and people, and have learned that a little love can go a long way: Not only am I doing something beneficial for others, I am doing something beneficial for myself. I’ve learned the importance of loving myself and loving my uniqueness completely, and though there are days when I wish I could wish my disability away, I am thankful for and proud of the woman it has made me.
Story by Amanda LeMasters.
Featured image via.