As I sit down to write this post, my heart is heavy and I feel a burden on my shoulders.
Last week, my co-teacher over at the Desk Diaries pulled me aside and told me that one of our students had written “I’m Ugly” across her wrist. She tried to talk to her, but the student just sort of blew her off. I feel like I have a pretty good rapport with this student, so when timing was right, I asked her about it. She just looked at me, and said in a matter-of-fact tone “I’m ugly, and I know it so there’s no use in pretending otherwise.” When I asked her what she thought made her ugly, she flatly responded, “I just am”.
Fast forward to yesterday when I saw this same little girl in the hall looking really upset. I pulled her aside and asked her what was going on, and she just looked down and shook her head. I asked her again and she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m ugly. I just looked in the mirror and I hate what I see.” I walked her back to my classroom and we talked for a little bit, then I wrote her a pass to class and she was off.
I wanted to cry.
This beautiful, funny, incredibly intelligent, little girl is only 12 years old and she already hates what she sees in the mirror. Our culture and the media is so twisted that it is crushing the spirits of children and distorting the true image of what beauty really is. Middle school is tough enough to adjust to without having to focus on self esteem issues too.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all had our moments when we look in the mirror and say/think, that we aren’t ________ enough. Whether it’s pretty, skinny, muscular, tall, short, smart, curvy, funny, poised, graceful, athletic, etc. That little seed gets planted in our head and our hearts and grows into a thorny weed, tearing at our spirits as it grows. Finally, it gets so big that we can’t hide it anymore and it starts to spread out of us for others to see. When we aren’t careful, we spread those seeds into the little ones who look up to us, whether it’s our children, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, neighbors, or in my case, my students. Instead of tearing ourselves down every chance we get, we need to learn how to build ourselves up. Think of all the things that make you perfectly and uniquely you.
One of the best ways to make a difference in someone else’s low self-esteem is by being an example, loving yourself! My “phrase” for this year that I’m really trying to focus on is “Be Lovely”. Being a lovely person on the outside is great, but it is so much better to be lovely on the inside. To me that means having a kind, generous heart, helping others when I can to make their lives easier, and trying my very best in all aspects of my life. That is the seed that I want to plant in the lives of others.
Whenever you start to feel that little weed of doubt and self-loathing begin to grow inside of you, remember that you are loved and you are lovely.
Chelsea is a twenty-something, 6th grade teacher dealing with a chaotic mess of middle schoolers by day and a blogger/writer by night. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband, Cody, and her fur-child Murphy. You can find her on Twitter @TSTeacher, Instagram @twentysomethingteacher, or on her blog.
Featured Image via Shutterstock.