A few years ago, I wrote my first deeply vulnerable blog post for my amazing mentor – and boy did it spread. I went into work the day after it was published, and somehow, my students (and everyone else’s for that matter) had read it, loved it, and shared it. I had no idea that sharing my story about being bullied would inspire so many people. The power of the written and spoken weird is FIERCE. So, I’ve decided to re-write that post from the perspective of my 29 year-old self : a woman who loves herself something fierce, and is so DAMN happy she said no to plastic surgery.
As you get older, many memories fade away, especially those from your childhood. But, sometimes a single event has such an impact on you emotionally, physically, spiritually…that you carry it with you. It might sound strange, but I am happy that I remember my experiences being bullied, because those experiences have given me strength, leverage and motivation to inspire others to lead with kindness and love all parts of themselves, even the messy bits.
Let me take you back to 5th grade for a hot sec.
I was a lanky, anxious, soft-spoken 10 year-old with an acne problem and a nose that protruded from her face (#typical #awkward). I was super smart, and tried really hard to fit in with the cool crowd. Around that time, I also developed this horrendous pimple on the tip of my nose (reference my previous blog post, Anxiety Is). I was already self-conscious about the size of my nose, and now the issue was being highlighted by this big, red, painful boil (the word makes me cringe). Enter my 5th grade bully, Billy. He and his pack of cronies called me every name in the damn book.
Rudolph. Pinocchio. Wicked Witch. Amanda = A-MAN…duh! on account of my hairy Sicilian arms. Big nose. Frosty with the carrot nose (so many Christmas references!). And the worst insult of all: My God, you are so ugly!
Ouch. That one stung a little. It also stuck around and haunted me. Eventually, it felt as if everyone was constantly staring at my nose. How could they NOT be?! It was so big. Fuuuuuuuuuu$*. By the 8th grade, I’d had enough.
I’m gonna fix this. I HAVE to get a nose job. Lucky for me, I had some swollen adenoids that the ENT wanted to examine. During my procedure, the doctor turned to my mother and I and said “While we are in there – is there anything else you want us to fix?” He was referencing the large bump on my cartoon-like Sicilian schnoz. SEE?! Even the DOCTOR thinks I should get a nose job.
So I started getting comfortable with the idea. I would look in the mirror and cover up part of my nose, trying to envision what I would look like. All arrows pointed to BEAUTIFUL. The only thing holding me back was my fear of going under the knife.
(p.s, I’m having a really hard time finding pictures of my profile because – well – I refused to ever take any!)
So let’s fast-forward shall we? The bullying continued in high school, and then in college. I really thought college-age students would be more mature than to make fun of someone for looking different, but I was wrong (seriously, people?!) I continued to look in the mirror and consider ways that I could pay for such a surgery. Then, a college friend of mine got a nose job and post-surgery, she looked like a different person! That’s when I realized I was doing this for all the wrong reasons.
Ya see, bullies are really good at making you question yourself – your appearance, your worth, your intelligence, your talents…I wasn’t considering plastic surgery because I wanted it. I was considering plastic surgery because I thought, with a smaller nose, I will be more pleasant to look at for other people. Boys would like me more. People would stare at me because I was beautiful, not because my nose could be seen from space. I would be one of those girls I had spent most of my life wishing I looked like. But at the end of the day, I realized that changing my nose wasn’t going to do sh*%$ for my confidence.
Sure, I might feel great for a few days or weeks – but eventually, I would find something else to dislike about myself. It wasn’t my appearance that I had to change at all. It was my MINDSET. This simple realization completely changed my life, and from that moment on I began to embrace the nose! Love the nose! Show off the nose!
Billy may have hurt me back in 5th grade, but I was the one who carried his words with me and decided to believe them. Well, not anymore. I now realize that mean words and criticisms only hold value if we allow them to.
Look at me now, Billy. Look at me now.