Tag Archives: kindness

Grade 7 was my Nightmare

As most of you know by now, I’m overweight, and have been my entire life. It’s changed over the years, but I’ve always been bigger than everyone around me. Always. Because of that, I’ve spent a good portion of my life being people’s punching bag and the butt of many a joke. But Grade 7 was the worst. By far.

It’s bad enough moving into a new school with older kids, and not knowing what you’re doing or where you’re going. It’s the first time we had to switch to different teachers for each class, and not have recess. Everything was different. And I was the fat kid.

I can vividly remember walking down the Grade 7 hallway, and having 3 grade 9 boys call me over. I can still see their faces, and I still know their names. In fact, 2 of them have tried befriending me on Facebook, and yeah, not happening. But I digress … they called me over which I thought was nice, or I hoped would be nice and well, it wasn’t. They looked at me and said, “do you like football” and I said No. They then told me that I should because when I got to high school, I was going to make an awesome linebacker. “The school needs a big mama on the front lines’. They laughed hysterically and left me standing there, alone. I refused to cry and give them the satisfaction of winning, but it still really hurt.

I spent the ENTIRE year being teased by these boys and their friends. Every time I walked by them, they commented about my weight. EVERY TIME. It was either names, or football references or “see you at tryout’s”.  I never responded to them, or even acknowledged their existence. But it was 3 years of heart stopping palpitations at the sight of them, and their words were etched on my brain.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the kids that did it, there were teachers too.

Our school had an event called The Turkey Trot. (How’s that for a stupid name)?  It was basically a really long run, and the winner won a turkey. Obviously, I’m not a runner and the promise of winning a turkey wasn’t all that exciting or inspiring for me, but it was what it was, and we were all expected to participate. Fortunately for me, I had sinus surgery 3 days prior to the event, and I had a doctor’s note to get me out of it.  Woot!! It said that I couldn’t participate as my sinuses had just been ripped apart and breathing would be an issue. But what this horrible teacher read was, “she’s fat and just doesn’t want to participate”, and he MADE me run the race. Made me.

So off I went. I ran for about a block and a half and quickly discovered that my doctor was right, I wouldn’t be able to breathe. So I walked instead. Soon enough, the other overweight classmate and I ended up walking as everyone else ran by us. We were trying, we just couldn’t keep up with everyone else. But we were trying, and we didn’t quit. Unfortunately, our teacher didn’t see it that way. He called us fat and lazy, and if I remember correctly, called my “running” partner fat in front of the whole school. Needless to say it isn’t a happy memory. It was the day my friend and I were humiliated in front of our peers by a teacher. The one person that was supposed to protect us from bullying was in fact, perpetuating it.  I ended up with a bleeding nose for 3 days, and we both had to bear yet another mark left by mean words and judgement.

Even with my friends, I wasn’t safe from bullying. I know that their intentions weren’t to be mean to me, but their words hurt me more than anyone elses. They were my “safe place”, but even they felt like it was okay to “say it like it was”. I hated phys. ed for obvious reasons, but hated the “track and field” unit the most. Especially high jump. Really?? High jump for fat people … not so much. I would do everything I could to not have to participate in this unit, anything. I would beg my Mom for notes, I would get a headache, I would do whatever. It wasn’t that I was lazy, it was that I just plain and simple couldn’t do what they were asking me to do. It was 60 minutes a day of people laughing at me. High jump, long jump, triple jump, sprinting, long distance running, all things not made for me. It was humiliating and horrible.

Well, my friends wrote me a note and handed it to me at the end of the school day. I had a 10 block walk home, and I cried for 8 blocks of it. The note said, “we know why you hate phys. ed, it’s because you’re fat and it’s hard for you. Everyone knows that’s why you don’t participate so stop being a baby”. I think they were hoping it would empower me somehow, but all it did was sting. They were right, but having this group of people call it out like that, left me feeling so exposed and vulnerable. I felt safer thinking that no one knew why I was hiding, and now my secret was out.

Why couldn’t people just leave me alone? Why did my weight matter so much to them? And why in the world did my being different give everyone license to say whatever they wanted to me?

Speaking out against bullying has kind of become “my thing”. I’ve written numerous blog posts about it, and if you’re interested, you can read them all here. I go out of my way to teach my kids that they are not better than anyone else, that their differences don’t make them more “normal”, and that I EXPECT them to always choose the high road – no matter how hard it is. If you’re around me and you start teasing people or make rude comments, you will get called on it. No one deserves to be made to feel like they’re “less than” ever.

I try to not see the differences in the people around me. I accept that we may all believe in different things and/or have different opinions, but that it doesn’t make one of us more “right”. I recognize that many of us have been deeply hurt by others, and that sometimes all we need is a listening and non-judgemental friend. I don’t pretend to be perfect and I most certainly don’t expect others to be either. I choose to not point out others weaknesses or flaws in order to steer the focus away from mine. I strive to be a light to this world instead of someone promoting darkness. I want people to not go through what I have.

It’s time for us to get real, and stop assuming that we’re better than someone else. Our looks, our beliefs, the clothes we wear or the churches we attend shouldn’t be fodder for cruelty. We don’t need to agree with each other, and we don’t even need to get along, but we do need to be decent human beings. Say it, believe it and model it to the world around you. We are “different” from each other, we are not “better”.

Today is Anti-Bullying day. I hate that we actually have to have a day to remind people to be decent human beings and think about others before they open their mouths. We shouldn’t need to put on pink t-shirts to “take a stand” and make a difference. I appreciate that it’s a reminder that we can do better, but please, no matter what colour shirt you wear, DON’T BE A BULLY.

meanpeople

The Fat Girl Responds

When I wrote my letter, I SO wasn’t expecting the response that it received. For 3 days straight, it was everywhere I looked. Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest. It was shared so many times that I lost count. It became so much more than it was ever intended to be, as my words had become the voice of many. Truth be told, I had just written it because I was mad. I wasn’t hurt and I wasn’t sad, I was just a “fat girl” who was done.

I received more responses and private messages that I ever even dreamed possible and I thank-you for all of them. Many of them were sent with love and encouragement, and some challenged me and I first want to respond to those ones.

Number One. I’m Fat, and I totally own that. By calling myself that name, I’m in no way demeaning myself, I’m calling it like it is. I’m also a brunette with size 11 feet. Those are facts. “Fat” is just a word. Calling someone fat and lazy, or unloveable because they’re fat, or walking by while making cow noises is a whole different ballgame. There is a HUGE difference.

Number Two. Yes, I’m on a diet and trying to lose weight. Well, I’m actually not even on a diet, I’m on a journey that involves me taking better care of myself. If I lose weight, awesome. If I don’t, I’m in an amazing place and I’m happy. Me trying to lose weight, in no way, means that I hate myself or am unsatisfied in my life. My letter and my personal journey in no way contradict each other.

Number Three. Yes, name calling hurts. BUT I have MADE THE CHOICE to not let it hurt me. I’m choosing to believe that my outward appearance isn’t who I am. You can also make the same choices that I have. If we give people the power to tear us down, they will. Keep that power for yourself and kick the haters to the curb. Period.

Many of the other comments absolutely broke my heart, as the majority of the people that sent them weren’t ‘feeling” the same confidence and peace that I do. They’re feeling defeat and like they’re “less than” because someone told them so. Strangers and even “friends” are constantly beating each other down with their words. It’s so stinking sad.

I also received messages or saw comments saying “she landed a hot husband”, and “she scored with him”, or other things along that same line. Problem is, that judgement of how great my husband is was based on nothing more than his appearance. He is a wonderful man, and indeed I’m blessed to have him in my life, but you can’t tell that by looking at him. People were doing the exact thing that I was standing up against. I totally recognize that it wasn’t done maliciously and that people were saying it as a compliment to me, but it was still an appearance based judgement none-the-less.

Calling someone fat is one of the few “socially acceptable” slurs still floating around. Think about it. How often do you hear fat jokes and laugh? How often are you out with friends and an overweight person walks by and someone makes an ignorant comment? How often do you, yourself say “look how fat she is”? We’ve all done it at one point or another and it needs to stop.

Reality is, this isn’t just about fat people, it’s about people in general. We REALLY need to stop judging each other based on physical features alone. Why does it matter what people look like? And why does that determine whether or not we should tease or make fun them? Why can’t you see a person, and just think of them as a person, and nothing more? Why do I need to be “Fat April” as opposed to just April? If you spend time getting to know me and THEN decide that you don’t like me, thank-you. That’s exactly how it should be.

In all honesty, watching people around us quite often inspires us to become better ourselves. Seeing someone that’s overweight and thinking that I don’t want to be that, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Seeing a homeless person living on the streets and not wanting that life, may drive home why we want to work harder to avoid that. Seeing someone with tattoos all across their face or a million piercings may just verify why we choose to do or not do that. Noticing people and how they present themselves in itself isn’t a bad thing. Calling them out on it because it doesn’t align with your idea of perfect, IS.

I think it’s totally unreasonable to expect people to stop making judgements and to start only seeing people for what they are and not what they look like. In a perfect world, that would happen, but we’re not in that place. We are a society that is totally “looks” based and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I’d love for us all to make a personal effort to try to not pre-judge people and hopefully, one day we’ll see a huge difference in our world. But in the meantime, I challenge you all to just be kinder to your fellow-man.

Make your judgements, but shut your yap. If you don’t find someone attractive, okay, don’t date them. If overweight people just aren’t your “thing”, that’s fine, choose differently. If you think super skinny people aren’t good looking, that’s your prerogative. If you don’t want to cover your body in tattoos, more power to you. This world is a huge place, we are always going to find someone who we’re attracted to or we have something in common with. If we stopped pre-judging, we might just make some awesome new friends. People that might really affect our lives, challenge our thinking or bring us unspeakable joy.

So the next time you see someone who doesn’t fit your picture of what the “ideal” person should look like, just smile and go on your way. I’m not asking you to stop and ask them out for coffee, I’m asking you to treat them like human beings. We all don’t need to like each other or become friends, but we don’t need to be hurtful. Be respectful. Be gracious. And for pete’s sake, really truly treat people how you want to be treated.

Frankly, our relationships shouldn’t all be based on whether or not we would think that person would look good naked or whether or not you’d “tap that”. If you’re not attracted to me, I’m totally okay with that. But don’t for one second think that because you “think” you look better than me that I’m thinking you’re “God’s gift”. I’ll be waiting for you to open your mouth and actually speak to me. Your words will help me determine your value, and if you choose to call me a Fat Cow, feel free to consider yourself “judged”.

faults

2013 – The Year of Better

Change. That’s what this year is going to be about. I need a lot of change to occur in my world and I know that many of you are in the same place. Big changes, little changes. Outwardly apparent ones, and ones hidden deep within our heart. We don’t have to share them with each other or we can shout them off the rooftops as a declaration.  It is time to be true to our hearts and minds, and make this year count.

I don’t think this year should be like all of our other years of resolutions and goals. It needs to be about something bigger, something better. We are more than “someone who needs to lose weight, or should stop smoking or needs to give up coffee”. 2013 needs to be greater than that. I’m going to make this year count and push myself in ways that I’ve never done before. I am going to change, and I’m hoping that some of you will be joining me.

changeIf you’re wanting to hop on my train of change, my challenge to you is this …. Be the best YOU that you can be.

Take responsiblity for your words and actions. Remember that your words have the ability to lift someone up or knock them flat on their face. Choose words that make people think as opposed to putting them on the offensive. Picture yourself in their shoes and how it would feel to have the things you’re speaking, spoken over yourself.  Don’t think of yourself as a judge and jury, there’s enough condemnation in this world already. If someone shares something in confidence, honor that gift and shut your mouth. If you speak unkindly, apologize. If you’re mistreated or treated unfairly, take the high road and be the bigger person. Your “character” needs to be more important than your appearance or your social standing. Focus on what really matters.

Take care of your physical body. For some of us, that means we need to lose significant amounts of weight and make some huge changes in our lives. But for others, it means that we need to get off the couch and go for a walk. It’s time to eat better, and make healthy choices. It means getting enough sleep, and not living on coffee and energy drinks. We all know what we need to change to make our physical bodies better. Do that.

Guard your heart and mind. Do not be so quick to give “yourself” away to people who aren’t willing to do the same for you. Be a good friend, be helpful, be kind but be realistic. Don’t give people all your power and the ability to tear you down. You do not need to share every thought and feeling that you have with the whole world, unless you’re ready for the consequences and/or judgement that comes from that. Don’t use Facebook as a diary because frankly, many of your “friends” really don’t care all that much about “you”.

Accept that you don’t always need to be “right”. It’s okay to passionately believe in something or someone, just as it’s okay for others to believe the exact opposite. Different opinions are what keep our world turning, interesting and fun. People are going to hurt you. They’re going to question your beliefs, and ideas, your thoughts and your dreams. Sometimes it’s worth fighting for and other times, it’s not worth your time and energy. Watch for those moments and choose your response wisely. Sometimes being “right” means turning the other cheek and walking away. I would rather be known for being quiet, or full of grace than as a person screaming “I’m right” from the corner. I know my truths, and that’s good enough for me.

Be a living example of what you want the world to be. If you want bullying to stop, stop bullying other people. Quit laughing at inappropriate jokes and joining in on “harmless teasing”. If you want your children to be confident and kind … model that for them. Don’t talk about being fat or ugly or making hateful statements in their presence. If you want change to occur in your community, go out and volunteer or lend your voice. If you see someone who needs help, help them. Open doors for strangers, let people with smaller loads of groceries go in front of you in line. Shovel the neighbours sidewalk, help a senior citizen get to their vehicle safely. When someone cuts you off in traffic, smile and let it go. Buy some food for the food bank, even if it’s only a single box of macaroni. Small things make a huge difference in our world. Each simple act of kindness can spark a chain of wonderful and that is what our world needs now more than ever.

Honor the important people in your life. Don’t just talk about how much you love and appreciate the people around you. Show them. Be a helping hand or a listening ear whenever it’s needed. Don’t just show your love with gifts or money, share your time and energy. Be thoughtful. Be present. Recognize and honor your loved ones in the same way you want them to honor you. The people who you consider important enough to call your loved ones are special, don’t let pride or disagreements stop you from enjoying them.

Be what you say you are. If you’re someone’s best friend, act like that. Defend them and lift them up. If you’re in a relationship, honor that. Don’t share your partners shortcomings or faults with others. Try to be happy more often than angry or frustrated. If you’re a parent, be a parent, not a best friend. Our children need us to teach them, not treat them as equals. If you have a job, work diligently. You may hate it, but if that’s where you need to be right now, why not it approach with joy instead of dread. If you’re claiming to be christian, respond with grace and love and understanding. You are not God, stop trying to be him. Stop saying all the right things just to make you or your situation look better. Truth will always find a way, and if you’re hiding behind lies or bad will, you are not going to like the outcome.

As you can tell, a lot of my “changes” for the better involve “me” changing. It’s so easy to get caught up in blaming others for whats wrong in our lives, that we quite often forget to look in the mirror. I truly don’t believe that change can happen if we’re not willing to look at ourselves first. I’m not expecting you to compromise yourself, what you believe in or to take abuse of any kind. What I’m wanting you to do is … do better. When we change, the world will change around us.

I’m done expecting the world to make me happy or get better in spite of my choices or lack of motivation. I’m done with “waiting for something better” while continuing to do everything the exact same way that I’ve always done it. It starts with you. It starts with me. And that’s exactly where I’m starting. I am changing ME.

ghandi