We all know that saying: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
It's a lie.
I've never had a broken bone from a stick or a stone. But I have had a broken heart from mean words spoken to me.
I don't specifically remember the first time another person made fun of me for being overweight. I know it wasn't in elementary school (remember, my mom swears she bought slim jeans for me). When I started junior high, I was active in volleyball and basketball. I was a majorette in the marching band. And I played volleyball and softball in high school.
I wasn't a star athlete by any means. I remember always being the slowest when we did our training runs for volleyball. I dreaded practices, but the love of the game is what kept me going. Somehow, though, even with playing sports, I was chunky. I know my diet was probably the culprit. I was never really worried about what went in my mouth--pizza, fast food, pop, candy bars--I loved (still love) junk. Despite physical activity from sports, I was still one of the heavier girls in my class.
Somewhere along the way, my male classmates developed nicknames for me--Thunder Thighs, fatty, Rhino (my maiden name is Rinehart). They had no issues with making fun of me as I walked by to give a speech in speech class. They would gang up on me at lunch. I hated, hated, hated free time after lunch in the gym. They'd always make fun of what I ate for lunch, and then they would shout their mean words at me. To this day, I still hear their voices echoing "Thunder Thighs" and "Rhino" at me. It hurt then and it still hurts now, over 10 years later. I cried myself to sleep many nights after a bad day at school.
I'm a fortunate survivor of bullying, I guess. Yes, I had my feelings hurt and I cried more times than I can count because of peers making fun of my weight. What really gets me is that I wasn't even that overweight. I bet I weighed about 175 or so when I graduated. At 5 '7.5", that really isn't significantly overweight like I am now. If I could go back in time, I'd learn to love myself more. I know that being bullied created some serious self-esteem issues that I'm still dealing with today. Thankfully, though, being made fun of didn't keep me from falling in love with an amazing man. It didn't keep me from graduating college with a Master's degree in Education. It didn't keep me from having 3 beautiful children. It didn't keep me from living. Sadly, today too many adolescents don't see a life after bullying and they choose to end it once and for all. That's heart-breaking. No person should ever be made to feel worthless because of what the number on a scale says. Such a tragedy.
I'm still working on getting past the mean names. In fact, today when I weighed in (lost a pound, by the way) I still heard "Thunder Thighs" in my head when I saw 283.6 on the scale. I don't know if I'll ever forget the mean words spoken to me in high school. I don't suppose you ever really forget being bullied.
But what I do know is that I can and will do this. In some ways, hearing those terrible names in my head is what keeps me going. I'm doing this for my girls. I want to teach them healthy habits. I want them to be healthy, active girls. I never want someone to call them Thunder Thighs or make fun of them for being overweight. I want them to grow up to be strong, independent women who love themselves unconditionally. And I know that I'll never lie to them by telling them that sticks and stones may break their bones but words will never hurt them. Words do hurt. More than people can imagine.
Today I'm letting go of all the mean names. I'm letting go of the sadness. I'm letting go of the fear. I'm letting go of the hurt. Those words will no longer be repeated in my mind whenever I pass by a mirror or get on a scale. I have to love myself for who I am right now at this moment in time. I have to love myself for who I am on the inside. I'm learning that loving myself unconditionally is a key part of being successful on this journey I'm on to discover a healthy me. So letting go of the hurt is one step towards my ultimate goal. I can do this. Nothing will stand in my way.