Comparison is the thief of joy. Admiration and gratitude for others amplifies it. For a long time, I was jealous of other women. I saw their beauty and compared it to my own. Mine never seemed to be quite enough. I didn't have style. I tried too hard. I broke out- they were perfect. Ugh. Worse yet, I was deeply certain that I was not "good enough" for anyone and when I did look the part, I was worried they'd figure out I was a fraud of some kind.
Why didn't I trust myself or other women? We are complicated creatures- with such a range of emotions and connotation to our words and our actions. Maybe it was partly a middle child thing- being younger than my sister by only 14 months led to a great deal of competition, but I know it had a lot do with my middle school years- they were wrought with bullying. My first bully was on the school bus. A much older girl I'd never met before decided I'd be her target. Now, I am not saying she was mean. I am saying she relentlessly targeted me- over and over again.
I sat at the front of the bus so that the driver could protect me. This older girl who sat in the back threatened to beat me up, pushed me and threw things at me- I have no idea what I did wrong. My stomach hurt when the door opened in that obnoxiously loud way it did. Each step onto the big yellow torture machine hurt that year. Worst of all, my best friends took her side and wrote me letters about how ugly I was and how I needed Oxy- an acne cream for my "pizza face". That was a deep betrayal. During the school day, I hid in the bathroom while others transitioned and at lunchtime. I panicked when administrators locked the bathroom doors to prevent people from hiding out.
I was on the swim team that year and life consisted of terrible anxiety at school, many attempts to leave through the nurse's office, swim practice until dark and then more hiding- this time in my bedroom to write poetry and cry myself to sleep. Only, the nightmares continued there. My bully and friends haunted me when I was supposed to be safe in bed. I didn't realize how invisible I was until the following year, when my skin cleared up (thanks to Mom bringing me to the dermatologist) that I realized how invisible I had been for a whole year. People thought I was the "new girl."
Sure, I had friends in high school and things turned around, but I continued to be plagued by self doubt and felt closer to most of the boys in my classes than I did the girls. It wasn't until I went to college and met more adult women that I began to trust again. My mother and my wife (you read that right... shocking I married another mysterious creature like myself) have been the greatest teachers to me.
The irony of teaching middle school now is not lost on me. Yet, I see it as an opportunity to help the girls and boys learn and grow- a little bit more aware. I try to arm them with words and inner confidence in hopes that one less girl is bullied, and more are lifted up by a fellow female.
Luckily, I am now surrounded by uplifting women in my life and I am on a mission to uplift them, too. I've done a lot of work on my inner beauty and have come to admire the amazing women who raise their children beside me, the ones who treat mine as their own and battle through daily pain and sadness because they can't have babies. I run with women who push me to be my best self and who share their truths- their shadows openly to remind us that we are not alone. I work with some incredible ladies who share strategies and success with me- their success is an encouragement that there will come time for mine. There is plenty to go around.
So, ladies, I know that life can be very complicated as we strive to become our best selves despite so many obstacles. I look to you for inspiration. Who are you going to call out because they are WONDERFUL today? Who can you celebrate, unafraid, unwilling to be robbed of your grace just because someone else has beauty or success. Don't let comparison steal your joy. Share and shout out to the Wonderful Women in your life today.