During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, “Not for Ourselves Alone” is running a special series called 30 Days of Bodyshaming, designed to give a voice to the many different experiences of girls and women. This series will feature guest posts by professors, writers, a cartoonist, young girls, and mothers. Gut wrenching and honest, these stories are presented in an attempt to bring about a deeper understanding of the plight of girls and women as we make our way in world that, for us, is hostile at its best and violent at its worst.
by Lilly (age 14)
When I was about nine years old I started fourth grade at a new school. Before this time I had been a shockingly confident little girl. Made of Barbie dolls, sparkly shoes, and fire. I had never thought much about my body compared to those of the other girls and overall I thought I was sort of pretty. It only took two weeks at the new school to destroy everything I had ever thought about myself.
There was a group of boys calling me fat and ugly (among other things a nine year old shouldn’t be saying). I was an early bloomer and so at a young age I had acne and a maturing body. Add that to the horror of being the new kid and obviously I was a pretty easy target. On top of all of that, my teacher, who was very much my protector, was dying of cancer. He left for good early on in the year and an extremely young and nervous woman took over. She was in no way ready handle a class of thirty kids dealing with both grief and puberty for the first time. I was the least of her worries. Still she tried. Every day I would place a folded up sticky note on her desk that told her the names I had been called, how many times, and by whom. Then she would take the boys into the hallway and scold them. I’m sure you can imagine how happy they were about that. She sent me to the school social worker who would give me a snack and a sheet to fill out asking how my week had been, and every once in a while she would let me stay in from recess and sit in her room.
I skipped school once or twice a week, I cried myself to sleep, I taped pictures of me with my old friends all over my newly painted bedroom, I over ate one day and under ate the next, I googled the symptoms and diagnosed myself with depression. My doctor said that it was a possibility, but she didn’t think I did. Of course a little kid couldn’t have depression, that’s ridiculous. Luckily my parents were amazing through all of this and took me seriously when I told them how seriously sad I was. I will always love them for that.
Slowly the boys stopped tormenting me and slowly that depressed feeling faded. By February I had made a friend, by March I had made twenty. But I never regained my confidence, if anything I’ve gotten worse. I understand that it is difficult if not impossible to completely and fully love yourself, but I don’t need to love myself just yet. All I want is to be okay with myself. And although it is a very slow process I think I am getting there. Last year I wore shorts to school for the first time and now I hardly think about the giant purple scar on the back of my leg or my knobby knees. A few months ago I stopped wearing concealer on my face in an attempt to cover acne and acne scars, now I hardly even care. This year I bought my first two piece swimsuit in a long, long time. I am learning now that the way I look on the outside should not matter to anybody but me. I have the most amazing female influences you could ever imagine for a girl and they have taught me that being beautiful is not about being skinny or having clear skin, its about being loving and intelligent and generous and confident. I’m still working on the confidence thing.
Lilly is in eight grade.