When I was in 3rd grade, my parents decided to move to a new town. But not only did they decide to move to a new town, they decided to move to a new town in the middle of the school year.
Being in third grade and moving to a new school is hard. Being in third grade and moving to a new school in the middle of the school year is really hard. Being in third grade and moving to a new school in the middle of the school year when you have buck teeth, braces, thick brown glasses and awkwardly curly hair is impossible.
But I still walked into it optimistically. I walked into it with this idea that I could reinvent myself. Maybe the kids in this new school won’t see this person that the kids in my old school saw.
I was paraded around the front of the room and put on display for all of my new classmates before being escorted to my seat in this sea of strangers.
It was a couple of hours into that first day that I was on the playground after lunch and the most popular girl in my class approached me with her entourage of friends behind her.
And just to show you how naive I was at the time, my first thought was “Here’s my chance. Here’s my chance to be one of the popular kids.”
Without an ounce of hesitation, she smiled at me and said “Hi! You’re pretty…”
And before I could comprehend the verbal punch in the face I was about to be on the receiving end of, she finished.
And then she turned around and began to high five all of her friends as they walked away.
I turned around and there was nobody there. Nobody there to tell me that she is a bitch. Nobody there to tell me that she does this to all of the kids. Nobody to tell me that she was just trying to show off in front of her friends.
Nobody to tell me that she was wrong.
Had I been four years old, I probably wouldn’t have understood. Or had I been 12 maybe I would have dismissed it. But I was eight. And eight year olds are made out of 100% fertilized soil.
So, the seed was planted. All it needed was a little sunshine, a little rain and a lot of love and I cultivated it.
I grew it into something.
And that’s who I was. Pretty Ugly. And for the next thirty years, I was pretty ugly.
For the next thirty years I was deathly afraid of rejection, alone, depressed, introverted, I had low self esteem, I was shy. I hated myself. HATED myself.
It defined nearly every aspect of my life.
I was pretty ugly.
With two words, this eight year old girl was able to hold back a 20, 25, 30, 35 year old man. Two words. Pretty Ugly.
I found myself in my late thirties unhappy and riddled with anxiety. So, in an effort to find a solution, I went to a personal development seminar. And while there we were tasked with telling the person next to us about a memory we had that changed our lives.
Now, these words have never escaped my mouth before. I have never told anyone this story. Not my parents, not my teacher, not my friends, not my wife. Nobody.
I began telling her the story. And as I told her, I could see her begin to smile. Almost celebratory.
Why would she do that? Why would she make light of something that had such an obvious impact on me. It was almost as if it was happening all over again. So, I said something. I told her that it wasn’t funny. That it was a painful memory. That it was offensive that she would find joy in something that was so painful to me.
“I’m not laughing at you” she said. I’m relieved. I’ve been through the same thing. I’m so relived to hear that I was not alone.
Then she proceeded to tell me her story. In her case it was one of her parents. They had a cute nickname for her. Ditz. It was meant in a loving way. She had a very happy and very bubbly personality. And although it came from a place of love, she defined it much differently.
And for the majority of her life she had this voice in the back of her head telling her that she was stupid.
And that was the day I realized I was not alone. That was the day I began to heal.