“Hey there four eyes”, said one of the boys on the bus that I took to school every day. I tried to ignore that comment, and went about staring out the window. It wasn’t the first time I was called names for wearing glasses. I was used to the all the name-calling by then.
I was about twelve years old when I attained my puberty and was just getting into terms with my body and all the crazy changes that were happening to me.
Before getting into high school, I made the decision to get my dental braces. God alone knows what I was thinking at that point. “Metal mouth”, ‘Robot smile”, “ugly duckling” was amongst the few names that I was being called. I was terrified of taking the bus to school. I didn’t feel like myself, felt very insecure and inferior to other kids. I did my best to look presentable and make friends, but my looks, glasses and braces always came in my way. Despite of being a good student and an all-rounder in extracurricular activities I never felt wanted. When all my fellow students had boyfriends and a normal teenage life, there I was struggling to get past my own complexes.
Growing up in India came with its own set of hazards. You had to be better than the whole lot (Neighbors, cousins, classmates) when it came to studies. Getting anything below an A plus was asking for trouble at home. Parents, relatives started the comparison game immediately. “Oh, my son did so much better in Math, are you sure your daughter is really studying?”, “Oh enough with these music lessons, it’s not like you will make music for a living now, would you?”, “Kids don’t know the value for anything, makes sure she doesn’t get her allowance if she doesn’t score well”—were only a few examples of what was being told.
The fear, resentment, anxiety, the urge to belong, always left me feeling very insecure and damaged. When I thought the day couldn’t get any worse, it would end by someone making a snide remark by saying, “Were you always this ugly?” I had lost my confidence; I was slowly sinking without really having anyone to talk to about this. Even if I did, all I got was “Oh, ignore it, or deal with it”. How to deal with something like this?
It took time. I attended counseling sessions to overcome the fear and anxiety. I traveled outside to do different things, developed new hobbies, Volunteered at various places and realized that the problem wasn’t with me. Volunteering helped me realize that I loved connecting with people. It brought me so much joy in learning more about myself through what I was doing. This entire experience gave me a chance to heal.
It dawned over me as a parent now that your children cannot always belong. They will sometimes be forced into believing something about them that they are not. They will be shunned, for various reasons, for no fault of theirs, but you have to patiently teach them to keep finding themselves over and over again. You have to teach them stand up for themselves and learn to be their own best friend. Keep reassuring them, and help them along each step of the way.
I’m a mother to a beautiful toddler now. She is just a little over two years old. When we are out and about, we come face to face with so many kids who are so different than her. When she can’t really keep up with what is happening around her she looks at me for help. I tell her to go slow, do what she thinks is right, and reassure her. I know she will be put in much more complex situations growing up. I have promised myself to keep telling her how beautiful and loved she is. To always instill confidence in her.
I won’t try too hard to toughen her; the world has its ways to. I always will be with her to help her understand that, in the hardest of times, only she has the capability to pull herself together.
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