Writer’s Name: JC Gardner
Title: My Lips are too Thick, My Nose is too Long
Mirror, Mirror on the wall, why can’t I be the fairest of all?
My lips are too thick, my nose is too long, my feet are too big, and for a girl, I’m too tall
I’m shy in front of strangers and don’t have designer gear
My peers snicker at me, and I just want to disappear
My siblings are talented and are destined for fame
Will anyone ever like me for a change?
By the time I was thirteen, I was already five-foot-seven, one of the tallest girls in my junior high school. My mother had affectionately nicknamed me “string-bean” because of my lanky build. I had to endure constant questions about whether or not I played or considered playing basketball. First of all, to play basketball required confidence. It meant that you wanted to be front and center and that you had mad skills. But I was about as coordinated as a cyclist on an oil slick. I had dance lessons as a child to help overcome stage fright and also enrolled in a few modeling courses to assist with “finding my way,” but internally, I was not convinced I was capable of doing anything other than to cower and hide behind something that would shield me and not call attention to myself.
The thought of giving a speech terrified me. My whole body would tremble as if having its own earthquake. The bathroom was my best friend before any event where I had to be front and center. The small negative voice in my head would say, No one wants to listen or hear what I have to say. I always believed that someone else was better than me.
As my body began to develop, it was clear I was going to be top-heavy. Try to hide them as I might, large breasts were part of my heritage and the “girls” always preceded me. I used to pray at night for smaller feet, shorter stature and breasts that would stop growing.
All of this contributed to me having low self-esteem, although I didn’t know it at the time. My parents were always complimentary and encouraging, but once I left the house and arrived on school grounds, all of their brownie points were washed away. I immediately became intimidated by who I thought was prettier, smarter and well-liked. None of those could be me.
All of these negative seeds followed me through high school, most of college and into the workplace. I tried to become invisible. Internalizing my feelings of low net-worth eventually landed me on medication. And that’s when I knew I had to do something about it. Gradually, through prayer, spousal support and encouraging colleagues, I emerged from dark shadows into the light and this is something I still work on today.
I have a teen daughter who is fifteen-years-old. Knowing what I went through as a child, I constantly encouraged her from an early age to do whatever it was she wanted. I am her biggest cheerleader, rooting for her no matter what the task. We have an open line of communication, and I often say she is one of my best friends.
My daughter loves to dance but she is not pencil thin. Body image for a dancer can be a deal breaker for performances and auditions. We worked out an exercise and healthy eating plan so she could feel good about herself and also know that there is nothing wrong with the way she looks, but if she wants to be competitive, then she has to go the extra mile to get there.
Many teen girls do not have a strong support system. Negative words from family and peers can be devastating and hard to overcome. Unfortunately, I know what this is like. I always envisioned being a writer, but an English teacher destroyed my confidence, and it wasn’t until recently that I’ve been able to overcome her hurtful words.
And because girls, in general, have a lot to endure as their bodies change into womanhood from an influx of hormones, it doesn’t take much to set them on edge or make them feel worthless. Oftentimes, she doesn’t even know why she is feeling the way she is.
For those of us who have daughters about to enter teen-hood, remember more than anything they want to be loved but not smothered. They need to know that you are there for them. They need to be encouraged and if they have a particular talent, help them develop it. Establish a line of communication on their level. Stay in touch with what interests them. It always amazes my children that I still listen to rap music and that I’m well-liked by their friends. And your daughter needs friends that she can relate to. Going to the movies with mom and dad is no way near as exciting as going out with her peer group. If getting along with her peer group in school is tough, then find a mentor or other organizations that fit her needs. And don’t forget to give her some space.
Speaking of school, if the school your daughter is in is not conducive to her well-being, get her out! This old-school way of thinking, “Well, I went to public school and so are my children,” no longer applies in 2012. There is a whole new crop of sticky weeds our children have to deal with and those thorns can be damaging and far-reaching. Some children are just not designed to handle this. Plant your daughter somewhere where she can bloom.
And do not be afraid of counseling. When you know you’ve done all you can to the best of your ability and you see your daughter is becoming unresponsive, reclusive or angry all the time, outside sources are available to help navigate choppy waters. What you don’t want is her entering into adulthood with a defeated state of mind. Her decisions will all be based on negative impressions of herself and may put her in harmful situations, especially with men. Unfortunately, certain men prey on these types of women who lend themselves to being abused and manipulated. These relationships are easy to get into and extremely difficult to break free from. Don’t allow your daughter to be a victim of her circumstances.
There are several web articles and books about adolescents and this article from Web.MD I found to be brief and informative.
Another excellent book is, “Get Out of My Life, but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the Mall? A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager,” by Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D. This is another easy read that doesn’t talk down to you and has been a great reference for me while raising my now adult son and my teenage daughter.