Thanks to my friend Marianne for sending me this video by Shane Koyczan called To This Day. It’s about recognizing that bullying exists, bullying hurts and bullying takes healing and strength to recover from. Watching this video has inspired me to write about my beliefs in the importance of inner beauty and kindness.
If words and names, better known as sticks and stones, have ever hurt you or one you love please watch Koyczan’s video. It contains acknowledgment of pain but also beauty, kindness and comfort.
To me, the message is that we wouldn’t exist if we weren’t exactly how we are supposed to be. We are perfect even if we are different. Maybe what’s making bullying hurt so bad, is a lack of faith in self. Maybe bullying happens because knowing you are perfect exactly as you are is the one most important thing you need to learn and until you learn that you’ll keep getting tested to see if you’ve got the message. That might sound a bit hard. When you feel or have been made to feel DIFFERENT things can seem harder, and for many they are harder. Maybe faith in yourself has been just plain beaten out of you with words or worse.
You might ask what do I know about this? I’m 51 years old and I have a great life. I can see that everything I thought was hard in my life has actually, in the end, made me realize something that made my life even greater for me know. I’m going to share some very personal examples with you. These things aren’t painful to me anymore as I’ve dealt with them and healed. You can too. I found my way and you can find yours. I’m hoping something from my stories might help you even in a small way. Different perspectives can be quite powerful when you can access them. So here goes.
I was born with a large purple port wine stain birthmark on my left cheek. I’m sure my Mom and Dad must have been a little concerned when they saw me but my Great-grandfather told my Mom that I looked like the sweetest peach he ever saw and that was it for my parents. They got on with being proud parents and noticed I had big brown eyes and soft curly hair. They fell head over heals in love with me and they’ve loved me unconditionally me ever since. How blessed am I?
Though I endured my share of insults and bullying for my outstanding facial feature as I grew up, I really was able to take it all in stride because I was loved. I also have a great sense of humour, I am generally friendly, conscientious and caring, was always pretty good at sports and school and quite frankly had 3 siblings that had highly developed jurisprudence sensibilities.
How did these 3 sets of heightened fairness beacons help me? Well, everything in our house had to be FAIR because if it wasn’t the one of us suffering “injustice” was sure to lead a revolution for their rights. Our voices would be heard. Violations of our rights might have included but certainly were not limited to the following: 1) who ALWAYS got the seat by the window in the car 2) who got the car on Saturday night 3) whose turn it was to do the dishes and 4) who was getting out of vacuuming and dusting Saturday mornings when the rest of us were TRAPPED! You see the magnitude of travesties we suffered. But my point here is that we learned to take a stand for ourselves and for our right to exist in fairness and with respect. My siblings didn’t give a rat’s pa-tooty if I had a birthmark. They didn’t even see it. What they saw was whether I was carrying my load. How did we get to be so Marxist? I certainly did not deserve or get any special rights but, neither did I get put down for how I looked. If it was my turn to cook and I burned the potatoes that they had to eat/suffer through… whoa that was a totally different manner. How my parents stood it all, I’ll never know. EVEN STEPHEN could have been our fifth sibling we talked about him so much. Our parents raised him along with the four of us. And in hindsight, all those chores and responsibilities they gave us taught us just how capable we were.
I got through my childhood and then I was a nurse for over 20 years. I had dermatologists and plastic surgeons I didn’t even know stop me in the hallways of hospitals in the two countries I worked in (with their small flotilla of students bobbing along behind them ’cause if you are basically pretty insensitive to others feelings, you feel better being insensitive with your gang to witness your brilliant power) to tell me, Hey, I can get rid of that thing for you. One told me, that I’d need to get “that” fixed because humans crave symmetry, it’s subliminal, and men would reject me without even knowing why.
Dear God, I am so grateful for my backbone and my sense of humour and my brains and the uncommon degree of common sense my parents and siblings helped build in me. As the old saying goes, I turned the other cheek and walked away. If I responded at all, I would quietly assure them that I was perfectly content with being a little different, that the universe and God had marked me for a reason and that I wouldn’t want to be with anyone so obsessed with perfection or symmetry that they overlooked what a perfect peach I was (not to mention: well-endowed in body and mind and again, sigh, that friendliness and sense of humour). One time, I ignored the doctor and faced the students and said, Hello, my name is Karen and I’m a very rare case, I’m pefectly happy the way I am. I have not idea how that went over as I quickly turned and walked away. I think I was reacting to the rudeness of how I was being treated. I learned to just smile and say No Thank You and walk away. That really was a nice calm way to deal with it in the end. It only happened about 5 times and I was already SCARRED FOR LIFE so what did it matter? ar, ar, ar – I crack myself up!
I’ve always had the gift of laughing at myself. If I ever get tempted to be vain, I immediately crack up at how ludicrous vanity is. I feel blessed my birthmark taught me to value myself more from the inside out. Actually, I take care of myself lovingly and think I look “pretty good” most days.
My journal has always been my way back to a voice of reason. In writing I find a loving voice and that good old-fashioned jurisprudence. I concentrate on what I’ve got going for me each and everyday. I can tell you for a fact many times over that my being here on earth has made a difference in the life of many. Those years as a nurse were such a privilege. I learned so much about what really matters. I’ve been at the bedside of a few hundred people as they died. None of them cared that I had a birthmark. All they really cared about was the beautiful and lovingly kindness and energy I could share with them when they needed it most.
I’ve learned that I have great beauty. I’ve learned to be kind to myself and to practice kindness to others always. I’m not always perfect at that, but I practice.
Just because bullying exists doesn’t make it right. Kindness is always right. If no one else will be kind to you, no matter how hard it seems, sometimes you just have to be kind to yourself. Maybe you never had pushy siblings that taught you the way mine did, maybe you don’t have my disposition, but you can still do it.
Look deep within. If there is a little voice saying, you’re a good person no matter what! then listen to that voice and believe it. It wouldn’t lie to you. Be kind to the true you even if that means removing yourself from others who are not kind to you. Perhaps especially if that is the case.
I once removed myself from someone who bullied and controlled me. I moved 3000 miles away. Three years later, (healing can take time but is SOOO worth it) I was glowing in the re-discovery of how beautiful I was and thanks to that tremendous act of kindness to myself, that huge move, I met my husband who loves me exactly as I am and who could not be without my brains, beauty, humour, common sense and tremendous sense of jurisprudence in his life.
Be brave. Savour the beauty and kindness that lies within you and even if it takes a little while, when you are ready, you’ll find your way and everyone else will have to treat you as you treat yourself. That is my wish for you.