A Letter To Those Who Helped Me Grow

A Letter To Those Who Helped Me Grow

I wouldn't be who I am today without every single one of you.
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I used to be scared to speak outside of my safe little cul-de-sac. Teachers loved me because I was so “well-behaved” and “attentive,” but in reality I broke a sweat thinking about raising my hand. I doubt I spoke more than a paragraph at school in the entirety of my third-grade year. I’m not sure why I was so afraid; I was too young to really have body image issues or jealousy over other girls’ beauty. I knew I was one of the smartest if not the smartest kid in my grade, possibly my school (we’re talking elementary school here, it’s not like I had much competition). I was relatively confident in myself, so why couldn’t I speak? I guess I was afraid of new people, or messing up in front of new people. I was so anxious to make friends it prevented me from making friends.

In fourth grade I got bullied pretty bad. Girls drew ugly pictures of me on the whiteboard, they called me poor and gross, and they bombarded me, both emotionally and physically. I was a model student, so I refused to go to the principal’s office about any of this. I was sure one step into that administration office would seal me into some serious trouble once I got home. So I did my best to ignore it. Teachers moved me around the classroom, I avoided eye contact, and my mouth stayed shut. Eventually, however, one of my teachers had had enough. I distinctly remember her pulling me to the side out of class and telling me I needed to stand up for myself, that there wouldn’t always be teachers and guidance counselors to help. She told me I needed to believe in myself and finally react, finally speak. She made sure not to encourage me to be physical—I “should never stoop that low”—but that maybe if I just said something, the girls wouldn’t find me to be such an easy target. I remember crying as I reentered the classroom, terrified and nearly shaking, but I retook my seat and dried it up as best I could. She was the one teacher who refused to move me, who actually purposefully sat me with the girls who harassed me. To this day I’m not sure that was the best method of getting a fourth-grade kid to retaliate, but it worked for me, I guess. I learned to find the strength to be brave against other kids, to not let myself get walked over. To speak up if I saw something bad. To speak at all.

Middle school was a big blur, but I remember clearly how much my self-esteem and self-worth were torn down like Jericho, and my peers were the trumpets. By the time I got to high school I felt weak again; not nearly as bad as my childhood, but it took a great amount of courage to get me to say something to anyone outside of my small group of friends. Then I met a girl, older than me, who constantly encouraged me in whatever I was doing, praised my outfit or my hair, and was always just a beacon of light in my eyes. I idolized her. (I still do a bit, even to this day.) Now I know, of course, she was just a nice person, and that treatment wasn’t just for me. I wasn’t exactly special. But at the time it made me feel special, amazing, like one of my peers actually really liked and respected me. She has no idea how much of an impact she’s had on me, even to this day, but I’ll be forever grateful. She helped me, albeit inadvertently, find the confidence to find myself, grow into myself and embrace the young woman I was becoming. I found the strength to do more than exist in my body, but to express with my body, to experience new things, and to not be so damn worried all the time. I learned to not care if someone didn’t like me, and as I grew more confident, I had more and more friends to make up for those who weren’t on the best terms with me. If you didn’t like me, that was fine. I had enough love around me for three people, so you didn’t make a difference.

These are only two people who helped me along my journey of self-confidence and discovery, but I promise there’s plenty more, both more and less impactful than those I mentioned. All of these people inspire me every day, even now as I’m approaching my twenties, to make the best impact I can, to be as nice as I can, and to lift those around me the best I can. Not every day is a great day, but if I can complement someone, make someone laugh with a stupid joke I stole off the internet, or even just happily share a meal with a friend, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I am who I am, and I found that myself, but I’m thankful for the giant but silent pillars of support below me. The words to properly express just how much those people mean to me will never come into fruition, but as I’m continuing to develop myself and become whoever it is I’m supposed to be, I think back fondly to those who helped me grow. I hope to be one of those people to someone else one day. If I can ever reach that feat, I will consider the span of my life truly meaningful.

Thank you.

Signed,

That Weird Kid Who Finally Learned To Talk

Cover Image Credit: http://holisticfaith.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/helping-others.jpg

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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The 7 Best Pieces Of Advice I Have Been Given About Life

Some of the best advice I have been given over the years...

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There isn't a central theme among these pieces of advice or sayings. They are all just random things I have been told over the course of my life–especially in the last week. I find these 7 to be particularly helpful in various situations, and try to keep them in mind when I am in over my head.

1. "Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself because there is nobody who is going to help you more than you."

You are the #1 person who can help your own case. No one knows you as you do, therefore no one will be able to help you more than you can help yourself. A lot of things are mental, so once you can convince yourself that you deserve something (whatever it may be) you can convince anyone. Another saying goes along with this, on the flip side: "No one can diminish you but yourself." You are in control of your own self-perception, and you are very much capable of being your own worst enemy.

2. "Stand behind your reputation because you can never get it back."

My mom sent this to me the other day. Be who you are, and do it proudly. Especially with meeting people for the first time, you can never have a second chance at a first impression. That being said, if people view you in a bad light, figure out why that is and fix it. You may not be able to change someones initial thoughts of you, but you can change the way they view you after that.

3. "The best things in life happen unexpectedly."

"Life is what happens when you're busy making plans," also goes along with this. Trying to plan out every little detail of your life is only going to lead to disappointment. Sometimes you find the best things/what you're looking for when you're not actually looking. Just go through the motions and things will work out the way they are supposed to.

4. "Be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how small."

It's important to celebrate the little things. Did you go to class today? Good for you. Did you decide to drink water instead of a soda? That's awesome. How are you going to work up to doing bigger and better things if you don't have anywhere to start?

5. "Whatever you're stressing about now probably won't matter in five years."

As someone who is often eaten away by their own worry and anxiety, this is a mantra that I try to constantly remind myself. While it may seem like a big deal now, you need to keep in mind the bigger picture. Will it matter in 5 hours? 5 days? 5 months? And so on. If the answer is no to ANY of these questions, it's probably not worth beating yourself up over.

6. "Stop being the 'go to' person for someone you can't go to."

Someone tweeted that their pastor said this to them and the tweet went viral. A friend of mine sent it to me, and it really made me think. Something I have struggled with over the years is making excuses for people who don't show up for me when I am constantly there for them. This is a helpful reminder that if they aren't contributing to you and your life, you shouldn't have to bend over backward to help them out and be in their lives.

7. "Two wrongs don't make a right."

While this is often a saying that parents use on their young children, it is applicable to pretty much any stage of life. My parents, especially my dad, have constantly said this, whether it was in reference to fighting with my siblings or dealing with people at school. Even as a 20-year-old, I find myself saying this when I hear about arguments and problems people are having. Everyone wants to get even, to best those who hurt them. While it's important to stick up for yourself, it is also important to be the bigger person and not stoop to their level (and whatever else your parents told you in these situations).

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