In 3rd grade, at the early age of 7 years old, I had my first bully.
Almost every child experiences this, but it can settle with everyone differently throughout life. Switching schools three times throughout my childhood due to the scrutiny, the consistent bullying only got worse until 6th grade. Everybody has insecurities of some sort, whether it's inflicted from a source of self-deprecation or from a rough experience with a childhood bully.
My first bully picked on my teeth and my smile, ironically something that a majority of people now consider my best feature.
I had braces and a palate expander for four years beginning in the 4th grade, and based on that time span, you could imagine that they surely weren't too pretty. Once I got braces and began to grow into my insanely buck teeth, the comments shifted directly to my weight.
I've been left almost unharmed by my 3rd grade bully coming into class and telling me I look prettier when I smile with my lips together, but the comments on my weight have honestly affected me to this day. I'm not sure why that specifically became such a topic of sensitivity for me.
That's not to say it doesn't still happen, because let's be honest here: if you're overweight, that's something that you'll always carry with you, especially if you're bullied about it at any point. The comments are just less direct now that I'm easing my way into adulthood. The girls in elementary school who would call my then-healthy weight disgusting have turned into the woman at the prom dress shop who told me the dresses I felt beautiful in weren't for me because "they show my shape".
I may never forget being put in a corner to look at myself in a dress made for my grandmother while a girl a fraction of my size was in front of a giant, well-lit mirror standing on a platform in a beautiful designer gown; it's a perfect analogy as to how us plus-sized women and men often feel in society.
Those who are plus sized often have a harder time dating. It's a rarity to see women on the runway who even resemble us. Jan Singer, the previous CEO of Victoria's Secret, said we aren't worthy of being included in her shows because we aren't a part of anybody's fantasies.
It's an enraging, vicious cycle, and from hometown bullies to CEO's of massive companies, there are people making it harder every day for us to escape it. Some people devastatingly don't make it out of this cycle alive because we feel so undesirable and unworthy at times.
“Fat shaming" takes lives, even of those that are physically still here. It consumes you, and it's painful to live a life feeling revolting in your own skin more intensely than somebody who hasn't lived this life of insecurity brought upon them by judgment from others.
If you do one thing today, tell somebody you like their hair. Their top. Their smile. It's important to empower others and coexist in a way where we can all strive for happiness and let go of the pressure to be physically “perfect".