It’s anti-bullying week at our school in our little corner of the world.
For me it kicked off with a misdirected txt msg on Monday. A message from my ex husband – he meant to send it to his wife, it was about me. It epitomised what the week is about. It went like this…and I quote…
OMG!! If you just saw Anne right now I bet you would have laughed!!!! All the teachers are wearing orange shirts for anti-bullying week and I saw Anne and had to laugh at the entire outfit ..you had to see it to appreciate it …lol!
I’d love to deal with the teen-speak this almost 40 year old has employed but I think I’ll just move on..
So I forwarded the message to his wife – for fear she’d never have the pleasure of reading it. He quickly sent me another message – I think this one was for me! .. and I quote…
Don’t bother reading that, that wasn’t meant for you. I was having a laugh at you all.
(Oh thanks! I hadn’t picked up on that! As an English teacher words and their meaning have always eluded me.)
The exchange that followed in which I pointed out that it is ANTI-bullying week, ended with me being accused of belittling him..! I have prepared about 5 responses, I didn’t send them. I’ve resisted …
It’s ridiculous at the ripe ol’ age of almost 39, that I then headed off down my old path of trying to work out if what he said was true. As a result I spent too much time that morning wondering… Am I and my appearance often the subject of txt messages? Is my outfit discussed every time I drop the boy off? Why should I care? Should I be spending more time preparing for these exchanges? I jest with that last one. The oppositional component of my personality wants to do drop off in the exact same outfit for the rest of the year -I think the “Bullying, NO way!” message is one that needs to be reinforced for this particular individual. Either way exchanges like that one on Monday morning get under my skin – I won’t deny it. I can laugh them off, but when it’s quiet, they come back…and whisper in my ears.
The one who speaks truth to me reminds me that I must remember that this person is not a truth teller. But unfortunately over the almost 7 years we were together I was told a number of things – and sad to say I took a few too many of them on board. I let them become part of me – part of my self-talk. I was acting like a baby if my feelings were hurt, I was too fat, I was too skinny, I wasn’t smart, my memory was faulty, I was suspicious and untrusting, I was unpleasant to live with, I wasn’t as attractive as I had been when we first married, and that perhaps if I made more of an effort he’d find me more attractive …!
They roll out from my memory a little too easily really, don’t they?
I know they do – they are the words that I still carry with me. I allowed them to become part of me so that more than 7, or is it 8, years later – they come back whenever this type of negativity is levelled at me.
So I come back again to words, the power of words, the marks words can leave and the restoration that they can bring.
I have a man in my life who tells me daily that I am beautiful – even if I don’t believe it to be true – he does. He’s also convinced that one day I will too. He believes that one day I will say “I am beautiful”.
Wednesday brought with it a surprise too, a good one. Our schools anti-bullying week activities continued. Vita Adam – spoke to the girls as part of anti-bullying week, maybe she spoke to a few of the female teachers sitting in too (!) Her message was “I am bold, I am beautiful”, “You are bold, you are beautiful.”
I’m going to be honest – I went in with low expectations. I didn’t know who I was about to hear or what I was about to hear.
I may have said the following words in the car on the way “If it’s another female speaker tottering around on stage, with her face caked in makeup telling girls they are all princesses I think I’m going to have to punch someone!”
I wouldn’t have physically punched anyone. But I may have let the verbal punches roll. My expectations weren’t exactly high.
My low expectations vanished with her opening words. In her opening words she included my favourite description of feminine strength – lioness.
We are lionesses.
I was hooked.
Mainly because it’s something that the man calls me, and some days I believe it to be true.
Lioness. When I hear lioness it conjures up images of beauty, strength, dignity, courage, warmth, ferocity, protectiveness, it conjures up the image of a contributor; a family-oriented, community-minded nurturer, a proud, gentle, focused and poised presence.
Words, I’ll say it again, have amazing power, power to destroy, power to maim, power to heal, power to restore.
The words our girls heard were words of affirmation, words of power, words that challenge, words to inspire, words to aspire to, words to embrace, impart and live by.
Discussing the message later in class with some of them, several of the girls expressed they too had reservations coming into the presentation that were similar to mine, they expressed thoughts similar to mine …
They didn’t want to hear any more about princesses – Disney has done that to death. When girls hear princess now they hear “entitled”, “over-protected”, “dainty”, “fragile”, “spoilt”, “materialistic”. True enough, some girls do aspire to that. Some girls do have their hearts set on being looked after, provided for, pampered and applauded. Then there are the other girls, what they want to hear about is being mighty – they don’t want to hear about one size fits all tiaras.
They want to hear about how to be strong and brave, how to be bold and how to be truly beautiful. They want to be real, they want to be authentic, they want the courage to be themselves and they want the rest of the world to be okay with that.
There is a generation of girls that know the life of a “princess” is not satisfying. They know that being a “princess” doesn’t satisfy the desires placed within each one of us to make a difference.
Throughout Vita Adam’s message of empowerment I was sitting with the girl I mentioned about a week ago (Less trying, more relying). The girl, who’s not really meant to connect with me, despite the fact that she lives under our roof every second week. She’s not under our roof this week. She came in to the session late and looking somewhat dishevelled … she whispered a question and promptly dissolved into tears. So she sat with me, I held her as she sobbed. I’m assuming everyone who saw us, knows that we’re “kinda” family.
“You have to listen to this woman,” I whispered, “you need to hear this.”
She settled and she listened.
We sat through a message she needs to hear, a message that I need to hear, a message we as women, a sisterhood all need to hear.
It was a message that told her that she is bold, that she is beautiful.
A message designed to bring about a change in her self-talk.
A message that encouraged her to be courageous in ways she needs to be courageous.
A message that told her that courage is asking for help, that courage is demonstrated by acknowledging fear and pushing through it … that courage is demonstrated by getting back up again if you’ve been knocked down.
Imagine what we, as women and girls would be like if we encouraged each other to do this. One of the girls in my first class after the session greeted me with “Miss! You are bold, you are beautiful!”
Imagine if that was our greeting to each other each day!
Imagine what would happen if we stopped comparing, if we stopped trying to outdo each other, if we challenged people when they try to compare us.
Imagine if each one of us contributed to the self-talk of another in a positive way!
Imagine if we were each other’s biggest fans – if we were there to support, to lift up, to encourage, to back up, to promote, to challenge, to build, to strengthen.
Imagine what that would be like!
Imagine how many txt messages would ruin our days…
Imagine if when those txt messages come, and we know they will, imagine what would happen if on those days I respond with … and I quote…
I am bold, I am beautiful.
I wonder how that would go down!