Bulling convinced me I was Ugly
Not too long ago, I was looking for something in my picture bin when I stumbled on this throwback picture of me taken in 1987. Staring at it induced pangs of agonizing memories. I was 20 years old, painfully shy, void of confidence and quite frankly, fragile. The smile on my face was merely a curtain hiding the anguish raging on my inside. Mental bullying had dealt me a bad hand – it fooled me into thinking I was who I wasn’t. Looking back now, I cannot grasp why I believed the lie I was an ugly, hideous monster. No one could convince me otherwise and I will tell you why.
You see, I was born with a pronounced red birthmark on the left side of my face. As a kid, I assumed it was the first thing anyone noticed when meeting me for the first time. I felt odd because no one I knew had a face like mine. It seemed as though I mistakenly fell on earth from another planet.
Elementary school was a bittersweet experience. Some naughty classmates delighted in teasing me non-stop. They had no problem stabbing my self-esteem with gibes like: Red-face monster, Ugly girl, Two-face monster, and the one that hurt me the most Your-mother-must-have-slapped-you-with-a-red-spoon.
These taunts laid the foundation for many pity parties I hosted at home after getting bullied in school. “Why me?” was the question I used to cry and repeatedly ask God. I could not understand why He gave me a red birthmark, funny teeth, some mean classmates and my overall appearance. I disliked what I now know was “a figment of my distorted imagination.” That is what happens when you believe the lie of the enemy.
Whenever my mother came home from work and saw I’d been crying, she would try her best to convince me I was beautiful. Her words had a way of soothing the ache from the malicious blows of that day. Thank God for a good mother who believed and loved me to pieces. She kept speaking life to me with declarations like: “You are beautiful,” “You are great,” and “You are somebody.”
With time, her positive affirmations produced a glimmer of hope. I started believing there might be some truth in my doting mother’s words. In 4th grade, I gained an iota of confidence and began the process of breaking the shackles bullying forced on me.
An adult unknowingly joined the bullying squad
I was almost there when one day my teacher tried to get my attention. Instead of calling me by my name, she said: “Come here, Red face.” The expression of shock that instantly registered on my face was inconceivable. How dare her stoop so low and litter my path to self-love with weeds of doubt? The gravity of her seemingly innocent utterance instantly cremated the tiny confidence I had managed to build. She succeeded in wounding and dragging me back to square one.
Tears are falling as I write this. Such a painful memory! This is most likely a cathartic wave. About time!
For an adult to add nails and fasten what kids had naively plastered on the wall of my brittle heart convinced me I was indeed a red-face monster. Unknown to my teacher, those four words that came out of her mouth that day, contributed to the anguish that haunted me for decades.
As my teenage years gave way to my coming of age, maturity eased some of the pain from my past. It didn’t erase it. God placed some very special friends in my life. They celebrated and encouraged me in memorable ways. By the time I graduated from the university, it was not as daunting, but there was work to be done. I still had a hard time finding my self worth. This trauma accompanied me into adulthood where it created some painful chapters that robbed me of a few golden opportunities. My self-esteem graduated from low to invisible. For the life of me, I just couldn’t find it!
My turning point came the moment I let the soothing word of God permeate my life. Over time, affirmation and daily confession of key scriptures in front of my bedroom mirror, gave me the courage to declare war on the fear of rejection. 2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” became my anchor verse for reassurance and boldness. The word of God taught me all men are equal before the Lord and there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. After all, if God is for me, who can be against me? I made up my mind that no matter what, I must believe in myself. The light bulb of truth was switched on and It began to dispel the dingy lies bullying planted in my head. It was time to replace self-distrust with self-love and take back what the cankerworms of intimidation stole from me as a child.
I started to love and be the best version of myself. I replaced disdain for my birthmark with appreciation. Above all, God gave it to me for a reason – I have no right to question Him.
The excess emotional and mental baggage that weighed me down for many years started falling off. The temperature of my self-esteem began rising from low to high. Things were finally looking up for me.
A better person emerged from the dungeon of bullying
Today, I can sincerely look in the mirror and say to myself, “Thank You Lord for making me beautiful!” I deeply appreciate and love the way God made me. My happiness is my priority. I guard what enters my personal space (If you do not guard your space, shenanigan will guard it for you.) Everything is on my terms and not according to the dictates of others. Enough of that nonsense. My people-pleaser days are gone with the wind.
I cannot imagine the other options I might have employed to medicate the pain bullying birthed in me. Who knows the catastrophe that could have befallen me while seeking validation from the wrong sources? It could have been very costly. Thank God for turning my captivity around and causing me to be like them that dream.
No matter what you are going through, the first step to recovery is to believe in yourself. Do not allow anyone to bully you. Stand your ground and love yourself. Believe you are somebody. Leave the past behind – look forward to a better tomorrow. You are fearfully and wonderfully made – the world is waiting for you.
Also, it is imperative our words to people are soothing, encouraging and filled with love. We must make a conscious effort to bring out the best in human beings. What we say matters a great deal. We can make or break others with our choice of words and action. We should form and maintain the habit of using words wisely and kindly. Nothing beats making others happy and spreading joy especially during this pandemic.
With all hands on the anti-bullying and speaking-life-to-others deck, our endeavor to make this world a better place will not be in vain.
May Oyairo is the Publisher of MannaEXPRESS.