I wrote this story for a contest ( see details here http://stories.thebreadwinner.com/#signup1 ) but also because I think it’s a great movement to share our stories and encourage one another. I hope it can inspire someone.
We are Girls, We are Strong.
Sixth grade is a though year for a lot of people. Being the oldest students, you are told that you rule the school but in reality, it’s only those with enough influence, those on the top of the popularity pyramid that are the holders of this power. If you are unfortunate enough to be on the bottom of the pyramid, things can be very though indeed.
Like this girl, for example. She is a normal girl of normal size, blond hair and blue eyes but she is different. She likes to read and suffers from anxiety. These traits and other differences which are currently unseen to her eyes, but seem very apparent to her peers who mock and poke at these imaginary flaws makes her feel sad and lonely. When these feelings come, this girls picks up a book and loses herself in the pages. She loses herself in stories of girls who are different and go on big adventures, solving the problems that they and their society face. This girl learns through these stories to see through other eyes and her heart learns to love and she manages to forgive what has been done to her that day. As the year comes to and end and her yearbook lies almost empty with a few generic lines scribbled from people of her class, she feels a sadness rush over her. She can’t understand why she feels this way, everyone around her are laughing and running, hugging and crying, teachers are handing out sweets and treats. Yet she can’t seem to be grateful for the insincere words written in front of her or for her one dear friend she has had since grade two who is playing not too far away. All she can think of is the consuming want to belong.
As the summer starts, dark slithering doubts start creeping into the girls mind. Maybe something was wrong with her. Maybe she wasn’t good enough. There had to be a reason why people hated her and picked on her. Now she was starting to see what those people on the top of the popularity pyramid saw. Now she saw her flaws, her overweight body, her cumbersome habits, her strong opinions which no one agrees with. She should be more like them she thought. No, she absolutely needed to be more like them she thought. Not another year would she let pass on the bottom of the social ladder. Not another year would she let pass being ridiculed and sad. She would change. She would be more like those girls on TV. She would be thin and she would be fashionable and after this summer she would start a new year, at a new school where not one knew of her past. She would have friends and she would finally fit in.
Unfortunately things never go as planned. The girl, a mere 11 years old, stuck to her goals but they consumed her. These thoughts and this pressure to change who she was ate at her. She soon lost herself and fell into a dark place. She didn’t eat. She developed severe OCD. She became violent and aggressive and her own mind turned on her until she was so lost that those close to her brought her to stay in the hospital in the hopes that the girl they knew would find her way back from the battle she was slowly losing in her mind.
As always, there is a hero to most stories and in this story one of the main heroes was the girl’s mother. Her mother had always been there. Like most adult women she had survived a childhood of almost identical pressures to those of her daughter to change who she was in order to fit in, to change who she was in order to be successful and loved. She had survived and become the amazing woman she is today, uniquely herself. It was this girl’s mother who eventually saved the day, planting her feet and refusing to budge from her daughter’s side, getting back up even when she thought she had lost all hope. A breadwinner for the family, she still made time for her lost daughter and even when this girl lashed out and screamed, the mother held on tight and new that her girl was still there, somewhere in this whole mess of a situation.
When the girl was released from the hospital, still thin as a stick, she had already missed the first two weeks at her new school. She arrived there on the first day of the third week and found that all the cliques had already been made. Her efforts to fit in had backfired and now not only was she alone at school and on an even lower position on the social pyramid, but she was also fractured in both body and mind trying to reconnect the puzzle pieces of who she once was. This was no easy feat. She then had to contend with the mental and physical abuse from her peers as they picked up on her broken self and ridiculed the strangeness of her ticks and odd ways of acting.
This girl is me. This girl represents girls all around the world facing social pressures that dictate what they should be, how they should act, what they should do, who they should love, and like most of those girls, this girl pulled through. This girl surpassed those obstacles and trials even though they seemed like an Everest that she would never surmount. She persevered and is now stronger than ever. We are all unique in our own way and that is our real source of beauty, it is also our source strength. We are girls, we are strong!