This is a photo of me at age five: Skinny, bowed legs, big eyes, giant head. Two of my nicknames as a kid were “Stick” and “Grandma.” Stick because I was naturally skinny and Grandma because I always had something to say or want to teach.
Nicknames were always confusing as a young child. I couldn’t understand why I was being made fun of for being who I naturally was. It was only years later in art class I learned that a human’s facial features as a kid are essentially the same size as their adult version. The rest of our bodies have to catch up in order for us to look proportional. And only now am I truly appreciating my natural talent for teaching and leading others, and can chuckle at memories of those who considered me to be a bossy child.
By that point though, the damage to my psyche was done. I grew up with a very negative body image I only recently overcame and I often kept my thoughts to myself out of fear of being shamed and ostracized. I also developed a sense of distrust of people who supposedly loved me since many of the people who teased me were family and friends.
As an adult today, I can fully understand and now see that the person doing the teasing is the one with the issues. But a 5-year old child does not understand this. You tell a 5-year old, “Don’t let it bother you because it is so-and-so who has the problem,” and we simply don’t grasp that. At least I didn’t.
Even now, getting teased takes me for a little loop. I have to make a conscientious effort to make sense of the event in my heart and head so that it doesn’t take me on the wrong path. But why is it that I have to make such an effort?
If you tease people, please consider the following before letting the words fly out of your mouth:
1. Why are you about to say what you want to say? Is it a valid point or are you just trying to get attention? If you have a valid point, could it be said in a positive way? If you are trying to get attention, ask yourself why and examine the answers you give yourself.
2. Consider your ripple effect, the immediate and long-term. You get to choose whether your words help somebody to love, trust, and grow more as a person, or hurt a human being for an indefinite period of time.
I realize I may be asking a lot since we all love to get attention and I am asking you to relinquish that moment in the spotlight. But is this short-lived moment of fame really worth a 5-year old’s lifetime of pain and angst? If you stopped to consider what I have said, I sincerely hope you agree that it is not. Alternatively, consider also that YOU are worth much better than being that person who needs to hurt another to validate their existence.
PS – I am guilty of this also and have been able to significantly reduce my participation since choosing to be an aware individual. I ask that we all consider our ripple effects.
PSS – If you do happen to choose to tease somebody and see the errors of your ways afterward, a sincere apology and change in behavior truly goes a long way in helping to redevelop trust in the relationship.