The first time I felt self-conscious was in kindergarten. My teacher spoke to me in French and I didn’t know how to respond. The other children in the classroom looked at me expectantly. The majority of them spoke words from two languages, while I struggled to answer a simple question.
My mother took me to a specialist. We drove to a strange house, sat on a strange couch, talked to a stranger. I was asked to put shapes back into their original design, asked to read sentences, write. I was told I was dyslexic.
I would frown after getting a quiz or test back, red pen marking my mistakes. I added incorrectly because I inverted the numbers. I got marked down because I mixed the i’s and e’s in words such as fields or quiet.
I read a lot, compensating for my brain misbehaving when writing. I read two levels above my classmates. I felt proud.
My parents discouraged me from taking the difficult math class. They believed I would struggle and didn’t want me to fail. Instead, I breezed through the standard math class. Of course I still struggled, but even my teacher knew I could do more. I wanted to believe that, but I held myself back.
My older brothers used to call me names. They would poke or squeeze my fat. They were both athletic, intelligent in their own ways. I compared myself to them, as you do with siblings, but knew we were different. While they played soccer, I performed in plays. And when I did try my hand in sports, I felt like a joke.
I never appreciated my body. I still struggle, even now, to appreciate myself. All my friends were tall, lean, muscled. I was short, hairy, pudgy. I slimmed out in high school, but even when I felt comfortable wearing a two piece bathing suit for the first time, I hated what I looked like. I couldn’t stop from comparing myself to others.
Recently I’ve come to terms with how I look. I may not be happy with who I am, but I know it takes time to change. I just have to be patient and let myself grow.