A post on bullying and lessons learned by Sherry D. Ficklin.
Today my wonderful assistant Amanda posted this over on my Facebook page. She makes these for me all the time and they are always great. This one in particular reminded me of something that I would like to share with you.
When I was a pre-teen I was bullied something fierce. I was gangly, rail skinny, bony, and awkward. Even if I had been pretty and perfect, odds are someone would still have picked on me. Kids are a-holes like that and will pick on and bully others for any conceivable reason. They made fun of my name (Sherry Ash at the time, yeah, you can probably see where that went) they picked on my knobby knees and flat chest, they made fun of my second hand clothes and sometimes even my nice new clothes. I developed a paralyzing fear of public speaking by about age 9. All I wanted was to blend into the background and not be seen. Then when I was 12 years old I met a girl who became my best friend. Marcia. She was ballsy and brave and helped me not be afraid to be seen. But still the fear of public speaking remained.
My mother, in true southern style, decided the best way to get me past it was by throwing me to the sharks, metaphorically speaking. She started enrolling me in beauty pageants. See somewhere along the way I had blossomed and wasn’t (as much) the gangly little girl I’d been. I was no super model, to be sure, but I wasn’t hideous either, despite what some people called me. And at the end of the day, it really did help. It sounds counter to everything popular culture tells us about these kind of pageants but my mom was a super hero. She never pushed, never got upset or too wrapped up in the competition. She wanted me to have fun. And so I did.
I lost a lot and won a couple. But none of that really stayed with me. I not only got over my fear of speaking, but I thrived. I allowed myself to be, do, and act however I wanted because after being judged by the way my (substantial) butt looked in a bathing suit, everything else was easy. I learned to speak in front of crowds big and small, I learned to answer questions on the fly and to always have a witty retort to get a laugh (something that still helps to this day).
There was one pageant that stands out in my mind, however. I had been cut from the top five, which meant my day was over. I’d been in too high of heels and a heavy sequin dress for the better part of eight hours which is WAY more taxing than it sounds. I wanted nothing more than to wash my face and go get a double cheeseburger and a milkshake (my mom’s post pageant celebration food). But the coordinator refused to let me leave. All the other girls were packing up, but she made me stay, in full dress, so I could “talk to her after”.
I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I was tired and grouchy and I wanted to go home. So for the first time in my life (I was 15-16 at the time) I had a hissy fit. I mean a full on diva tantrum. Like, it could have been on reality tv. It was like one of those Snickers commercials, “You’re a dick when you’re
hungry” type situations.
hungry” type situations.
The coordinator was done with me. She put down her headset and shoved a plaque into my hands.
It read Miss Congeniality.
My fellow contestants had voted me the nicest girl at the pageant and here I was acting like a total douche-canoe. I cried. I cried harder than I’d ever cried when I won because I realized that somewhere along the way I’d forgotten what the point was. To this day the only trophy I have of those years is that plaque. It reminds me to be kind, even when I’m feeling upset, it reminds me that while it’s nice to win, it’s better to play nice, to show love and compassion for the people around you. Because you won’t remember how many times you lost or even how many times you won. What stays with you are the moments when you get a quiet nod of appreciation from the people whose lives you made a little better.
I’m far from perfect. But I’m working on it. We all are. We all have our struggles. I’m here to tell you that a little understanding, a little kindness, goes a really long way.
And a quick note for all the people out there who have been picked on or bullied, I will say that it really does get better. Just last year I was writing my 6th YA novel and I dedicated it to all the haters. There’s nothing quite as cathartic as finally being able to look at the people who mistreated us and give them a resounding F-you.
ABOUT SHERRY D. FICKLIN
Sherry D. Ficklin is a full time writer from Colorado where she lives with her husband, four kids, two dogs, and a fluctuating number of chickens and house guests. A former military brat, she loves to travel and meet new people. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.
She is the author of The Gods of Fate Trilogy now available from Dragonfly Publishing. Her previously self-published novel After Burn: Military Brats has been acquired by Harlequin and will be released in 2015 with a second book in that series to follow. Her newest YA steampunk novel, EXTRACTED: The Lost Imperials book 1, co-written with Tyler H. Jolley is now available everywhere books are sold and her newest YA novel, Losing Logan, is due for release in 2014 from Clean Teen Publishing.
SHERRY D. FICKLIN’S BOOKS:
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