Self esteem story about a school girl with head lice and resulting bullying and insecurities
As much as I hate to admit it, my self-esteem has largely been based on the views of others for far too long. For most of my grade school life, I was blind to those that looked down on me. While I didn’t come from a wealthy family, and I was far from stylish, I never felt as if I was below anyone else. That is, until the fourth grade and my school’s first monthly head lice check.
A school volunteer sat me down and ran a metal comb through my hair, checking every inch of my head. It was discovered my hair was contaminated with lice. I was shocked. I had only known of my siblings having it twice before but the details were never explained to me. I was horrified to discover that it meant that there were bugs living on my head! They sent me to the nurse’s office until they had finished with my class. After that, I was marched back to my classroom, walked past all of those knowing, judging young eyes, to collect my belongings. Then I had to wait in the office until my mother came to collect me. One incident was bad enough, but, as a girl with four sisters, all possessing a ton of stuffed animals, bedspreads, shared hair-brushes, and 90s style scrunchies, it was hard to contain. My neighbour, and best friend at the time, also had an issue with it, and we could not seem to put this problem to a definitive end.
I became known as “Lice Head” or “That dirty girl” at school. Kids are so creative, right? Many former close friends began avoiding me, and socializing with me became something that only the brave would attempt. The mothers of the other girl scouts in my troop voted to kick me out, because they didn’t want to expose their pretty, precious flowers to this filthy (ahem… innocent, young, friendly, sensitive, and kind…) young child.
There was a group of “mean girls” who rode my bus and got on right before me. They made sure to take up every last available seat, and occupy the free spot beside them with their backpacks. They knew that I would never ask to sit with my tormentors, so I stood. The bus driver would then yell at me to take a seat; my bus ride to school was hell. In class, my fifth grade teacher would make subtle, awful comments to me that made the rest of the class giggle. I lost all enthusiasm for school within months. I ended fifth grade with only one passing mark, art.
The beginning of middle school was better and I started to think that I could let go of these issues that I had been struggling with. A bigger campus, kids from other elementary schools coming together, new opportunities. I was excited to see some faces that weren’t aware of my previous reputation. I went basically unnoticed, which was a vast improvement, and made a few new friends.
All was fine until summer break before my seventh grade year. I got a call from the new, popular girl informing me that my best friends, with whom I had been close to since early elementary, no longer wanted to hang around me. The reason for this? I wasn’t cool enough, and they wanted to be accepted by the cool crowd. This completely crushed me. We had always done everything together. We practically lived at each other’s homes, and they felt almost like family to me. It was almost as if I was losing an extension of myself. I felt lost.
The following school year, my reputation came back in full force. Though it had been a couple of years since my last outbreak of head lice, that did not stop people from finding out and making assumptions. Amazingly, it was even more intense having a large group of pre-teen girls yelling things at me in the halls in front of everyone else, than it is having them quietly smirk, name call, and manipulate your shame as they did when I was younger. These girls were out for blood.
I spent the rest of that year watching my former best friends ignore me from afar. I became closer with a couple of other friends, and even got my first real boyfriend. I still felt weirdly alone though.
The next year, it all changed. I gained my old friends back after they realized that being “popular” was not all that it was made out to be. I made a few more great friends, and along with a few of my older friends, formed a ‘defensive barrier’. We stopped showing that we cared and, instead, played to their mocking. I adopted a gothic look, black lipstick and raccoon eyes. I started doing weird things like eating glue when I knew people were watching, drinking out of a baby bottle, and drawing graphic pictures in class. If anyone would tell me I was a “freak”, or other such insult, I would respond with “I know, right? I’m crazy!” and then just stare at them, creep style. People stopped teasing me, because it stopped being fun. I was no longer upset by it, but amused instead.
Of course, this was all a big facade. Sure, it was fun, but I was masking the fact that I was still plagued with insecurity. This continued on into my sophomore year of high school. I grew tired of pretending, and I began dressing a bit more conservatively, though I still tended to favor the dark and mysterious, I kept it much more modest than before. After years of pretending not to care, somewhere along the line, I really had become desensitized. People may or may not have continued to say things about me, but I honestly did not worry enough to notice anymore. I guess what I took out of this, is that people can only break you down if you allow them to. Do not let anyone make you feel as though you are less than them, because you aren’t. You have just as much to offer. Enjoy yourself and have fun, despite the way others may view you.
I continue to struggle with my self-esteem from time to time, as do we all. I just try to remember that no one is perfect, and no one has to be.