This story was written by a member of Kids Help Phone’s National Youth Council (NYC).
When I was younger, I thought there was something wrong with me. After all, there had to be a reason that people were so mean to me, right? This is my story of understanding that it’s OK to be different, that it’s OK to stand out and that it’s OK to be myself.
I grew up constantly moving. Before I was finished high school, I had already attended 12 different schools. Because of how much I moved around, I had to deal with being the new kid a lot. The freak. The outcast. The kid that no one wants to talk to because their skin is “too dark” or their face is “too hairy” or their food is “too weird.” But over time, I learned that what other people think doesn’t define you, that it’s OK to feel comfortable in my own skin and to rock my body type and my cultural identity.
When I first moved to Canada at seven years old, I went to a small school in Nova Scotia. There, I was one of only a few people of colour and, unfortunately, that meant almost constant racist comments from the other students. I was told that I was too dark. I was asked what was wrong with my skin. I was taunted for how I spoke and how my parents dressed me. Looking back on it now, I wish that I had reached out for help, because the insecurity and self-loathing that built up would take me years to get over.
When I moved schools again in the eighth grade, I got called even worse names. Racist names that I went home to ask my parents about. Mean-spirited names that no one, anywhere, deserves to be called. I was made fun of for my body type and called a “tomboy” because of how I chose to dress. It got so bad that I would eat alone in the bathroom most days, and there were a few days that I wouldn’t eat at all because I had no friends to sit with. Once again, I found myself alone and afraid. I didn’t know who I could talk to, and didn’t know how to reach out for help. Grades 8 and 9 were some of the most difficult for me.
Things got better for me when I moved again into a different high school. I learned to let go of the negative people in my life. I stopped looking for validation from other people, and discovered that as long as I was being myself, I was happy. It wasn’t an easy or quick process, and it took a solid support structure. I found a few friends whom I could trust, who really cared about me and how I was doing. I reached out to my brother and my mother who were willing to help me when I was at my lowest.
I wish that I had reached out for support earlier. I wish that I had realized it was OK for me to be different. When we embrace ourselves and others for who we truly are, and support rather than ridicule one another, we become stronger. Though it may be a difficult journey, it’s not one anyone should have to do alone. Reaching out for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Having someone to talk to was such a large part of learning to love myself, and I hope anyone dealing with the same problems is never afraid to reach out.