I am often asked where did I get my self-confidence from and how has it contributed to leaving situations that no longer serve me?
My first bully was my elementary school crush. He was taller than most of the children our age, smelled like vanilla-scented oils, had the softest kindest eyes, and used his dark skin complexion as the butt of every joke. They always started with "my black ass" and everyone surrounded him with laughter. He was a smooth talker with the girls and always shared his Lunchables with my best friend at that time. She was of a lighter complexion than I was and his face lit up the moment she walked into the cafeteria. My best friend would walk over, grab whatever candy was in his Lunchables that day and wouldn't even utter a word to him. My heart always ached to have that much confidence. It felt like the entire world paused when she walked into a room and always expressed to me how good it felt to make her presence known.
She was aware of her privilege at the tender age of 8.
One day in English class I found myself in a complete trance. I must have stared at my crush for about 15 mins. He jumped out of his seat and yelled "What are you looking at blacky". I was so embarrassed and couldn't believe he was talking about me. There I was head over heels, in love with this boy, and he addressed how ugly he thought my skin tone was in front of the entire class.
My teacher chuckled and told me to stop staring at him.
I instantly ran to the bathroom and cried my eyes out. My best friend came in to check on me and said something of sorts like "Tunisia. You are funny, a good friend, quirky, and did I mention..... you are such a good friend". Then she hugged me. All I wanted to hear was "Tunisia you are beautiful". Til this day I reflect on how I imagined leaving the bathroom and storming back into that classroom glowing with confidence. Instead, I gathered myself and walked back to my seat. I kept my head down and watched the clock, anticipating dismissal time.
Two days later, while riding the school bus home, I overheard the "popular kids" dare my crush to kiss the ugliest girl on the bus. My palms were sweaty and I prayed that he would not approach me. Yet, there he was. He sat next to me and asked how my day had been. Rage filled my heart and I tried my hardest to hold back tears.
He leaned over and whispered "You know I like you right? Just please play along". I sat there, fist in a ball, and ready to receive the kiss. When he opened his eyes, I lifted my fist and punched him in his face. He fell off the seat and instantly started to cry.
The bus screeched and everyone yelled, "Omg Tunisia punched him in the face". I sat there and waited for the bus driver to check on me to make sure I was ok.
Instead, he said, "Be happy someone wants to kiss you".
The next day the principal called me into the office. My parents were there. My crush's parents were there. I presented my case and explained that he was in my personal space. Yes. I liked him but, he hurt me. The principal sternly told my parents "Tunisia will grow and become an angry woman if she does not channel her emotions properly". She then looked at me and said "If he is mean to you that means he likes you". My crush responded, "That's what I told her before she punched me in the face".
I could not believe adults were sitting in the room making excuses for the fact that he crossed a boundary and I defended myself.
I got suspended.
I wish I could say that was the worst of my experiences but, boys have picked on me quite often throughout my childhood and so I in returned became a bully as well. I've been called a rotten banana, an ogre, and was often told how unattractive I was. Middle school through high-school became a breaking point for me. I constantly felt like I needed to put others down and not allow them to target me first.
Y'all I was evil as hell and if I have children I deserve all the karma from those experiences.
It was not until I got involved in theater, surrounded by peers, who were struggling to cope with internal battles, that I started to reach some level of channeling my anger. Reciting affirmations was apart of our daily routine and listening to monologues of those who, like me, may have not felt protected. "I am enough" "I am worthy" "My past does not predict my future".
There they encouraged turning painful experiences into art. I was able to express feeling less than and the internal battles I too faced with my self-esteem. There I did not feel alone and sharing my experiences felt like such a huge accomplishment. I was often chosen to recite my monologues and casts as the lead in certain plays. Peers were seeking insight on how I overcame certain obstacles and so without wanting to, I became a leader.
I take the leadership role seriously. Every time I'm in a situation that brings the bully out I reflect on it and try my hardest to speak to my younger self. I go into protection mode. I create boundaries.
This has contributed to my self-confidence. It's seeing the beauty in standing up for myself and accepting that I deserve the best. It's acknowledging that I've spent time developing those characteristics, friends have expressed over time, and so understanding that I am a good person deserving of love. It's also having some form of self-awareness and acknowledging that there were times "I was ugly".
I've been a mean girl and maneuvered through certain situations that showcased the lack of love for myself.
Now that I am an adult and have certain life experiences, I can look back and say maybe my elementary crush used humor as a way to connect with his peers. It was a defense mechanism because he too may not have felt good in his skin. He too felt rejected by his elementary school crush. She used him solely for providing Lunchable snacks.
Forgiveness has also played a major role in building my self-confidence. It's so much easier to focus on yourself and grow when you forgive.
I always say the Universe has never removed a situation, from my life, that was not good for me. Every time I've experienced a loss something better comes knocking on my door. Even if the better version is the same person. They too have put in the work to heal.
Forgiveness is the preparation for something better. It makes it worth it to not tread backward and to trust the process.
Here are some key elements to building self-confidence:
While we all want to look "beautiful" there are many characteristics that showcase our internal beauty. Looks fade. Try to focus on being a good person.
Recite affirmations. I start my day saying something positive out loud. Think Issa Rae with a bit of spice like Erykah Badu.
Some days will be better than most. No one is perfect and this is a sprint, not a race.
Create healthy boundaries. Focus on not being a doormat.
People are battling their demons. Some of the pain they caused had nothing to do with you. Wish them the best in hopes that they heal. Who knows, maybe one day they will present themselves in a better version of themselves. If the risk is worth the reward. Go for it. No one is perfect.
Believe in yourself
You are beautiful and your individuality contributes to the world we all live in.