Rough & Tough

Picture credit: Schola

I have never been diagnosed with depression or any other mental disorder. I’ve never brought up anything of that matter to anyone’s attention. Perhaps it was because it has always been a taboo subject. In my case, we were never told not to speak of such things but it was almost like an unspoken rule. You don’t talk about things that make you seem weak. As stupid as that sounds but that is how I grew up. This is my story. 

I was born weighing 11 lbs 8 oz. I was a big baby. My parents were so proud of that; however, as I grew older it became evident that I was a “bigger” kid as well. I learned how to become “rough and tough” when I attended Wallace R. Davis Elementary School in Santa Ana. Kids were so mean and I knew that once those kids began to see that I was different from them, body-wise at least, they would try to make me feel inferior to them. Soon enough, around fourth grade, the boys in my class made fun of me. They would yell across the playground during recess time, “You’re fat! Get out of here!” or I would walk past them and I’d hear “Ew!” or “Is it an Earthquake? No it’s just Claudia!” and they’d laugh. I didn’t think it was funny at all. My weight has always been one of my biggest insecurities and my biggest concerns. It was so difficult to try and be like them, thin and worry-free. 

It wasn’t until the comments were made in groups that it started to mess with me. I began to shut down, socially. I didn’t want to speak or hang out with anybody. I didn’t want people looking at me. In my mind, everyone thought that I was just this ugly fat kid. After a few months of that, I wanted that to change. Why did I have to be sad all the time?

So one day I decided that I wouldn’t take shit from anybody anymore. I kept up my grades, that’s for sure, I’ve always taken pride in my academics. However, I started changing my attitude toward people, I looked the part. I used my size to my advantage. I became intimidating. I became rough and tough and it worked. 

When boys tried to say something negative about me, I would quickly respond and match their energy. If they started insulting me, I would do it back. If they cut me in line, I would do it back. I wouldn’t consider myself a bully though. I never intentionally sought out weaker kids to make fun of them or anything. Generally, I would only react in situations where I was being made fun of first.

I became popular in school for standing up for myself and I was proud of that. That persona carried on throughout junior high and high school. I was pretty popular for a big girl and I think that people tripped out on that. 

Now in retrospect, I think that might’ve backfired. Adulthood is already difficult. As kids, we feel like we’ll never get here, and then boom! We’re here. I didn’t think that learning to be intimidating, bold, and outspoken would eventually damage future relationships. Romantically, it’s difficult to acknowledge when my partner genuinely compliments me and it’s also difficult to admit when I’m wrong. My attitude changes as soon as I’m told I’m wrong.

 It’s true. 

I don’t take constructive criticism as well as I should because I automatically think people are negatively attacking me, even if it’s not related to my body image. Nonetheless, it reminds me of when I was criticized as a child. Although I have realized this issue in the last couple of months, it is still difficult to change that. I am actively working on taking constructive criticism as exactly that, constructive criticism but that doesn’t and will not take the rough and tough from me. 

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