The art teacher who told you your drawings weren't good enough, the schoolfriend who asked why your nose looked like that....
Eep, I wish I'd tried to write my own answer before asking this actually, because now I'm realising this is kind of HARD to respond to. Note to self about content creation - always road test it yourself first! 🙈😂
For the longest time I've carried around a terror of the label of "weird". It was crippling me through my teens, twenties and early 30s - growing up my sister called me it frequently, and to me it meant I was failing at life. Failing at belonging, at being 'normal' and right and wanted and good. My self-weirdness radar was in constant overdrive scanning mode - picking up on all those tiny moments of social interaction where I could tell I'd misstepped or and beating myself up (both figuratively and sometimes literally) afterwards for hours on end. Which, if you think about it, is pretty effing weird 🤡.
I even bought a book full of rules about how to be great in social situations, which was full of dazzling advice like "ask everyone what they'd like as their epitaph on their gravestone!". Yeah. You can imagine how helpful tips like that are to a 21 year old uni student lol.
One day I was speaking to my coach about this whole thing and said, "I feel like everyone else was born with a rule book that I didn't get", and she said, "are you kidding me? That sounds AMAZING! Lucky you!". It kind of blew my mind to look at it with this fresh perspective. I'd never really appreciated before how much all the rules for 'normal' and 'proper' are just a massive social trap. Between that and my work and my experiences of loving acceptance, I'm much less afraid of being weird these days. Sometimes it does still come up though - and it's interesting to see who triggers it in me, and notice it's always the hyper-'normal' people, who I have little in common with, who always intimidate me the most.
I got teased for ‘looking like a boy’, as I had short hair as a child and to me, that meant ugly. I never thought I was pretty and no one ever told me I was. Whatever the mirror, or photographs show or what others tell me now, deep down, I ‘know’ I’m ugly. And although I was slim as a child, now that I am not, I now get to be old, fat and ugly.. I say this not for sympathy or denials - my psyche cannot let go of the beliefs that grew when I was little. Now, I tell my children that they are beautiful and gorgeous and lovely and amazing all the time so they don’t grow up thinking they’re not 🥺
My GCSE art teacher openly laughed at me in front of my parents (parents evening) when I said I wanted to go to art college for my A Levels. I fight to prove that man wrong every day, and I think I’ve succeeded. I have a 6 figure business because of my art
There are probably lots but the one I remember most is from the teacher in primary (junior school) when I was about 10, who told me to crumple up my art work I’d presented to her, and put it in the bin. Being 10 I didn’t really get sarcasm, so I did, and then incorrectly assumed I was rubbish at art! She tried to rectify the situation but I think the damage was done and I’ve never fully embraced my creative side as I didn’t think I had one!
It’s made me quite sad to type this out!
A 'friend' arrived for dinner with her partner. I was happy to be hosting them for a meal, so I was chatting away merrily and she turned to me and in a hushed kinda therapists voice, said 'relax' - it totally dented my confidence. Years later, she relayed how she had enjoyed undermining a woman she disliked, with the same putdown, also hosting a dinner party. Obviously she had forgotten she had used this trick on me. I remember the freedom when I removed myself from this toxic 'friendship'. Who needs enemies with friends like that! But that word... relax.. just transports me back and her smug face.
I was laughed at my art teacher and it’s only 26 years later that I’ve started to paint for fun. I genuinely thought that I wasn’t allowed to because I had no talent for it.
Being told whilst at Uni and joining in a social kick about that “I had footballer’s legs!” Have hated my legs ever since - but would give anything for that 20 year old body now!!!
I switched from one school to another mid-year when I was five because we moved. I remember feeling quite at home in the first school, but like a total weirdo at the second, likely because I had to wear bifocals and an eye patch due to one of my eyes being weak. There was never a particular comment, just a pervasive feeling of having missed the critical moment when people decided who was friends with whom. It worked out in the end, but I‘ve always found it odd joining groups.
My mother. "You never finish *anything*." I have three degrees, a career, a book, and a very successful business, and I still identify as a flakey sort of failure .
Oh, so, so many comments. There was the kid in the playground I'd never met before who charged up to me at the end of break and asked "Are you B's sister?" I nodded. "Why's he so brainy when you're so thick?" I still don't know who she was or where she got this little nugget. From my brother? I don't think so.
There was the RE teacher who, when I misspelled a single word, asked me kindly, head on one side, if I had always had difficulty with spelling. This was the same woman I had a stand-up row with when she told the entire class that the difference between humans and animals was that animals "don't have a soul".
There was the girl who used my name as an insult every time she said it, drawing the final vowel in Mirandaaaaah out so long to express her exasperation at whatever was wrong with me at that moment that I grew to hate my own name.
My favourite though, wasn't a put-down of me directly. “You’ve probably noticed that your mother’s a bit eccentric.” This from the head of year who had called me out of class for an informal "chat" to find out how I was getting on with my classmates (I wasn't) and must have thought this little observation would help.
It didn't help me in the least, but my mother loved it. She adopted it as one of her regular "funny stories" about herself. Every time she told it, I died a little. To me, it was a story about my being bullied at school and how a teacher’s response to it was to tell me my family was weird, that people don’t like difference, and that I was just like my mother. The triple whammy.
Sweet potato, there are a few, but one early one was doing really well at an assignment, literally getting a gold star, getting a compliment, and then in the next breath "imagine what you could do if you really tried". Combined with another comment "don't boast about your gold star, people will think you think you're better than them". With already well entrenched RSD and what I now know is neurodivergence, queue 4 decades of striving to be better than the best at everything, people pleasing, aggressively batting away any compliments or encouragements (as though they are actually secret code for telling me to try harder) and hiding my true self from everyone. Totally cool. Totally normal. 🙈
I wrote about mine in my post today - coincidence! It speaks to both of your questions. I hope you enjoy reading it! https://open.substack.com/pub/junegirvin/p/youll-never-make-a-nurse-or?r=1isob5&utm_medium=ios&utm_campaign=post
I’d always loved writing and would write pages and pages, until I got to gcse English and my teacher was so discouraging. She had clear favourites and I wasn’t one of them, she really made me feel like I was no good at it and I didn’t really write much after that.
Two threads for me. One is the art teacher who told me I couldn't draw - the internal school art exam was the only exam I ever failed at school.
And second and more pervasive, my mother's refrain - why are you trying to be different. My response then, as now, I'm not, I'm just trying to be me. But actually I spent a lifetime trying to fit myself into other people's boxes to try not to be too different.
Unfolding myself now at age 52, but it's hard.
my mother telling me from as young as I can remember right the way up till I cut her out of mine and my children's lives how much she hated me, how she wishes I hadn't been born and how I was the worst thing that happened to her. Would have minded so much had I been the first or last but I am the 3rd of 4.
I made sure when my own children came along they knew they were loved and wanted, even the unplanned one, who was never told she was unplanned. They got kisses and hugs and nicely spoken to, encouraged and praised.
I was pulled aside by a teacher in high school and told that the friendships I had with the boys in my class (I got along way better with boys!) was detrimental to my learning and I should end those friendships. Fast track 17 years later, and I have been married to “one of those boys” for 10 years and he has encouraged and supported me through all my studies and education goals!