To the Boy Who Called me Fat in Fifth Grade

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

Have you ever let someone else define who you are?

Think about that for a minute. People say things to us all the time. How do we let what they say affect us? When I was about 23, I had a heart wrenching realization of how I had allowed someone’s words to control me.

It is not a matter of if someone will say something rude, hurtful, degrading; it really is a matter of when. All of us have been there—and I am ashamed to admit, I know that I have hurt others with my words. If you have been that person who has caused someone else pain by your words I hope you too will reach out to those people and apologize. Because we can’t take back what we said, but we can humble ourselves and apologize.

So, how have I let other’s words affect me? Let me give you an example:

I ran into a boy I had not seen since fifth grade. I was at lunch with my family. We walked into a sandwich shop and ordered our food. When I turned around he was right there with a girl I knew from high school. They both said, “Hi” and it was like this force flushed through me. I could feel my face turn red and all of the sudden I felt so small. I managed to say “Hi” back and quickly turned away to go sit with my family.

I was completely overtaken with this feeling of being small as we ate. I was taken back to fifth grade.

We were at recess on the field that had built-in soccer goal posts on either end. They were small posts small enough that if you jumped you could reach the top and hang from it. There were five or six of us hanging out, chatting, and I joined the others who were reaching for the top. I jumped and secured my hands around the post and hung. My shirt lifted up a little so you could see my stomach.

Then the boy just blurted out “You’re fat, Whitney.”

I immediately dropped from the post and pulled my shirt down, embarrassed.

In fifth grade I was 10, maybe 11. When I ran into him at the sandwich shop, I was at least 23. And what was the only thing I could say when my family asked who he was? “That’s the boy who called my fat in fifth grade.”

It didn’t occur to me until I saw him that day that he must have gone to a different junior high and high school because I can’t recall seeing him after 6th grade. And for not seeing him in all that time, that little fifth grader held onto those words and believed them.

I was never a skinny girl. In fact, I have struggled with my weight since I can remember. I would hate to attribute my weight struggles to that one incident, but knowing all the thoughts in my head growing up, I think from that point on I identified and labeled myself as a fat girl.

You guys. How many of us have done this? It is time to realize that other’s words don’t define our worth. YOU are of infinite worth. Don’t you for one more second let those words diminish who you really are.

Say this now: Other people’s words do not define or diminish my worth.

I must add, If you are someone who is in the practice of tearing others down to build your own self-esteem, or if you are constantly gossiping or making up terrible things about other people to make yourself feel good, STOP.

I can promise, that tearing someone down will only make you feel worse. It is not helpful or attractive in anyway. People don’t like to be around you when you are tearing someone down.

Use today to change. Be a little kinder, do a little better.

No one is perfect. We have all said rude things, but kindness wins. Every time.

Check in with yourself.

Be honest about the changes you need to make.

Is there someone you need to apologize to?

Is there someone you need to stand up for?

Are you letting someone’s words affect you?

Its time to let those words go.

You are worth it.

That little fifth grader lives in my past. As I have focused on creating a joyful life, I have become someone who I am proud of, and with that I have grown in confidence. That confidence has enabled me to realize my worth even when others have said things that, in the past, would have had lasting effects. I know you can let those hurtful words go too. Today is the day.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Madison Call. That boy may be the one I remember for calling me fat in fifth grade, but, Madison, you are the one who stood up for me. I will be forever grateful for you.

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