Growing up for me was tough for many reasons. I grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri in an area with quite a bit of new money, something of which we definitely didn’t have. We weren’t poor by any means, but my sister and I regularly got made fun of on the bus for our off brand outfits. It was made clear to us that we didn’t fit in and our clothing choices were not ok.
To make matters worse, I was one of the only Jewish kids at my school and faced quite a bit of anti-semiticism. On top of feeling out of place because of my clothes and religion, I was lucky enough to hit the ugly duckling jackpot. I had coke bottle glasses that took up much of my face, a mouth full of metal, dumbo ears and a huge mop of permed mall hair. Let me tell you, it was not a good look :)
It didn’t help matters that I started speaking late (my dad says I’ve been making up for it ever since) and I had quite the speech impediment when I finally did begin to communicate. I went to speech class all throughout elementary school. For many years after, people still asked me if I was from New York because I still couldn’t pronounce my r’s correctly. All of those things mixed into one package, left me feeling different and not good enough. I definitely faced bullying from the neighborhood kids and it was a very tough time in my life. The one ray of light for me was when I started taking gymnastics at Olympiad West. It made a huge impact on my life. I loved being a part of something bigger than myself, where it didn’t matter where my clothes were from, what religion I was, how I looked, or how I spoke. I finally made friendships with people who accepted me and shared a common interest. Being on the gymnastics team gave me a sense of belonging that I so desperately needed. What a powerful feeling!
I recognize there are many out there who had it much worse than I did, but elementary and middle school were definitely tough for me. I truly wonder how different my life would have ended up without gymnastics and the sense of belonging at such a formidable age. Without having something I was passionate about and a place where I felt at home, my life could have gone down a very different road. Gymnastics gave me the support network I needed that instilled in me a sense of confidence. Also, I feel so thankful for the coaches I was surrounded by who taught me discipline, dedication, and determination. Those skills have stayed with me and have helped me tremendously in many aspects of my life.
My experiences in gymnastics served as an inspiration and one of the reasons for starting the Girls Dreaming Big family. I want to create a place where young women can come and find friends who will support them through the good times and the bad. My goal is to help girls feel good enough, build strength, and instill a sense of belonging.
Now it is your turn…In the comments below I would love to hear what growing up was like for you? Did you struggle with the feelings of not being good enough? What caused it?