So I’ve been sick with the flu this week.
I haven’t left my bed in over 24 hours. My hair has that post-sleep permafix; I’m bundled up in three layers – all of which need a good washing after last night’s fever. There’s a mountain of tissues on my bedside table. And to top it all off, I’m mouth breathing. At least I’m wearing deodorant.
Needless to say, I’m feeling pretty attractive right now.
But let me tell you – after a day cooped up in bed in a studio apartment, not only are you stir crazy, but you’ll inevitably find yourself in the deep abyss of the internet.
And unfortunately, this time didn’t result in a semi-fascinating conspiracy theory on the Denver airport, or an adorable cat video that makes me question my marriage eligibility status.
No. In fact, I’m writing this at 1:24 am, after having spent the last 2 hours combing through over three thousand comments, many of which were hate….about….me.
Yep. I have officially become the target of online bullying.
I don’t know if you remember, but back around Thanksgiving, I partnered up with a beauty brand. I made a cute little one-minute video about their magnet mask. Perhaps you gave it a watch.
Innocent enough. I had fun making it, although to be honest, it was pretty terrifying putting my face on camera without a speck of makeup or concealer on. I can tell you about my virginity, my faith, my political views, fears, hurts, history of anorexia — no problem. But ask me to go on camera without undereye concealer? — I’m petrified! Talk about vulnerable. But I did it. I genuinely loved the product (I still use it) and was happy with how the vid turned out.
Little did I know, but that “little video” has been viewed over 8 MILLION TIMES on Facebook and Instagram. The company has been using it as their viral Ad. What an honor!
And well, let’s just say that with that exposure, my “anonymous” blog life and “in-person” life have been colliding. Many of my friends/acquaintances/teachers/coaches from high school have been commenting on the video, asking if it is me, not knowing that I have this blog.
And it was only tonight, after I was tagged in the video by a friend, that I discovered the reach this video has gotten.
And also…the hate.
I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, my fever-induced brain thought it was a good idea to read through all 3,000+ comments, and sear into my brain all the mean things random people were saying about me. Maybe it’s the masochist in me.
But wow. People are brutal. And cruel! My goodness, you’d think some of these people were raised by pit bulls!
People called me stupid. A “crazy white girl.” Said I was twelve years old. Attacked the way I spoke. The way I looked. Accusing me of plastic surgery or being sick with different skin diseases. They were hurling insults like cannonballs off The Black Pearl.
And all from the safety of anonymity behind a screen.
Let me highlight some of the real gems.
But my all-time favorites:
Classy. Real classy.
(And for the record – the “bruising” under my eyes is a side effect of the medication I have to take for my autoimmune disease. It makes my dark circles more pronounced).
I have never been bullied before. That is a blessing that I know is not true for everyone, which makes me very sad.
The only experience I’ve had was a remark made on the playground when I was in second grade. I was told I was “hindering ‘Sally.'” Little eight year old me held onto that truth and stuffed it away, only to have it manifest itself in my anorexia, where I believed to my core that I was an unloveable burden. So yeah, I get it. Words hurt. And can scar you.
But wow. After reading through all these personal attacks, I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to live with this feeling day in and day out. Where going to school is filled with dread and anxiety, rather than joyful anticipation.
But processing these remarks as a young adult is a much different experience than what I can imagine it must be like as a teenager.
Because I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling pretty hurt right now. But I’ve learned, in these moments to cling to God, let Him carry me and heal my pains.
Which prompted me to roll over, excavate my laptop from beneath the mountain of tissues, and write this post:
Dear Strong Young Girl:
I don’t envy you. The world in which you grow up can be hostile, feeling like one giant competition. You’ve had to become an open book: sharing, snapping, tweeting, ‘gramming, filtering your life away – you’re desperate for a moment of privacy to discover the authentic you. There is more to life than followers and your worth is more than likes on photo. You have a heart. A spirit. A beauty that cannot be captured from the selfie feature of the latest iPhone.
Boys will make you feel unimportant. Girls will make you feel small. Teachers can make you feel inadequate. And parents, well – they can make you feel exasperated, but give them a break – they’re trying.
Life is a constant push and pull of authentic reality and fabricated reality.
You don’t need to compare yourself to Kylie or Kim. At the end of the day, she’s just a 37 woman who posts naked selfies on the internet. You can aspire to more than that, sweet girl.
You have worth. You have value. You have passions and talents and dreams and abilities that can take you wherever you want to go. I love you for that. And the world is better with you in it.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Believe in you. Believe in the difference you can make to this world – even if just one person.
Compassion, generosity, faith, honesty, humility, empathy, kindness – those don’t get retweets or followers. But those are what make you rise to the top. They’re what really matter in this life.
Because one day soon, high school will end. And you’ll graduate college. And every single person will stumble out, blinking into the light of the “real world” only to realize that truthfully, we were all to one degree or another, a “jerk” in high school.
And those that don’t realize that…well, they’ll have a hard realization in their future.
You, my dear: cherish this time. Put your phone away, hang out with your friends and enjoy being in the moment. Laugh. Dance. Make silly home movies about killer turtles that come to attack your town. Don’t let the boys tear apart your friendships. Or make you cry. Or say or snap or do anything that you don’t want to do.
Keep your eyes on the Father – the One who wants only the best for His precious daughter, who He loves so much.
This is your life. Your time to shine. Because that’s what people with beautiful hearts do: they light up a room – just like you do.
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