How My Holiday Card Helped Me Embrace the Awkward

Seasons greetings! Not to brag, but I send out pretty funny holiday cards every year. And it's always hard to top myself, but this year I think I did it. Take it in... 

Yep, that's really me in second grade. For years I've kept any proof that I used to look like that a secret. Even in high school, I refused to let my mom post any pictures of me from first to eighth grade on the collage she made for my high school graduation party. She's still mad at me for that. As she kept saying, "But you don't look like that now." True, I got braces, contacts, figured out how to deal with my hair, but I still felt like that awkward little girl. I used to have people call me ugly to my face, boys would bark at me and call me a dog. And when I used to look at this photo it made me sad because that little girl had it rough. People are cruel, especially grade school boys.

Then a few years ago, my siblings and I were trying to tell my brother-in-law how "ugly" I was as a kid (that was the word I used as those scars were still there). So I found this picture, one I hadn't seen in years, but I remembered it quite well. My sister Meg took a wallet sized version and kept it with her and would routinely say to people, "You know my fancy sister in New York, well this is what she used to look like!" She thought it was funny, so did everybody I showed it to. But I didn't. It upset me. I couldn't shake those demons. Despite many requests, I refused to give anybody a copy or post it online. My biggest fear would be that I would get one of those annoying e-mail forwards entitled "Ugliest Child Ever" and it would be me.

I don't exactly know what changed, but one day I looked at it and smiled. Whenever I do an event and see a girl with glasses, or someone going through an awkward stage, I go out of my way to be nice to them. It sucks to be made fun of at any age, but it's particularly harsh when you're so young. I stopped referring to young me as "ugly." I realized that this photo brings a smile to people's faces for a lot of different reason (the rainbow velour shirt, the glasses, those teeth, that hair!). As my sister always reasoned, "Look how far you've come!" I remember when I was young and people would make fun of how I looked, my mom would always say that I was going to be beautiful one day (still waiting on that, Mom!). But now I can smile at this photo and appreciate that yes, I have come a long way. Not just in terms of looks, but self-confidence. Sure, I still have issues, who doesn't? But if only I could've talked to that girl and let her know that things would get better. I obviously can't, but instead I can talk to the girl who is typing this and tell her to stop being so hard on herself about her weight or her appearance. We're often our worst critics. 

So I decided to do something I never thought I'd ever do. Send out that picture as my holiday card and post it on-line. I'm publicly embracing my flaws. Plus, I realize it is pretty hysterical. But in addition to having a classic holiday card (if I do say so myself!), I also found a way to embrace my awkward past. And that in itself, might be the best holiday gift I'll receive this year.

XOXO, Elizabeth (now and in second grade)