Today Kimberly Sabatini shares her personal story. She has also been kind enough to donate some swag (because we all love swag <3) Kimberly definitely got my emotions going when I read her story. I can only hope that it can help people to realize that a simple action can hurt others even if we don't intend to.
This is a hard one for me to talk about, even though it's been 24 years. I was voted Most Conceited in the Senior Superlatives of my high school year book. To this day, I don't know what to say about this. I have often wondered how the adults who were in charge could allow this to happen. Let's face it--high school isn't easy on a good day. The act of allowing or encouraging teenagers to anonymously vote, to label fellow students in unkind ways, still blows my mind. Teachers are supposed to be the voice of reason--the gate keepers. The zoo keepers.
While I'm playing my personal violin and singing a sad song, I should inform you that I wasn't the only one to be put on the hot seat. I had a conceited male counter-part. There were also pairs of students labeled Worst Dressed, Alleged to Know it All, Teacher's Pet, Least Athletic and a couple other questionable categories. I don't know if any of those other students were hurt and embarrassed by their titles, but I was devastated. I tried to never show how much effort it took to walk down the hallway when everyone was thumbing through their year books. I just smiled and focused on the fact that one kind person on the year book staff told me that I was the runner up for Friendliest. I held that knowledge in a death grip, "casually" dropping it in conversation. I held my head up and swallowed the insecurity and the shame. Truthfully, it took a whole bunch of joy out of my graduation experience. Every time I saw that year book--I crumpled a little bit. Every time I wrote in someone else's, I left a smile by that ugly, hurtful moniker--trying to show that I wasn't defined by name calling. But I was. I even wondered what I would tell my future kids some day. Is it a surprise that I can't seem to find where I stashed my year book?
Lucky for you, my husband was in my class and I have his year book here to share. And lucky for me, he was always the kind of guy who thinks I'm beautiful on the inside! But now that I'm dredging up old memories, I realize that I'm still followed around by this experience . Sure--it made me tougher. And if I was conceited in high school--wow--you can bet that didn't last very long after I was blind sided by that experience. But the repercussions weren't just immediate. It has lingered in other ways. It was a good sized piece of the puzzle that helped to silence me as a young adult. I pushed my own voice down for multiple reasons--but this was one of them. It reinforced my belief that it was not safe to be the authentic me in public. The insecurity that it created continues to rear it's ugly head as I wait for book reviews to roll in. I think I can handle fairly written, less than stellar reviews, but I'll be honest--I'm wondering if there will be more personal attacks that have the power to bring me back to 1988 all over again.
There might be.
And just like in the past, I can't stop that.
But what I can do is refuse to have my voice taken away for a second time. I can refuse to be shamed by someone else's poor behavior. I can set an example for others. I can encourage adults to wake up. When you say things like "It's all in good fun." or "We did that when I was a kid and I survived." YOU are a poor role model. YOU are not living up to your potential. YOU are causing pain--instead of being someone's hero. There is enough crap out there to wade though. It is not your job to add more.
The last thing I can do is apologize. I voted for someone else to be Most Conceited. And I doubt I would have thought twice about it if my name hadn't been the one printed in the year book. I didn't do it to be mean. I did it out of ignorance, like most of my classmates. But now I know. I never should have voted for a label that I would have felt uncomfortable having my name attached to. And I am sorry.
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