Throughout Junior High, and really even until today, I carried around negative self talk about my thighs. I thought I could never be pretty or popular if I didn't have the thighs to match. Thanks to growing to 5'7" by the time I was 12, I also believed I didn't fit the mold of pretty because I was too tall. The other girls were petite and I was "big-boned". I remember my first boyfriend (this was in 6th grade, so it was really just the kid I held hands with when we were out with our group of friends) was maybe 5'4" and I would slouch and sit as often as possible because I hated walking upright next to him. Holding hands with someone the height of your little brother was just not a comfortable feeling. Straight arm dancing was really awkward for me since I could see over his head to the next couple of pre-teens awkwardly trying to dance while avoiding eye contact. To me, my long legs and height were a disadvantage and caused me to stand out.

Honestly, I didn't help my own case for fitting in-- I was the kid in gym class who gave it my all every time. You know the kind of kid I'm talking about; the one who dives in badminton just to save the birdie from touching. I just couldn't help it! What made me a winner at soccer and softball made me a less than graceful girl in gym class and otherwise. I perpetuated the tomboy persona because I only knew how to give it 110% when playing a game. Put a prize on the line and you had a competitive monster on the loose. (To be honest, it's still such a flaw that I have never allowed my 10 year old son to beat me at anything! Going light just to let someone win just isn't in my DNA.) Ironically enough, the more I didn't fit into the mold, the more I pushed myself in competitive arenas, or what I perceived as competitive arenas (like gym class). Hey, if I was going to stand out, I would stand out like Shaquille O'Neal, not Big Bird. Speaking of Shaq, that was my nickname at soccer camp when I was 13 because I was taller than all the other goal keepers, including the boys. Did I just date myself?...Great for an impressionable girl's self-esteem, right? But I wasn't called Big Bird, was I?! Competition and standing out, even among the boys, pushed me to practice and be better than the person to the left and right of me, even if they didn't know we were competing. For better or worse, it is who I was and who I still am. I'm learning to embrace it...

Looking back, I was  tall, athletic, and well liked. As a pre-teen, however, I was self-conscious, never good enough, awkward, un-noticed, and even disliked. Young and old alike, it is near impossible to see your strengths for strengths. It's even easy to see your strengths as weaknesses. You try to fit the mold of what society tells you. You feel that you are supposed to be petite, or you're supposed to wear a certain style, or you're supposed to like things you don't like, or even that you are not supposed to fit in with the crowd and should be more of an individual. Look at what supposed-to-be's you're placing on yourself; now think of all the can-be's. If you're honest with yourself, the can-be's far outweigh the supposed-to-be's, not only in number but in fulfillment.

So here's another photo for your laughing enjoyment. 
 I'm the 3rd girl from the left in the back row.
You can be sure it's me by the waistband at my armpits.
(FYI, that's my gorgeous mother all the way to the left)