Looking back, I can genuinely say that I am truly grateful that my parents sheltered us from the public eye. This may sound like an easy task, but it was probably the hardest thing they had to figure out as parents—how to give their kids a normal childhood even though they were always in the spotlight. And the fact that we all had a very recognizable last name didn't make their job any easier.
Both of my parents grew up feeling very confident with a strong sense of self-worth, gifts they were doing their best to pass on to my three younger siblings and me. A self-defeating attitude, pity parties, and self-loathing aren't a part of their worlds, and it wasn't how they were raising their children.
Whenever I told my mom I didn't feel smart, she assured me that I was a bright and intelligent girl. If I told her I felt ugly, she'd tell me I was beautiful. When I told her I was miserable, she'd remind me how blessed I am. My mom had a way of knowing how to turn my negative statements into positive ones, something I had yet to learn. I knew she said things like that to comfort me, but it didn't always make me feel better because, well, let's face it, she is my mom. She's supposed to say those things to me, right? I actually believed it was her responsibility to tell me stuff like I am beautiful when I feel unattractive or that I am not fat when I think I am. I thought all moms did and said things like that to get their daughters through the awkward years. After all, they were once young like us too. But I realize now that not all mothers say these things to their daughters, and it is a big deal.
When my younger sister, Christina, and I were babies, my mother constantly reminded us that we had to be more in life than just a pretty face. My father took a videotape of us sitting in our high chairs saying aloud, "I'm beautiful, smart, nice, and kind . . ." over and over with hand motions to go along with it. It's a little embarrassing to look at now, but it was the start of building our self-confidence and self-esteem.
With that kind of support and positive reinforcement growing up, it may seem strange that I was suddenly feeling so much doubt and insecurity. Admittedly, I consider fourth grade to be one of my "chubby" years as a kid. I felt overweight, and looking back at old pictures of myself, I can honestly say I wasn't fat, but I certainly felt that way.
Up until then, I was always pencil thin. Without warning and with little awareness that it was happening, my body had changed. I was no longer the skinny little girl I had always been. In fact, the changes were so unexpected that I thought something must be wrong because I was inexplicably gaining weight.
I wasn't eating any differently than I used to.
I wasn't going through puberty . . . yet.
My body just changed, which I wasn't ready or properly prepared to face.
As we reached our cruising altitude on the flight to Idaho that day, I was now all out sobbing. Instead of comforting me, my mom took out a pad of paper and a pen. She drew a line down the center of the paper and wrote "Likes" and "Don't Likes" at the top of each column. She asked me to list all of the things I liked about myself and then the things I don't. I had to really stop and think about the things I liked.
And then I yelled, "I don't like anything!" My sobs turned into uncontrollable weeping—you know the kind of cry where you can't catch a breath.