Page 3: As I continued in elementary school, I received the message that every quiet child got: Pleasure to have in class. At times, it felt nice to be considered a great student. Other times, it was a reminder that there wasn’t much to say about me. I didn’t get into trouble or make teachers worry. I was the “almost perfect student”, as my fourth-grade teacher would say. I had all the right tools, but I still couldn’t speak in class. I was a fast-paced reader, I aced tests left and right, I was an honor student — but I still couldn’t speak when the teacher called on me.The shame that made me feel continued all the way through high school.
Page 4: When I entered high school, I was scared and worried about fitting into a new environment. I kept to myself and did my best to focus on my studies. However, I began to struggle heavily with anxiety in gym because fitness was a vulnerable activity for me to do. I felt scared of how others would view me and constantly worried about my weight, especially with the school’s focus on fitness. In order to pass onto the next grade, I had to pass three fitness tests which included a mile run. Oftentimes, gym teachers would push me and yell “encouraging” messages. In hindsight, these messages didn’t translate in my mind. The messages didn’t feel sincere. Rather, it felt discomforting to hear them yell “Julie, you need to pick up the pace” or “Stop breathing so heavily and start the next lap.” I wished I had spoken up then as my sister has dealt with similar messages even three years after I graduated.
The photo I used on this page was during my quinceanera – a time I felt so beautiful in my skin. However, I still received remarks on my speaking skills during my party. I was asked to speak in front of my family during a church moment and I stuttered some words. I heard comments such as “Julie needs to practice more. Her words are all over the place,” and “This is her day. She needs to put in more effort.” At a celebration of me, an event that was considered the transition from girlhood to womanhood in my culture, all I learned was that I’d be nothing if I didn’t speak. Every time I look back at photos of that day, I can feel myself shrinking from the sting of all those comments.