Sharon Pelham – If I Knew Then What I Know Now

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Life Lessons From Adults To Children
Today’s Guest – Sharon Pelham

I wish I knew that I am fine just the way that I am and that what I think of myself is far more important than what anyone else thinks. I have large, almond-shaped eyes, and I didn’t start to dislike them until I was in high school when a boy that I had a crush on called me “fish eyes” in front of others.

I remember being stunned and hurt that someone would say something like that, especially about a physical attribute that I couldn’t change. I just stood there before saying something like, ‘I do not!’ while his friends laughed.

It was in that moment that I gave another person the power to influence how I felt about myself. And that is a dangerous thing to do. Every attribute that others admired in me melted away in light of one person’s cruel remark said to get a laugh and boost his ego. I don’t even remember his name, but I won’t forget how those words made me feel and how I began to look at myself differently as a result of them being spoken.

From then on I wanted to, but couldn’t, make my eyes smaller; however, I could look away when someone was speaking directly to me. Why? Because in my mind if the person focused on my eyes, they would see how big they are and how much I looked like a fish, all because someone told me they did. I didn’t have enough self-confidence or self-esteem to know that my eyes were and are just fine the way they are.

It didn’t matter what my parents or friends said, I let what he said mean more than what I thought. Even worse, I internalized it. Some years after the high school incident, during an exam for my first pair of glasses, the simple words of my optometrist made me realize that I should be grateful for my large, almond-shaped eyes. You have wonderful eyes for glasses he said. I mumbled something about them being so large and he said, very quietly, “Do you know what some people would give to be able to have your eyes, to be able to see? “œ In that moment, I realized that I was blessed to have my sight and that I should be thankful for it. And I stopped being defensive about the size of my eyes.

I’d held on to what someone else thought about one of my physical attributes for far too long. What a relief it was to take that power away from someone who had no right to it in the first place. During the years and romantic relationships that followed, I‘ve received compliments on my eyes. I appreciate them, but I don’t take them to heart.

My eyes are beautiful because I believe they are and that is what matters and I tell the children and young adults in my life that all the time. One last thought: Knowing what I do now, if I had an opportunity to go back to that day in high school my response to my ‘crush’ would have gone something like this: Really? Is that lame, stupid remark the best you can do?  I then would have rolled my ‘big eyes’ and walked away.

- Sharon Pelham, Founder, Executive Consultant, Smith Carey Communications

15 thoughts on “Sharon Pelham – If I Knew Then What I Know Now

  1. What a vivid and “insightful” story, demonstrating the importance of self-confidence!  The last line is classic!

  2. Hey Sis,Good article. That made me recall a high school incident where one of my male classmates said to me in homeroom:”You know, you would be so cute if you didn’t have all those bumps on your face”. I believe I cussed at him (knowing me at that time). I went home that evening, looked in the mirror and saw what he did. I did have terrible acne at that time in my life.  I started using Clearasil on my face and the following years I started using facial masks and keeping my skin clean. To this day I get compliments all the time (from male and females) on how “pretty my skin looks”. Even though I was mad at the time for what my classmate said, he actually did me a favor in the long run. As far as what the yuong man said to you. I say: “If only he could see how georgous you are.”

  3. Love it! As a person who endured taunts of “Popeye” throughout my childhood, I can definitely relate.

  4. I enjoyed this very much!  I remember having similar confidence issues about my height and people calling me “midget” – it took a while for me to realize how silly I was – I too, wish I would’ve known then…LOVED “I’d roll my big eyes”…line…LOL!

  5. In an adult world where so many childish perspectives about beauty unfortunately still dominate, this article is a gift to those of us who silently nurture such false impressions about ourselves. Bravo for the shut out it offers interms of being courageous about our God-gifted beauty.

  6. Wow. If only we could have some idea of how long-lasting the hurt is when we say mean things– as children, and as adults. But Ms. Pelham proves that it’s in our power to put it behind us and move on. Bravo!

  7. Sharon, what a great story!  I, too, can identify with the blessing of having large eyes.  A young boy once asked me, “Why do you look like that, like you are surprised or something?”  I will never forget that moment. I was embarrassed of something great that God had created. For too long in my life, I made adjustments for my large eyes.When taking photos, I would purposely squint to avoid the “surprised” look.  And, in applying eyeliner, I would line the inside of my lids so as to not make them appear larger. The idea was to always downplay my eyes. We could certainly go on and on discussing the insecurities of young girls. It’s unfortunate. Thankfully, today is a new day and we know who we are. I am now so thankful for my large, bright, curious eyes. I believe that it was William Shakespeare who said that, “the eyes are the window to your soul.”  My large window pane eyes tell my story and the light that shines from them is visible for all to see. And, at a time when I no longer crave them, the compliments are overflowing. Thank you again for sharing our story!    

  8. What a truthful account.  Isn’t it something how our childhood experiences stay with us into adulthood, our insecurities and low self esteem issues follow us as we move through life; It’s not until ‘after’ the age of 40 that something in you clicks and suddenly, nothing that anyone says and thinks about you matters. You began to see that their negative thoughts of you is their problem and whatever they believe about you, doesn’t make it true unless you internalize it and accept it.  WoW how it took a while to get there.  Thanks Sharon for sharing that and confirming we can love ourselves no matter what others think of us.  Also remember Matthew 6:22, “The lamp of the body is the eye.”   

  9. Very powerful and inspiring story! I will be sharing this with my cousin, who is currently facing a similar experience as a high school freshman.

  10. What a powerful and meaningful presentation.  That experience was an unfortunate, but too often a common example of the damage that others can inflict.Thanks for reminding us of the power of words – whether true or not.  There is so much more that can be done when we promote and encourage each other.  Thanks for sharing.  You are beautiful sister  – inside and out!

  11. What a very thought provoking story and told so eloquently.  Thank you for sharing something so very personal.  I plan to share this story with my daughters, sisters and the many beautiful women in my life who have beautiful attributes of all kinds. 

  12. Sharon, by sharing your truth you are making a difference that will help a lot of folks because you’ve told Your story, your way and in your own time.  What a poignant recollection of a moment in your life that was pivitol. Words do hurt and they can shake the foundation of our self confidence, our persception of self, how we value and devalue who we really are, and how we percieve the influence others. Your story provides a glimpse into all of us during moments in our lives when we are most fragile. BUT Thanks Be To GOD we know now that we are of more valuable than many sparrows to the Lord. (Matthew 10:31), and we are all made perfect.  Thanks for sharing. Keep writing.

  13. Dear Sharon,  I am surprised and sad that this cruel remark made you so unhappy, for so long. Sticks and stones, etc. isn’t exactly true. I remember you as confident and pretty.  This is a good lesson for young people, but we all need to find courage to like ourselves no matter what. age. Congrats on your writing career.

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