1.26.2010

Family Nicknames...that Hurt



Have you ever heard a family member call a little person something that made you cringe inside?
Or were you that little person who was called a name that everybody laughed at and you just smiled because everyone else did? I was that little person. I'm sure I'm not alone.
For me, the names came from males in my life, which did not help in promoting healthy relationships with the opposite sex. Of course there were other factors in that opposite sex relationship breakdown, but this undercover name-calling certainly did its part. Also, my experience was with men, but women can be perpetrators of name-calling as well.
I want to start out on a positive note - God, our heavenly Father sees us in His image, as he created us (Gen1:26,27). That image is far more beautiful than anyone can ever tell us we are.
I'll start by saying that my self image has always been skewed - that's almost the norm for women now.
(Please join me in praying that we can raise the standard for young women today!)  I'm not the smallest person, or the biggest, but I always felt that I was bigger than I should be. This plagued me throughout elementary, middle school, high school and into college. In college (WE ARE...PENN STATE!), I felt that I had solved my "problem" and was finally able to buy size 6 Guess jeans like all the other girls. I didn't do anything harmful to my body, but I did began to workout like a mad man. I would run, and run, and run - you could've called me Forrest Gump! They would say, "Toya, what were you doing yesterday?" I'd respond, "I was RUNNIN'!" (lol) But seriously, I whipped my body into shape and could finally say that I was pleased with my appearance.

For as long as I can remember, my grandpop called me "Tank". I'm 30 years old and he still does it. Family members always refer to the nickname when I'm around and have a great laugh. I still just smile. What they don't see is how the nickname, "Tank," lowered my self-esteem. It made me think that I was big, large, huge even. When I was 5, I didn't realize why he called me "Tank." Then, one day I figured it out - and it hurt. That same side of the family had another name they liked to use. It was "Fat Back." Again, when I figured out the meaning of the name - it hurt. Another name that I used to get was "Amazon". I truly didn't know what that was, but again, when I found out, it really hurt.What hurt more was that it was said in front of other males and they all laughed. I, not knowing what it was, laughed with them. How stupid and large did I feel when I caught on to what was being said about me. What hurt even worse was that my dad was the "Amazon" offender and my other dad was the "Tank Fat Back" perpetuator.
Even to this day, I have never expressed to them how their names have made me feel or the impact it has had on my life. What I have done is taken a fierce stand not to let anyone use any derogatory names toward my two girls. However, when it comes to two of those three people (two because the relationship with one has sadly dwindled), I still have a hard time saying something, even when it comes to my daughters! They both have tried to carry on the name-calling legacy with my 3 year old. She is a beautiful black princess, baby curves and all. She is in the 90th percentile for height and weight, but she is healthy, active and her doctor & I aren't worry about how she's growing. My other daughter is 11 months so they havn't said much about her. Although the "big baby" references are getting to the "that's enough already" point.


The other day, in my absence, my husband was able to do something I hadn't been able to do ever. Upon hearing my dad call our daughter "Fat Back," he deaded it right then and there. A seeminly simple act, but one that has no doubt just impacted our daughter's entire life. I was thrilled when he told me what happened. It was like a point for our team.
I realize that my husband and I can't shelter our children from all the negative things that people will throw at them. I realize that they will have to learn how to take negative situations and use them as weights that help to make them stronger. I do expect people who are near & dear to us to help edify them and not tear them down with hurtful and harmful words or nicknames. Peter tells us in Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  We all know that the children are definitely listening!
To anyone who has been the victim of such careless name-calling as a child or even as an adult, THANK GOD for being a healer and a comforter. As followers of Christ, we know that God loves us unconditionally therefore, what can man do to us! His word tells us who we are in HIM: More than Conquerors, Joint Heirs with Christ, Fearfully & Wonderfully made, etc. Looking at the rose up top reminds me of a Shakespeare quote from Romeo & Juliet:
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
We are Virtuous Women. If anyone were to call you anything else, it doesn't change who God created you to be. A rose is no less beautiful if it's called a weed.
Know who you are. Be strong in that knowledge. Then it won't matter what anyone called or calls you. Let God handle them. You just continue being the Virtuous Woman God called you to be.