I had been throwing around a couple of ideas about what to write about this week but couldn’t really dial in on what I wanted to do. It’s a tough time because it’s back to school and sports are starting and vacations are winding down and there’s just a lot of upheaval in general. Whatever. Was simply lacking inspiration and nothing was jumping out at me. And that was when inspiration found me.
I was at the gym last week, taking a class during a time that I’m not typically at the gym. At the end of class, I was approached by a gym friend, Jocelyn, whom asked if she could talk to me for a minute. We stepped aside and, long story short, she told me she had a story that she wanted to write and she wasn’t a very good writer and would I write her story for her. And it all kind of came out just like that. I was taken aback to be honest. What an honor to be asked to tell someone’s story. I of course accepted and asked if I could use it for my blog and she said, “Really? You don’t have to. But that would be great!” Little did I know.
We met after class at the gym a couple days later and after some small talk, she started telling me her story. I had to stop her midway through because I was crying. I simply had no idea. And part of it is heart-breaking. And most of it is awe inspiring. And I am honored to be able to share it with all of you. Because her story - it will make a difference.
Bananas are Beautiful
Jocelyn grew up in what I would consider a standard middle American family. Mom, dad, a sister and Jocelyn. The pictures she shared show a smiling child, obviously deeply connected to her sister and as a child of the 70’s and 80’s. I was a child of the 70’s and 80’s and I swear Jocelyn and I shared the same closet as my early pictures are very similar to hers with regards to wardrobe and hair style.
Jocelyn’s father loved his daughters and had two nicknames or words that he called Jocelyn. One of them was banana and she shrugs at that one, still with no understanding as to why banana. The other was beautiful. Jocelyn said she struggled with why her father would call her beautiful because she never felt beautiful - not because she didn’t feel her dad meant it because it was obvious that he did. Jocelyn herself just didn’t SEE her beauty when she looked in the mirror, didn’t feel beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and she simply could not see what her father saw. And that lack of ‘vision’ would impact her life, her relationship with her daughters and her professional career.
Personal struggle was something that was familiar to Jocelyn at an early age and something that she admits she is not completely free from. A work in progress still. She wore worry necklaces to help ease anxiety, had worry dolls that she carried with her to help her overcome the stresses and anxiousness that can make an already shy child withdraw into themselves a little more. In fact, in many of the pictures that she shared you will see her adorned with a worry necklace or something of that nature. Whether it’s Linus with his blanket, a woobie or any other type of significant something, many of us have or had such things as did our own children - tangible items that bring a measure of comfort.
When Jocelyn was around 8th grade, her father took her for glamour shots. Oh boy - I never had them done personally but it was a ‘thing’ back in the day. And she told me that for the first time ever in her life, she looked at the pictures and she thought she was beautiful. Although her shyness and lack of confidence was evident in that Jocelyn was not smiling in a single photo, she finally believed what her father had been telling her for years. She saw the beauty, not realizing that the beauty had been there all along.
She had a sleepover that night with some girlfriends from school. I believe she said there were about ten of them. She brought the one proof she had of her shots with her to show to some of the other girls. She was proud of feeling beautiful. Rightly so. The girls took a look at the picture and started to shame this gorgeous photo. Laugh that Jocelyn thought she looked beautiful in it. Then this group of girls, these ‘friends’, they formed a circle of hate and put Jocelyn in the middle of the circle. And then they went around the circle one at a time and told Jocelyn all the ways in which she was NOT beautiful. Shamed her. She stayed there through the night and the shaming and bullying took place throughout the night. She pretended to sleep through it but trust me when I tell you - she heard every word. Felt every blow.
The girls took it even further if you can fathom. In addition to ripping up the proof, this group of girls told Jocelyn that if she dared to bring the pictures to school that she would be jumped. Beat up. Not only did Jocelyn not bring the photos to school as they requested, she lived in fear for the rest of the year.
And she no longer felt beautiful. And wouldn't for a very long time. Her day of beauty, this amazing special gift from her father was ripped out of her hands and torn to shreds. Literally. Emotionally. Physically.
The bullying and shaming followed her throughout high school. And it taught Jocelyn a lot. It taught her do NOT be proud of yourself. Do NOT love yourself. Do NOT have confidence. And don’t ever EVER believe that you are beautiful. Lessons that to this day Jocelyn is trying to ‘unlearn’, to recover from, to heal from. And I will tell you - for her, the road has been long.
In the midst of the journey, Jocelyn married her husband Nick and gave birth to two beautiful daughters. In order to lose the weight gained from having the girls relatively close together, Jocelyn turned to fitness. And discovered a whole new beautiful. Strong was beautiful! Through her fitness journey Jocelyn lived that often times our definition of beautiful is what is left when you’ve given all you had to give in the gym. Tired muscles are beautiful. Blood and sweat - pretty amazingly beautiful. Pounds dropping away to be replaced by a body that is more in shape and can lift heavy things - drop dead gorgeous.
And fitness became confidence boosting for Jocelyn as well. An attitude of ‘I can’t do that’ changed to ‘I can and I will do that’. As a teacher, Jocelyn saw that there was a need for other young women just like her, other students that needed to be reminded that they too were beautiful and could maybe find that beauty by becoming stronger. She started Fitclub with the hopes of giving students more tools in their toolbox - how to move their body, make sound nutritional choices, hydration and so much more. In an environment that was positive. Uplifting. Where each athlete, person, child that walked in that door felt beautiful.
Jocelyn tells her daughters every day they are beautiful. Beautiful because they are kind. Beautiful because they are bright and have a beautiful laugh. Stunning because they are compassionate, good friends and hard workers. Jocelyn has made it her life’s work to make sure that no child - whether it’s one of her own or one of her students or one who is fortunate enough to cross her path - she has made it her mission to make sure these children know that they are beautiful and that she sees the beauty in them.
Jocelyn did a project this past year at school. The name of the project was What makes you beautiful? Volunteer basis only and students had to answer the question - What makes you beautiful? - with something that you couldn’t see on the outside. Jocelyn told me they had over 300 volunteers and that they made a Youtube video of all of the answers. She has held back from sharing it, waiting for the right time. I am hoping that maybe this convinces her the right time is now.
Fast forward to today. Jocelyn still finds it hard to receive compliments, at times challenges that the deliverer of the compliment isn’t really seeing something beautiful. As she said to me, it’s a work in progress. And that her hope in sharing the story with me and allowing me to share it with all of you - that it will make a difference in one person’s life. That one person will look in the mirror and see how beautiful they truly are. That one person will choose to extend words of kindness in lieu of words of hate or choosing words that degrade. That one child will find the courage to take a step through the door into Fitclub and learn about becoming stronger. More beautiful than they already are.
I cried through most of this. If I had a pocketful of wishes I would wish to go back in time and be a friend to Jocelyn. To be a worry doll come to life and invite her to sleep over at my house that night. My heart breaks all at once for the young woman she was and at the same time is bursting with pride at the incredible woman she is. How she took the adversity and is using it to make a difference in the lives of others. I am humbled and grateful that she shared her story with me and can assure you, Jocelyn, you have made a difference in my life.
She asked me in a text later that day after she had told me her story. What makes YOU beautiful, Hallie?
I am beautiful because I am strong.
I am beautiful because even though my feet are not so much to look at, I still am not afraid to wear open toed shoes.
I am beautiful because I touch people with my words.
I am beautiful because I have hundreds of freckles.
I am beautiful because I have scars that are on the outside and hidden beneath the surface.
I am beautiful because I love to love my family.
I am beautiful because I am not afraid to be silly.
I am beautiful because I will drop to my knees no matter where I’m at or what I’m wearing to kiss a dog.
I am beautiful because I have surrounded myself with women that make me want to be a better woman.
Take a moment, today. Look at your children, look at your spouse, your friend, your SELF. What makes them beautiful? What is beautiful about you? See it. Say it. Believe it. Honor it.
So Very Beautiful