Have you ever thought about how powerful a piece of paper can be? Whether it be a university acceptance letter, a love note or a birth certificate, sometimes a little piece of paper can have an amazing impact. I realized this at 12 when my teacher assigned my class a unique activity. The activity consisted of us anonymously writing down the things we liked about our fellow classmates. At the end of the class, the papers we were using to write our compliments were collected. Our teacher told us she would give us each an individual list with all the compliments we received the next day.
Sure enough, the next day she went around handing out these lists. The paper itself was completely unextraordinary, it was folded up a couple times and it had a strange rainbow graphic all over it. Despite the terrible stationary, the list made me incredibly happy. I looked down the paper, reading all the compliments one by one. There were comments saying I was kind, artistic, funny and… Beautiful? I froze. I looked down at the word again, almost expecting it to morph in front of my eyes into something else. But it stayed where it was. I didn’t know what to make of it.
When I was a kid, there was a period of time in which I was overweight. The teasing I experienced was enough to make me feel constantly self conscious, and I became quite analytical with the way I ate. That in combination with taking up a new sport, ended up causing me to lose a fair bit of weight. The weight I lost meant I was at a point where I was in a healthy weight category. I thought that once I reached my goal I would be happy, but that wasn’t the case. I may have stopped obsessing with my weight, but almost instantly I found new things I wanted to “change”. Instead of being confident I was more insecure than ever. I didn’t want to stay that way, so I decided earlier that year I would focus on the things I did like instead of the parts I wanted to change. Whenever I wanted to obsess over a flaw I would just find something I loved and I’d focus on that. This newfound positivity allowed me to be able to believe that I was beautiful, no matter what anyone else said.
But that paper proved to me that my positive thinking had improved my life in ways I hadn’t even considered. I thought that I was beautiful and even though other peoples opinions may differ that was okay. I never considered that me believing in my beauty would allow other people to think I was beautiful too. When I was insecure and self deprecating I was never called beautiful. Even though my physical appearance remained the same, the ugly negative thoughts I had when I was insecure didn’t allow me to be the beautiful person I was. It was only when I began to believe in myself did other people believe in me too.
A piece of paper may not seem like much, it’s flimsy, rippable and plain. But that paper I recieved at 12 helped validate the positive ideology I now live by and have founded my own non profit organization on. I started this piece by talking about how powerful a piece of paper can be, and though I believe that can be the case at times I think this situation was different. Sure, this paper validated my thinking, but what was powerful was the shift in thinking. The shift to positivity. Because only when I could find the words to describe myself could other people begin to try and describe me.