The psychological damage that’s left over from being excluded and bullied doesn’t go away. It can fade, but those demeaning words about weight, appearance, and all the things that take away one’s dignity can come back when you’re feeling the slightest bit insecure. I can’t go back and change anything that happened to me or that I did, but I can try to help the next generation feel better and do better by sharing my experience and the experience of others.

When I first began writing my first novel, True Colors, I wasn’t writing to get published. I wasn’t even writing for an audience. I was writing for myself. I created a girl named Landry Albright who was dealing with finding her place in the world—her world being her school and friends. And in Landry’s world she has to face mean girls and bullies. The worst part is when her friends turn into mean girls and Landry doesn’t know how to handle it. Why did I choose to write about that? Because I lived through it and at the time it seemed like it was the bullying that went under the radar. People took it seriously if someone tripped you on the playground or threatened or hit you, but the psychological warfare in the lunchroom and hallways went ignored. It was like we were meant to suck it up and deal with it. And so we all did. But now, as an adult, I can see how I still carry some of that pain with me. If I had gotten over it completely would I remember it well enough to write about it? No, but now I can use my experiences to let other girls going through it know they are not alone. I now have the Landry’s True Colors Series and the Star Series where I can hopefully offer some guidance and reassurance along the way to girls looking for help with mean girls and self-esteem.

When I was younger, I often brought it up to my mother when I was suddenly dropped by my friends or was talked about when I left the lunch table. It started in first grade, which alarms me now when I look at actual first graders. But right around sixth grade, I began to internalize it and I didn’t want my parents to know what I was dealing with. Instead of confronting people about the horrible things that were said or when I was excluded, I swallowed it and would fake sick to stay home and hide. Or worse, to not make waves, I’d go along with what other girls were doing to another unsuspecting victim because speaking up would make things worse for me. I can see now how some of the girls who were mean to us were victims, too, at some point. That’s why I let you see the other side of “mean girls” in my Star Series. Now I can see the hardened shell several people have put on to keep themselves from getting hurt again.

In my book, Landry in Like, there’s a scene where Landry’s friend Thalia gets picked on for her weight in a movie theater. She’s in line at the theater to buy snacks and all excited to get fudge and popcorn when some older boys make fun of her saying she looks like a girl who enjoys her fudge. As you read the scene, you can feel her shrink in size and embarrassment. The idea came about when someone shared an experience with me and I asked if I could use it for a book. I knew in that moment that if this person remembered that experience in such detail after years that it was something I needed to use to help others. I had Landry come home and share what happened with her mother who tells her about going through the same thing with a friend in high school and how the friend was holding onto that hurt years later at their high school reunion. I’ve had several people reach out to me saying they saw themselves in that scene. It also made some people realize that things that they said as a “throw away” comment, and forgot about, had lasting impact on the people that took it personally.

The psychological damage that’s left over from being excluded and bullied doesn’t go away. It can fade, but those demeaning words about weight, appearance, and all the things that take away one’s dignity can come back when you’re feeling the slightest bit insecure. I can’t go back and change anything that happened to me or that I did, but I can try to help the next generation feel better and do better by sharing my experience and the experience of others.

What people are saying about Krysten’s work:

“…Hager’s main character is representative of every teenage girl. The author really nailed the reality of a young girl’s early high school years. I think this is a valuable read for girls ages 12-18.” Review from Readers’ Favorite book reviews.

“…The story gives you so much insight into the minds of teenage girls and makes you realize that deep down, everyone has the same insecurities and everyone goes through the same things in life. Despite these insecurities and fears, the main character stands up for herself. This is such an important message for teen girls!” Amazon customer review

 

About Krysten Lindsay Hager

Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star,  Landry in Like, and Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2). Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton. You can find her here at: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

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