DEAR HARRIETTE: When I was growing up, kids used to tease me all the time about the way I looked. I was taller than most girls, skinny, flat-chested and awkward. I did not handle the criticism well. I was shy and felt uncomfortable making friends.
Fast-forward to today. I feel more normal in the way I look, but I’m still somewhat socially awkward. I haven’t thought so much about my early years, but I will soon go to my high school class reunion, and I am nervous. Just thinking about it takes me back to the mean girls who ridiculed me for four years. How can I stay strong and positive when I see them, especially if they go back to their old behaviors? -- Reliving the Past
DEAR RELIVING THE PAST: Step back and take stock of the woman you have become. What are your assets? What do you value about yourself? What do others say about you that is positive? Write these things down. Now look at yourself in the mirror. What are your positive physical attributes? What makes you comfortable about the way you look and present yourself? What makes you uncomfortable? Own it all, sit back and accept yourself for who you are.
Next, please know that reunions tend to stir up old stuff for everyone, not just you. The girls who were mean to you probably had other stuff going on in their lives that was disturbing to them. Instead of figuring out how to deal with that, they lashed out at you. Forgive them for their childish ways.
Also, know that many attendees will be uncomfortable in their skin because they look different now. Most people gain weight over the years. It looks good on some and is unhealthy on others. People will be judging one another on how they look and what they are doing in their lives.
You can decide not to get caught up in superficialities and attend the reunion with an attitude of optimism. You can choose to speak to people who look welcoming and talk about whatever the moment calls for. You can avoid incendiary conversations, including talking about stressful memories. You are in control of yourself. You can literally walk away if someone speaks to you inappropriately.