Elyse Myers urges adults to be careful with their words and be aware of what they are saying to children.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 4, 2022. It has since been updated.
Hurtful words can inflict life-long pain and emotional trauma and even more so when directed at kids. A woman who had to endure hurtful words as a child is calling on teachers and adults to watch the words used around kids and especially those directed at them. Elyse Myers, a TikTok user, explained that she was still working to undo the damage stemming from a single conversation with her teacher when she was just 11 years old. Myers said that her teacher made a comment about her body that would haunt her for years into her adulthood. The video resonated with many people, garnering 2.9 million views and 74k likes.
She recounted her own experience of a teacher commenting on her body in the video. "As a child, specifically a middle-schooler, I was a little bit round. That would have been one way to describe me. The ways that would have been more appropriate.. funny.. cute.. has curly hair.. determined.. sarcastic.. witty.. smart.. talented.. musical.. so many ways to describe me but the one thing that people love to latch on to is the size of my body," she said, before adding that her body image didn't bother her at all until people started making her conscious about it. "Was I ashamed of that? No. Others seemed to be. You'd be shocked at how determined other kids and adults were at making sure that I knew that they knew that I was larger than other kids my age. I was made aware of the size of my body long before I was ever taught how to love it," she added.
Myers says she's more aware of the kind of damage throwaway comments can have a way into adult life. "I know now as an adult that says way more about the people commenting on my appearance than it did my appearance at all. I had a male substitute teacher overhear me talking to another group of students about how one day I wanted to be a cheerleader. He felt the need to walk up to us and cut me off and say, 'I need to save you from yourself.' You'd be better suited in color guard, or a marching band, or wrestling but not in a cheerleading outfit," she recalled the teacher telling her.
"The audacity of a man to walk up to a seventh-grade girl in front of her friends and comment on her appearance in any way is disgusting. I met that man for one hour, when I was like 11 and I'm now 28, still undoing the damage that one sentence had on my life," Myers said, before urging adults to be conscious of the words they use and understand the effects they can have on a child. "So, if you're an adult. You're around children. If you're around humans in any way, I need you to understand how powerful your words are. As easily as they can tear someone down, they can build someone right back up. But it's going to take a hell of a lot more work to build them up after you've torn them down. So, I need you to be so careful about teaching people about how to love themselves. To see themselves. Because I was taught how to perceive my body through the eyes of other people that didn't love me. That didn't care about me. That thought they could just make a passing comment and just move on with their life and I carried that forever. You have to be more careful with your words. We have to teach people how to speak kindly about themselves, to love themselves, to see them as beautiful and worthy and more than what they look like."
"If I had as much attention poured into the things that I was good at, and I cared about, and I loved, I would have been a completely different kid," she said. Myers went on to add that she did become a cheerleader just as she wished. "I did play a cheerleader in 'Greece' my senior year and I felt incredible."