As women, we often find it difficult to stand up for ourselves, because we are conditioned by society to always be understanding, friendly, tolerant and most of all: forgiving. It’s especially hard for us to stand up to our own family.
As a delegate for Miss World Canada, I am a role model. You don’t have to pretend that you come from a great background in order to be seen as a woman of great value. I have to be honest and transparent; I want every girl who comes from a place like mine to know that she can still have a happy, fulfilling life.
I would like to tell you about my childhood.
My parents are wealthy, but made the choice to raise us in a falling-apart, filthy house with cheap, mismatched furniture thrown together with no thought behind it. The house cost less than my father’s annual salary, yet the children were deprived. Growing up with nothing even though there should have been plenty of money to live a secure, stress-free childhood completely destroyed my self-worth. There is definitely a stigma that only low-income families can neglect their children, but these things happen in all tax brackets. Neglect is not about having resources, it’s about having priorities that are above your children’s wellbeing.
We all had pretty bad childhoods, but I had it the worst because I was labeled the “troublemaker” (its common for these types of family units to single one child out as the pariah) and I was forced to take Ritalin and Prozac at only 13 years old.
Any expense was seen as frivolous, so we never had any birthday celebrations, no vacations, no pretty dresses or jewelry, and no outings to restaurants or activities, despite having wealth. I believed that I did not deserve anything. This was not done to me out of malice, but came from an ignorant and warped viewpoint about life that my parents extended to themselves as well as their children; their marriage itself began this way; no proposal, no wedding ceremony, no rings, just a paper from the courthouse.
Cold, practical, joyless.
My brother, sister and I had almost no socialization with other children or extended family, or even each other. I can count on one hand how many conversations my siblings and I have shared, and to this day, I don’t know much about them besides where they live now. But with the way they treated me, I don’t want to know them. Family dinners, home-cooked meals, and games were unheard of in our household. My mother was too depressed to spend much energy cultivating a family bond, and my father was too wrapped up in himself, and had his own issues with depression. I was so severely neglected that I didn’t even know how to tie my hair into a ponytail until well into my teens when a girl at school showed me. School itself was also torturous because undergarments for my developing body were seen as another unnecessary expense, so I faced constant harassment about my body. At home, my mother didn’t see any value in cooking for us, and even if she wanted to, the dining room table was always piled high with random, dusty junk anyways.
As I grew older, I could sense that this living situation was not normal, especially given my parents’ prestigious job titles; and began asking for a better quality of life, but I was shamed for being ungrateful. I would spend huge swaths of time as a child and teenager left completely alone in my room with only peeling paint and rotting floorboards around me. Reading was my escape.
I could go on about many other experiences similar to this, and I wish that I could tell you that these experiences emboldened me and made me a tougher little girl, but they did not. This treatment only broke down my self-esteem even more, and made me an even better target for bullies. But the area that I was forced to live in was so run-down that it was not simple bullies that I was surrounded by; it was drug dealers/users, woman-beaters, and scammers.
Because self-love was something that was never instilled in me, through my life-long journey of self-improvement, I am getting better every day, even on the days that I struggle. Being involved in pageantry has opened my eyes to a world of opportunity, when before I was trapped in a world of scarcity. I am still standing because I have had faith in myself when nobody else did. I was forced to learn to rely only on myself, and to be self-sufficient, which I am grateful for. Pageantry has changed my life. I want every girl who dreams of a better life to know that it is possible, and you ARE worth it!
Your Optimistic Rose,