The Queen Reigns No More
By Jenny Gaither
My pre-teen memories are a mixed bag of emotions. As I write this my stomach is doing flips as I resurrect each palpable memory of yearning to be accepted. Elementary school into seventh grade was so confusing and at a lot of times, painful. I remember how much energy it took to get through each six period day because I was constantly trying my best to blend in or to be approved by the other girls in my class.
In elementary school there was a group of popular girls ran by one Queen. She was the ruler of the group and the decider of our fate in terms of friendships. For now I’ll refer to her as the Queen because at this time of my life, she was.
Every day on the foursquare courts, before first period the Queen would pick one girl from our class to be her “person of the day”. The “lucky” girl chosen to be her “person of the day” would get the “privilege” to hangout with just the Queen during lunch. If you weren’t picked, you didn’t know what to do with yourself because we all sought guidance and approval from the one true (mean) Queen. Sometimes the Queen would intentionally not pick you for weeks so you sat alone on the bench during lunch. This was the same with after-school activities and with being invited to birthday parties or sleepovers. Many times I was intentionally left off the invite list but included just enough times to think I might belong.
I spent many, many nights crying in my room wondering what was wrong with me. Wondering what I needed to do to be accepted, chosen, welcomed by the other girls. This led to so much anxiety about what I wore to school and what I ate. I cried almost every day before school because I didn’t feel good enough in what I was wearing and feared it wasn’t cool enough and that I would stand out. I just wanted to blend in.
Things escalated when the Queen created a gossip notebook that she’d pass back and forth to the girls during class. I wasn’t in on this secret because I was in a different class - thank god. It was a book similar to the “burn book” in the movie Mean Girls. There were inappropriate and ruthlessly mean things written about other kids in my class in this gossip book. I never saw it or wrote in it because I didn’t even know it existed.
One day during class, I remember being called into the principal's office over the loudspeaker. My stomach fluttered with butterflies on speed because I had no idea what I could’ve been called in for and if you were called in during class it meant something was really wrong.
I felt like I was floating as I walked to his office. My mind was racing with explanations and reasons as to why I was called in. That’s when I saw the Queen huddled by the drinking foundation with my other “friends”. They were all hysterically crying. The Queen pointed at me when she saw me, yelling “you better admit you were a part of this or you’re out.” I looked at her with confusion as she explained what happened. Apparently her teacher caught her passing her gossip book to another girl in class. The teacher read it and reported the book to the principal. Each girl associated with the creation of the book was to get detention or possibly expelled. The Queen sobbed through every word as she relived the conversation with our principal. The Queen told the principal that I was one of the girls who created the gossip book even though this was the first time I’ve heard of it.
I kept walking to the principal's office as quiet tears of fear streamed down my face. “What do I do?”, I thought. Do I admit to something I didn’t do and get in big trouble? Or do I stand up for myself and lose all of my “friends”.
As it turns out, I had more strength than I realized. I lost my friends. I denied being a part of it. Some might look at this moment as a win because I stood up for myself and that is true. However, the feeling that I never belonged grew bigger internally. The lie that I wasn’t good enough was solidified when I lost that group of friends.
These types of tumultuous relationships were a theme in my pre-teen life. Girls were mean, calculated, and total bullies. They craved power and ruled the playground ready to take blood from those who didn’t submit. It was tough navigating who I was and who I wanted to be in this environment so I l distanced myself. Being on my own was better but I still felt alone. I felt isolated. I felt afraid that I would never truly be likable or lovable.
If my pre-teen self could see me now she would be shocked. As a woman who now fosters communities around the world for women of all shapes, experiences, and backgrounds to empower one another and rise together, my pre-teen self heals more each day. My pre-teen experiences challenged my confidence and self-worth daily. My confidence plummeted and isolation became more comfortable. However, my younger self was strong as hell and didn’t even know it.
I taught myself a very important lesson at a very young age: I can choose to walk away from each painful experience with a lesson-learned or feeling less-than. I chose to put a positive spin on each tough time because if I wanted a different outcome I’d have to create it.
So I did. As an adult I created Movemeant and We Dare to Bare to help her (me, you, us) build girl’s self-worth and confidence from her own self-approval not someone else's’. I ‘Dare to Bare’ to help girls who, like me, need a platform and community to shine even if being seen scares them. I ‘Dare to Bare’ to remove what made me want to be invisible to begin with. I ‘Dare to Bare’ to encourage girls to shed the fear that they might not be worthy in order to uncover that they are. I ‘Dare to Bare’ to be the role model that my younger self needed.
I tried for so long to dim my light to make others comfortable and now I want to show girls that by becoming invisible we give away our power. By speaking up and showing up, especially when it’s uncomfortable or scary, we are instilling in ourselves that we have value to add, while empowering others to do the same.
I ‘Dare to Bare’ to show women and girls that there IS enough room for all of us to be happy, welcomed, successful, and loved without putting others down. We can all rise simultaneously - rising tides lift all boats. Our differences and unique authenticities bring more to the table. We don’t need more of the same we need more of you.
Lastly, I ‘Dare to Bare’ to show girls, and my younger self, that even the most popular girls, the role-model instructors, our moms, dads, teachers, and best friends all have insecurities. We are not alone in wanting to feel enough so let’s not stand alone in those struggles and lets rise above together.
Do it for you. Do it for her. Choose to be a role model for girls everywhere, and for the little girl who lives inside you by signing up for We Dare to Bare and sharing your story. You can heal the little girl inside of you while being a light for girls in your community.
About the author
As the Founder of Movemeant Foundation, it was her passion for dance and vision of helping women build confidence and self-worth that created the organization which now helps thousands of women and girls own their best selves. Jenny is also one of only a handful of Master SoulCycle instructors and has been teaching at SoulCycle for over eight years between SF and NYC. She has dedicated over 15 years of her life to serving fitness communities around the world. As a former professional dancer, she studied with world-renowned dance choreographers including Emmy-award nominated Sonya Tayeh from So You Think You Can Dance. Her career and passion for dance led her to curate a cardio, hip hop class for all-levels called Notorious F.I.T., to foster like-minded communities who love health, wellness and pop culture.