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How I found strength after being told I was 'disgusting to look at'

Body language expert Janine Driver shares her Know Your Value moment, which stemmed from being body-shamed by another woman on an airplane.
Body language expert Janine Driver at the Know Your Value conference in San Francisco on Dec. 1, 2018.
Body language expert Janine Driver at the Know Your Value conference in San Francisco on Dec. 1, 2018.Miller Hawkins

Sometimes it can take a nasty comment to show what you’re made of.

That’s what happened to international communications expert Janine Driver, who sat down with me recently at the Know Your Value national event and described her experience being body-shamed by another woman on an airplane. It was a moment that made Driver reevaluate her self-worth and ultimately find confidence and strength.

Driver, who has been trained as a body language and lie detection expert for the ATF, FBI and CIA, was sitting in the first-class section of an airplane when the ugly moment happened. She had just finished a television interview on "Dr. Oz" and was returning home. She noticed the woman sitting next to her, who was on the phone with her daughter-in-law. “I hope the girls like the Tiffany bracelets!” the woman exclaimed, referring to her grandchildren.

In an effort to build rapport with the woman, Driver praised her gift choice, “You are such a good grandmother!” she recounted.

But instead of returning the friendly outreach, the woman stared at Driver and coldly replied, “Do you not have any family and friends that have the courage to tell you that you are morbidly obese and disgusting to look at?”

Driver, who at the time weighed 286 pounds, was speechless.

“I reverted back to feeling like a little kid being ostracized and I didn’t know what to do,” she told me. “I shrunk and disappeared and tried to get her to like me. The whole entire trip I talked to her and I befriended her.”

Since that day, Driver vowed to “never allow anyone to have that kind of power over me again. I will always let people know that I know my value.”

In fact, Driver is a changed person, literally and figuratively. She has gone through a total weight transformation, going from a size 24 to a size 14. But Driver's decision to lose that weight was a personal one, in her own journey to better wellness and health.

If she had the chance to relive that experience with the woman on the place, Driver said she would have responded back in real time. Instead of trying so hard to win the woman’s acceptance, she would have said, “Has anyone ever told you that when you talk to people like that you’re embarrassing yourself? It’s rude and you’re embarrassing yourself.”

At the end of the day, it’s about taking back your power. And as Driver said, self-worth can “sometimes come from the worst things that happen.”

Daniela Pierre-Bravo is Know Your Value's millennial contributor. Read more about her here. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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