The HGTV star recently sat down with Darling magazine and got candid about being bullied as a kid. In turn, she's passing on an important lesson to her children.

By Maressa Brown
Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Joanna Gaines may seem super-comfortable and self-assured in front of the camera these days. But the Fixer Upper star, who's expecting her fifth child with husband Chip Gaines, wasn't always so confident. Joanna recently opened up to Darling magazine about how, like many kids, she struggled with her own unique insecurities when she was growing up and how she was bullied in school.

"I don’t think confidence has ever really been one of those things that came naturally for me," Joanna told Darling. "If people thought I was confident, it was really just the way I masked my insecurity, because I didn’t want people to really get to know the real me. If you haven’t heard my story, my mom is full Korean and my dad is Caucasian. Kids in kindergarten would make fun of me for being Asian and when you’re that age you don’t know really how to process that; the way you take that is, 'Who I am isn’t good enough.'"

She says she let that feeling "build up throughout the years," and as a result, she was "never completely confident" in her skin. "My sophomore year I was the new kid at a high school in Texas and I had never been a part of a school that big," she explained. "My parents told me, 'Walk in. You’ll make friends like you always do,' and I just remember walking in and … I just did not know what to do with myself. In the lunchroom, everyone was a blur and I was thinking, 'How do people do this? How do you find that one person to sit with?' So I literally walked in the lunchroom and walked out and went into the bathroom. My fear and my insecurities just took over and I felt like I’d way rather sit in the stall than get rejected. It was the first time I thought, 'This is weird, this isn’t normal for me.' It just hit me."

Later on, Joanna and her family moved again, and she attended a smaller school in Waco where she says it was "easy to make friends."

Still, she would look back on that time in the bathroom stall. It ultimately lead her to understand that her "purpose was to help people who are insecure because I didn’t like the way it made me feel, in that stall; that’s not who I am. That’s not who I was made to be, but I let one stupid lie overcome my thoughts."

The epiphany also helped shape how the 37-year-old parents her children. "I always tell my kids to look for that kid on the playground who’s not playing with anybody, to go reach out, ask them their name, to look for the kid in the lunchroom who isn’t sitting by anybody, be their friend," she noted. "I think when you come from a place like that, even though it was only six months for me, there’s always that place of humility you never want to forget, and that experience grounded me in that I want to look for the lonely, the sad, the people who aren’t confident, because that’s not where they’re supposed to stay."

Joanna now looks back on that challenging moment in her life with gratitude. "So I now, as a 37-year-old woman, for one am thankful for that pain and confusion and loneliness [in high school] because I feel like that gives me a heart for what it is I do now," she shared.

Cheers to finding an opportunity for growth in a negative experience, then passing that knowledge onto your little ones. This important lesson Joanna is teaching her kids is sure to help them better navigate the difficult terrain of adolescence and spread kindness.



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