'This Is Us' Explores Kate's Self-Image

Let it be known how much I fear preteens — they’re part kid, but part teenager, and man, can they turn on you when they don’t like you. That’s exactly what viewers saw on This Is Us when Kate, then around 9 years old, went to the pool with her family and got a note from her mean supposed friends saying that they didn’t want to hang out with her anymore because she “embarrassed them.” All Kate wanted to do was show off her Care Bear bikini on a hot summer day, and instead, she was humiliated and rejected. It's clear that this was a key moment in her life, as the present-day storyline shows how Kate’s cruel childhood body-shaming has affected her entire life.

While we see young Kate being humiliated at the pool, adult Kate is dealing with another trauma — seeing Toby’s ex-wife, who is thin, glamorous, and owns her own boutique. Of course, Kate has to go into said boutique to check things out, and somehow gets brought in for an interview to work in the shop. Surprise — she gets the job! Oh, Kate. Toby is, obviously, not happy, while Kate seems incredulous at the idea that Toby would now be interested in her after being married to his ex. This heartbreaking admission shows how Kate's insecurities have grown since she was a child, and in this moment, those insecurities threaten her new relationship.

Before they reach an understanding, Toby breaks down something very important. He explains that his ex treated him horribly, cheating on him and belittling him, and shares how much he struggled after their divorce. Now, he is with Kate because she is beautiful, kind, and because he simply wants to be with her.

Kids are mean, and unfortunately, the scars developed in childhood often last way into adulthood. Kate is so afraid of being judged by Toby’s ex-wife and others the way she was by those mean girls at the pool that she can't see her own amazing qualities. At the pool, Jack gives Kate a “magic” t-shirt and tells her that if she puts it on, people will see her the way she wants them to — as a superhero, a princess, etc. Kate chooses princess, and Jack says that he already sees her like that, whether she's wearing the shirt or not. Toby already sees Kate like that, too — he knows she is beautiful, fun, giving, and someone that he wants to be with.

Kate’s childhood experiences have clearly impacted her, and I just hope that their lasting effects don't continue to sabotage her adult happiness. Kate deserves to experience the kind of love Toby seems to have for her, but she first needs to accept that love and see everything she has to offer.

Images: Ron Batzdorff/NBC (2)