Dear Teenage Me,
You know how you walk through the halls of your high school between classes and judge yourself based on other girls? You look at their clothes, trying to figure out which cool shop in the mall they are from, silently ranking Abercrombie and Hollister above your own American Eagle jeans and t-shirt. You check out their hair, trying to determine the latest style, figuring out if you should continue getting blond highlights or try to be like some of the popular girls, you know the ones, and dye your hair dark (which in hindsight you will totally realize was a mistake because you look awesome blonde). Most importantly, you silently cover up your tummy as you walk by all the girls who look so good in tight tank tops and dresses that you would never dare to walk out of the house in. You know how you get jealous of all the things that other girls have that you didn’t?
Having obviously reached maturity in my early twenties, I have realized a few things about my self-esteem, most importantly, that it would be impossible to achieve if I constantly based my own self-worth on what other girls had and I didn’t.What I should have focused on was all the awesome things that I already possessed. Let’s be honest, I’m never going to be Kate Moss or Angelina Jolie. But I am going to be Hayley Allen for the rest of my life, and I think that’s way better.
The worst part about high school was not the popularity contest that crept through the halls like a noxious gas, poisoning every girl who was being constantly told by media she needed to be thinner, prettier, well dressed and conventionally beautiful. The worst part of high school was believing I was the only one facing these insecurities. Literally everyone in high school faces these pressures. Yes, even the popular girls that you look up to. Everyone has a part of their body they don’t feel great about. Some girls wish they had a smaller nose, some girls wish they had more toned legs, some girls want bigger boobs, some girls want smaller! Even the most popular girls in high school have clothes they want but can’t have, or a hairstyle they can never achieve. It’s important to realize that everyone has these insecurities and then it’s even more important to try to move past your own. If you keep focusing on what you wish you had, instead of accepting what you do, you will never be happy.
So teenage me, ignore the fact that you aren’t as skinny as the popular girls, or the fact that they sometimes wear more stylish clothes. Instead, focus on your awesome blond locks that look great without putting any effort into styling it every morning when you roll out of bed. Focus on your great smile that you should let more people see. More importantly, focus on your abilities rather than your physical attributes. Like the fact that you have some of the top grades in your year (except math because math is the devil’s work). Focus on the fact that you know how to camp in the wilderness for days on end, build a fire, portage a canoe and Eskimo roll a kayak. Focus on your awesome skiing abilities or your work in the community through Girl Guides. These are things to flaunt and be proud of.
Just as you shouldn’t put yourself down in comparison to other girls, don’t put other girls down to make yourself feel better, even if it’s only inside your head. Some girls might dress a bit differently or be a few pounds overweight, but they are going through the same insecurities that you are, and I’m sure you wouldn’t appreciate being used as a stepping stone for other girl’s self-esteem. This thinking is toxic, distance yourself from it. Find the positives in their personalities. Treat them as you would want to be treated. Think happy thoughts about everyone you interact with.
I have a secret for you: in university, you smarten up your diet, lose a few pounds, learn to dress yourself for your body type (hint, it’s not the jeans and t-shirt trend), embrace some fun and funky makeup and actually learn to walk in heels. Sort of. But you don’t gain confidence through these physical changes, you gain it through exploring your independence, developing your personal hobbies, meeting new people and making some amazing friends. No amount of makeup will ever feel as good as holding up the trophy from your university rugby league and no matter how thin or chubby you are, you can always laugh and joke around with friends. Your favorite orange lipstick does not magically grow your self-esteem, but it takes a whole lot of confidence to rock that orange lipstick and strut your stuff.
So teenage me, stop comparing yourself to other girls. Stop using the popular crowd as a yard stick for success in high school and stop using the girls who stand out as different as stepping stones to making yourself feel better on that yard stick of ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’. There is more to life than high school and, what’s more, life uses a completely different metric system. So throw that yard stick out and create your own measuring tape. Be you. Enjoy what makes you happy. Try to care less about physical appearance and work on emotional health through exploring hobbies. I know it’s a lot for teenage me to believe, but twenty-one year old me wishes someone had told me sooner, so I could have started enjoying life more in high school, instead of waiting for university.
Sincerely, Slightly Grown Up You
H. Allen-Content Writers and More