High school was not a particularly easy time for me. This sentiment is common enough, but it’s still a topic that I think is valuable to reflect on. I went to a very small and conservative school. I had difficulty figuring out my identity since there was only one option of who to be in order to be well-liked there. My anxiety disorder was debilitating at times and certainly did not help me with my struggle to fit in. It wasn’t okay to be edgy and artistic, but that’s who I felt I was. To this day I still feel like I am rebelling from the mold I felt forced to fit into. I think about this time very frequently and how it shaped me.
Today, for the first time in my life, I am completely comfortable in my skin. I am happy with my appearance and incredibly proud of my self-made career. I often wish that I could go back in time and tell my insecure high school self a few words of wisdom.
Fake it till you make it.
My anxiety prevented me from doing so many things when I was a teen. Sleepovers, many extracurricular activities, public speaking, and even attending a college other than one I could commute to from home. Luckily I was able to go to a college that was nearby yet still provided an excellent education. I was able to start fresh there and be who ever I wanted to be. I didn’t want my anxiety to get in the way of my education, so I started experimenting with a coping mechanism that eventually helped me to almost completely conquer my disorder. When I would enter a situation that caused me anxiety–the first day of class, an oral presentation, missing a day and getting behind, being late to school–I would pretend to be my super confident classmate. How would she think and what would she do in these situations? It was strange pretending to be her, but slowly, what originally started as an act became a habit. With a decade of practice, these traits are now part of who I am. I wish that I could have told myself to try this method when I was in high school so that I could have enjoyed my life more.
Stop caring what people think.
Looking back, it is shocking that all I cared about during high school was being popular in this small group of people, most of whom I haven’t spoken to in a decade. But as a teen, it was hard to think about anything else. If it weren’t for gaining confidence and an education in college, I never would have learned to dream way bigger. During that time, I also learned to embrace my artistic and entrepreneurial skills. I wish I could encourage my teenage self to feel comfortable just being a nerd and focusing on my artwork.
You don’t need to fit the mold.
Tan, blonde, busty, athletic. That’s what I wanted to look like in high school but it couldn’t have been further from how I looked. None of the boys were interested in me; the girls and even teachers teased me. I would love to go back and tell myself that I was beautiful the way I was and that I didn’t have to tan my skin and change just to fit in. I wish I could have known that one day, this awkward and gangly girl would be someone people would look to for tips on beauty and style!
High school is a hard time for many people. As nice as it would be to pass on these messages to my younger self, I would not be the person I am today without having gone through those struggles. Is there anything that you wish you could go back and tell yourself in high school?
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Belt: Anne Klein (vintage)