This comes from the heart and I hope it reaches out to two types – struggling teen girls who think it will never get better, and women who lived through this and came out better and stronger.
For the four years I was in high school, I had a classic case of “teen angst” – I was very often depressed, suffered from my first panic attacks, had terrible self-esteem, felt insecure and invisible. I was overweight, wore braces, was awkward, unfashionable, didn’t have a boyfriend, and to add to my nerdiness, was a really good student and loved to write.
Ugh, that poor girl was actually me – but she stands in the shadow of the woman I am now.
As a teenager, I felt a deep loneliness and was terribly worried I would never be strong enough to be happy. I was convinced a kind, attractive, smart man would never, ever love me. Hell, I was convinced no man at all would ever love me. I didn’t love myself.
I was in high school a little over ten years ago and though I can’t speak for what high school is like now, I can assure you that there were cliques and drama and judgment of all sorts. I won’t lie – I desperately wanted to feel what it was like to be pretty and popular, with perfect hair, and nice car, a cute boyfriend, and lots of girlfriends. But wanting what others had only caused me to suffer more.
Can I be blunt? High school was a big ball of shit, and though I made my own experience worse due to very low self-esteem, I was also young and weak and didn’t have the tools and resources I needed to become strong and confident.. High school was a cruel place where you were nobody unless you were somebody, and that is shit. High school was good for the people it treated well – like a society that pampers its wealthy and aristocratic and shuns its poor peasants – that was what high school felt like to me. I felt like a peasant. And I hated it.
So what happened? Well, that’s a story long enough for a full-blown autobiography. I can tell a shortened version. The shortest version is that although I am still a work-in-progress when it comes to self-acceptance and love –
I am truly the girl I hoped I would become and living a life that I could have only dreamed of as a 16 year old.
I’m not rich and I don’t have tons of friends and I don’t live on the beach, but my life – though just as full of set-backs, frustrations, pain, and challenges as anyone else – is amazing and full of happiness.
I am where I am today because I’ve had over a decade to get here. That’s a lot of time to work on yourself and become stronger and more confident. I am not afraid to speak up anymore, which is one of the best things age has given me.
One of the hardest and yet easiest things to do – something that has made a big difference – is not having people in my life that bring me down, make me sad, or don’t have my best interests at heart.
I learned to like myself, and to be myself – not hiding who I am, not trying to be like other women, not agreeing with everyone else to fit in, not trying to keep up with anything because it’s hip. To hell with all that. I am me and I don’t care what everyone else is doing.
I got healthy at 19 and lost weight on my own terms and that gave me self-esteem I’d never had. I finished college and had a fantastic learning experience in more ways than one.
I followed my heart, which led me to a relationship that is beyond explanation. I am deeply happy and content with my long-term boyfriend and our relationship. We have a dream relationship (it’s not perfect but it’s amazing). If my teenage self could see me now, she wouldn’t believe it.
I have had to work very hard to grow and still do every day – to learn, to accept things I can’t change, to change the things I can, to take care of myself, to make hard decisions, to follow through with things I need to do – nobody handed me my happy life. I got fed up with being unhappy, came out and grabbed my happy life by the tail.
If you are an unhappy teenager, I was you, and I am you still, in a way, because my past is a part of me. But there is so much more ahead of you, no matter how bad you think it is, no matter how out of reach something may seem – it seemed out of reach to me, too. But it isn’t –
You build up the walls in your own mind and you must be the one who tears them down. Get a hammer and tear down the walls of unhappiness until the light starts pouring through the cracks, damn it. All the happiness you dream of is just on the other side of your own self-imposed limits. And the truth is that nothing can stop you but yourself. You are the only you in the world, own your unique beauty and love yourself. Go claim your happy life!