You know that feeling of believing that you are completely invisible and no one notices you, like you don’t even exist?
That feeling was pretty much my boyfriend throughout middle school and high school. Nothing better than being in a relationship with the feeling of invisibility than an actual person, right?
Between all of the different cliques in school, the popular kids, the smart kids, the jocks, etc. I never felt like I belonged to one. I’m not saying I was completely friendless, I had my small little group of close friends who also never really belonged to a particular clique in school. We were like the outsiders.
I would consider my time through junior high school one of the roughest periods of my life. Throughout most of my life growing up I was always the introverted, loser girl who didn’t have any self-confidence or know how to stand up for myself, and would allow others to “walk all over me.” I believed that everyone else knew me better than I knew myself. Whatever anybody ever said about me, I believed it to be true. Each time a school bully left a hurtful comment on my Facebook account, or even made fun of me behind my back at school, I took it very personally, leaving me afraid and feeling like complete garbage. Each incident that lowered my self-esteem only made me want to be like the cool kids, and try to fit in with everyone else. I started to experiment more with make-up, flat iron my hair, buy clothes at the “cool” stores, try to be more social, and conform to the social trends that everyone else in my school seemed to be a part of. While having a mouth full of braces, being shorter than 5 feet, and weighing about 80 pounds, I was trying as hard as I could to look like every other popular girl at school. Attempting to fit into clothes from the “cool” stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, and Hollister, and spending more money than I had, I thought it would be the key to fitting in.
What I didn’t realize by straightening my hair, wearing make-up, and buying the same clothes everyone else had was that I was trying to be like everyone else, not standing out as an individual, too afraid to be different and embrace my imperfections. At the time, my definition of “perfect” was a girl who had straight hair, wore make-up, and dressed in “cool” clothes.
Spoiler alert: it’s not worth it.
Looking back at my life as an early teen I always ask myself the same question, why did I care that much? And how was I once so weak to the point where I couldn’t even stand up for myself?
A quote that I now stand by comes from one of my favorite author’s, Oscar Wilde, who states “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” The quote may be short and simple, but I believe it to be words that early teens should live by, especially during middle school and high school. What each girl may not realize is that they are all capable of doing great things individually. To be carefree of what others think and learn how to become a strong, independent young woman is something that feels so great and is something that has personally made me genuinely happy with my life.
While it is nearly every girl’s dream to be with the in-crowd and be popular, it’s important to realize what you like and want for yourself. This leads to an important question, one that teen girls in particular find difficult to answer: Would you rather be happy while not being “popular,” or unhappy while being “popular?”
What I think is most important for girls to understand, especially during middle school, is that everyone is going through the same thing that you are. Each girl is going through puberty, growing, and struggling to fit in. While some may not show what they’re going through, it is important to always know deep down that they really are – everyone has their own story.
I think that most girls in their early teens (ages 13-15) struggle the most with body image and trying to fit in with everyone else, more specifically finding the right clique in the world of middle/junior high school. However, the struggle of trying to fit in allows you to find yourself and really know who you are when choosing who you want to associate yourself with and the kind of person you want to grow up to be.
As my years of being a teen have come to an end, I realize how much I learned about myself through each experience I went through, and how powerful each experience can be, whether the experience be positive or negative. I never thought I would be who I am today without each teen experience, and I am grateful that each experience taught me how to grow.