My high-school story is pretty standard when it comes to the “coming of age” tales that are so popular nowadays. I was a little bit of a recluse back then, not fitting in socially or really even physically. I went to a school where it was normal to have fake-tanned skin and straight, blonde hair, while I had (rather unnaturally) pale skin and brown, curly hair. This, along with a few other things (such as the fact that I preferred books to people, and actually liked my schoolwork), led to a few years on the outskirts of high school society, away from all the “cool people”. I did have a few friends—some of them were people that just tolerated my presence, and others were people that will be close to me for the rest of my life… my husband, for example.
I used to hate the fact that I looked different, that I was different. I would go over to girls’ houses and let them straighten my hair until it was “pretty” and I felt like I could fit in. I was trying to push another image of myself onto people—to try to convince them that I wasn’t who I really am. But it didn’t work, and my desire to be accepted eventually drove away some of my real friends, because they knew that I was just pretending in order to fit into a crowd that I honestly didn’t even like. I am not saying there is anything wrong with tan skin or blonde hair. I am just trying to say that everyone has their own “look”, which feeds into their personality. And no one should have to change who they are based on who everyone else is around them. I was just as much in the wrong trying to force myself to be like the “cool crowd” as they were for being so exclusive.
Once I got to college, and away from the stifling atmosphere that was high school—where every slight problem feels like the end of the world—I had some time to myself to really figure out who I am. And I just kind of accepted that I was different, and always would be. I know that sounds dramatic—“I’ll never fit in! I’ll always be different than everyone else!”—but it wasn’t a dramatic realization on my part. I just sort of decided to accept the reality, and simply live up to my potential. And once I did that, people started actually wanting to be friends with me, rather than me running after them trying to convince them to be my friend. Once I accepted who I was, and didn’t disparage about my paleness or the curliness of my hair, I became kind of a fun person to be around. People now recognize my inner confidence, which was something that I had never been able to display so proudly before.
And now, after years of knowing who I am, and loving me for me, I can honestly say that it is so much better to know yourself and accept who you are than to try to convince the world that you are what it wants you to be. It can be stressful and exhausting, trying to force yourself into the little box that other people lay out for you to live your life in. It was honestly one of the most liberating experiences for me to actively stop trying to fit in that little box, and gain the life skills to be who I am supposed to be. I am free to be a book-worm, to randomly sing around the house, to wear weird tights, and to not be perfect.