When I was in grade 5 I started a new school. My parents had separated the summer before and we ended up moving because of it. Grade 5 is a tough year to start a new school, for me it was anyway. Up until then I had gone to this small little country bumpkin school that seemed to be what I considered, drama free. My friends and I never fought, boys and girls played together without the pressure of being boyfriend and girlfriend, and there didn’t seem to be anyone trying all that hard to “be cool”. Maybe it was an age thing, or maybe it was the change of school, it’s hard to say really, all I know is that grade 5 for me, was a massive transition.
I remember making friends with a girl who was mature beyond her years, beyond all our years really. She was a new kid too, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t come from any country bumpkin school that’s for sure!! She wore clothes that were name brand, and I’m not talking Northern Getaway name brand like what I wore, I mean going out to the big city shopping for the newest fashions, name brand. She was trendy. (Side note, I didn’t even know what trendy meant at the time, but looking back I think that’s the best way to describe her.)
We became best friends. It was the perfect friendship too, she was a leader and not afraid to do, say, or be what she wanted, and I was a follower, desperately riding the coattails of her popularity and doing whatever it took to be just like her!
Yep, I was a follower, to the extreme!!! She was the first girl in our school to buy a pair of Doc Martin boots, so naturally, I begged and begged my parents to let me also buy a pair of Doc Martin boots. She wore a bra, which I thought was so cool, so of course, I begged my parents to buy me a bra (Even though it would be another 4 years before I had anything to even fill it with!), and she wore makeup, something I wasn’t allowed to do until Grade 9. Unless of course I was staying at a friends or had an opportunity to wash my face before my parents seeing me, in which case, bring on the blue eyeshadow!!!!
I grew up fast. Like really fast. Birthday parties went from girly slumber parties to boy girl dance parties, and recess went from playing tag to spin the bottle or truth or dare. It was a huge adjustment for me, but I went with it, because thats what everyone was doing.
I remember talking to my bestie about a few of the boys in our class, you know, waiting for her opinion on them before divulging whether or not I liked them because God forbid I admitted to liking someone that she hadn’t decided worthy yet. (yep, I was that lame!!) I mentioned one boy, not that I really liked him, I just thought was cute and she responds with “Ugh he’s such a bragger.”
You guys, I didn’t even know what that word meant, that’s how naive I was!! So when I asked her what she meant by that she explained “You know, he thinks he’s really good looking and good at everything, he’s so full of himself.”
Ok, I thought, good to know, thinking you’re really great is not cool, don’t do it. Welcome to phase 1 of me realizing confidence is a negative quality to have.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because this is the point, from what I can remember anyway, where I decided that being me wasn’t good enough and that even if I did think I was good enough I couldn’t admit it because that would make me…….what was that word again?? Oh ya. A bragger. This is when I started judging my clothes, my hair, my body, this was when I began to believe that thinking too highly of yourself was a surefire way to lose your friends, that fitting in was the most important thing in the world, and straying from the crowd, well that was just social suicide.
Now, I’m not blaming this girl for any of my insecurities in the least, I envied her confidence and ability to be herself at the time. As an adult looking back however, I am pretty certain that she too, was also struggling with her own insecurities and just trying to fit in too. What I am saying is that this constant comparing and self judgement starts at such a young age and we don’t even realize it’s happening until next thing you know it becomes our freaking autopilot.
I understand now as an adult that there is a huge difference between being confident and being full of yourself, but as a 10 year old kid it all sounded the same to me and surely I was not going to make the same mistake he had.
I held on to this mentality well in to my adult years. In high school I continued to keep my self esteem low enough that I didn’t turn anyone off and I I would continue to follow the crowd. I can shamefully admit that I have said and done things that I am not proud of just to fit in and be accepted, all because I was afraid to stand tall, stand out, and ultimately, be me, or furthermore, even like me.
Fast forward into my adult years and unfortunately not much had changed. I appeared confident, I wasn’t afraid to be the centre of attention, and I was always up for a laugh, but not because I was confident in who I was, but because I was confident in what I thought I needed to be to be accepted. I was still going through the motions and doing whatever it was that I thought I should be doing because I didn’t have what it took to ultimately veer of course and stand out in a way that was authentic to me.
As I’ve journeyed along this road of self discovery and healing, what I have noticed is that most of us, to some degree, struggle with our own insecurities and that confidence isn’t something you just have, its something you work towards, and from what I can tell so far, its an ongoing accomplishment.
For example, I have come to be pretty confident it who I am, it’s taken many years but I now realize that loving myself is one of the most important qualities I can possess. I also know, that not everyone feels the same way about me as I do. meaning, theres many people out there who don’t like the person I am and ultimately, it has nothing to even do with me.
I was out shopping today and I was texting with one of my besties who I am so grateful to say, loves me for who I am. As I’m pushing my cart I look up and make eye contact with a girl who I happen to know is NOT my biggest fan. She straight up does not like me and it used to bother me a lot. I always felt like I needed to address it, like I should approach her and ask her why she doesn’t like me, I thought that maybe if we could just have a private conversation she would realize I’m not the person she thinks I am and we could just carry on and be friends.
Here’s the thing, there is nothing I can do or say to convince this woman that I’m a good person, not a damn thing, and even if I was Mother freaking Theresa herself I am pretty sure she would still find reason to hate me, and you know what?? It still has nothing to do with me.
Now because I am who I am, as I walk by this woman in the store I still smile and say hello, not because I’m an asshole, I was truly being genuine, but because ultimately, I know she is struggling with her own battle that is also none of my business. I mean, I guess I’m not TOTALLY being me because part of me wants to corner her with my cart, hug her, and tell her I get it, and that I’ve been angry and judged people wrongly before too, but I mean, unless I want to get knocked out in the middle of Walmart I decided that a warm smile and a gentle hello is probably the next best thing to being true to myself.
Years ago I would have likely handled this much differently. I would have averted eye contact, looked the other way, pretended I didn’t see her. I maybe would have even turned the other way to avoid her all together if I thought I could get away with it. But thats not who I am anymore. I don’t need anyone to be ok with me because I’m ok with me. To some people I’m annoying, obnoxious, ridiculous, and sometimes even bitchy, it’s not my intention to be any of these things, but if being confident in who I am means that some people might perceive me that way then I am absolutely ok with that.
Now sure, I still struggle sometimes with the confidence of whether or not I can pull off a pair of navy leopard tights, or wonder if my butt looks good in my jeans from the back. I mean, I’m confident in who I am as a person, in my character, b, I’m still human, and I’m certainly not perfect!
I might laugh too loud, swear too much and you can guarantee I will always speak my mind whether you like it or not, But I also love hard, I am real as hell, and I will be the biggest goddamn cheerleader you’ve ever had in your life. I’m not everyones cup of tea, and you wont be either, but you can bet your ass that theres a lot of wonderful people in your life already who are so incredibly grateful for you exactly the way you are, supposed flaws and all.
I can’t go back and tell my 10 year old self any of this, but I can tell you now, today, before you waste another minute squashing who you are because you aren’t sure you can be you. So listen up. There is no one in this world who can be you better than you. Don’t waste your life following the crowd trying to be like everyone else, because lets face it, everyone else is taken.
This is YOUR life and people need you just as you are.
Love yourself, embrace yourself, and hold your head high. It’s ok to think you’re doing good in this world. It’s ok to feel confident in yourself, and my god girl, it’s ok to wear the leopard tights for fuck sakes!
You are a freaking gift, and this world needs you. Don’t be afraid to let your light shine. In fact, shine it brightly so that everyone can see you. You owe it to your 10 year old self!