I am aware that there are many people going through High School that might be feeling the same way right now, or might be feeling even worse than that – perhaps they feel like they fall into the ‘neither’ category and are desperately trying to do something to fix that, or just feeling frustrated and depressed with their lot in life. Home life doesn’t always help this either – it can be hard to talk about how we’re feeling with parents and (god forbid) siblings, because – I find – parents will either tell you not to worry about stupid stuff like looking beautiful, or they will tell you ‘of course you’re beautiful’ without looking at you. Some of my friends even grew up with parents that nagged them about losing weight at every turn, or perhaps trying some make-up, or even gifted you with a gym membership, thinking they had done the best thing ever when, actually, you didn’t really want that.
There are so many expectations placed on us as people to look a certain way, to act a certain way. Growing up, I felt like I had to try and look beautiful, or show more skin, or shave my legs, even if I didn’t want to do those things. I felt torn between wanting to be a part of the group and dress the same way, drink the same alcohol, start dating, when I actually didn’t really want all that stuff at the time. I think what I really wanted at the time was for someone to prove to me that I could be myself, unashamedly, and my life would still work out for the best. I was afraid that if I wasn’t beautiful and if I wasn’t super smart, I would fail in life and end up somewhere I loathed, working in some random place and not even thinking about my own dreams.
So here’s the thing: you are going to be bombarded with expectations your entire life. It sucks, yes. Sorry about that. Magazines and billboards and tv ads and even some books are going to say ‘look like this, act like this’, and you’re going to want to believe them because you think that if you can just look the way that model does, or act the way that popstar does, then you will be as happy as they appear to be. You will meet the love of your life, you will get the great job, you will finally be perfect, and safe, and whole.
Those expectations are stupid, and they are being regurgitated by people around you extremely often, because they are under the same impression. I really believe that if people just tuned into their own inner voices a little bit more – you know, that voice that we have drowned in unhealthy expectations and unhealthy diets – then we could find what really makes us happy.
It’s fine to start small, with this. When I realised just how much I was punishing myself to look a certain way, I started by doing things like eating what I wanted to, wearing what I wanted to. Using the bag I liked to take to school, despite the fact that a friend had made some disparaging remarks about it a few weeks before. I started to take a stand against all these expectations that people were putting on me.
Honestly? It’s really hard to be yourself sometimes. There is so much pressure to be like someone else, to compare and compare and compare until you’re not even sure you exist anymore – maybe you’re just a merged collection of the people that tell you how to look. But doing things that make me truly happy, and feel truly like myself? It’s one of the best feelings in the world.
For now, I’ll just ask you this: do you think you’re striving to become something because you think ‘then finally I will be happy’? Or are you driving after your dreams, and feeling happy along the way, just in the journey of it all?
You are the perfect you-shape, you-look, and you-personality. Only change if it’s something you deeply, truly want.