I used to do this all the time, unbeknownst to myself, of course. How is that possible, you ask? Okay. Let me set the scene for you. Growing up, I admit, I was a bookworm. There was no other pleasure I indulged in more than rushing home from school, finishing my homework and curling up in my room with the spoils of my recent trip to the public library. (Only after a college literature course on escapism did I realize that that’s what I was engaging in during my tweens). Hey, I don’t blame my 11-year-old self. The middle child of a rowdy family, I found solace and adventure as I wielded my way through the binded pages of a new book in my hands. For once, I was the protagonist, the heroine, the main character of my story and the guardian of my imaginary fortress.
Then came middle school. Do I have to say more? Raging hormones and biological maturity aside, I still thought I was the eager word-hungry child I was before. And I was, to an extent. Only now, I wasn’t completely oblivious to how other people saw me. It was a time when every teacher on the face of the earth (yes, I thought the world revolved only around my universe) lectured about peer pressure and how to overcome it. Truth be told, I was ambivalent on this subject. It seemed like everyone was worrying for no reason. If a person had a group of core friends whom they knew, liked and understood them, why would they ever be trapped in a web of low self-esteem and anxiousness?
I was always surrounded by genuine, sincere people who were my best friends. They liked me for who I was inside and did not judge on appearances. Or maybe it was because we were all kids back then. As I witnessed them maturing, I knew for a fact, that I wasn’t. Plucking my eyebrows, coloring my eyelids and reapplying lip gloss every five minutes was not my idea of how to spend homeroom. (I was usually engrossed in finding out if the heroine of my book escaped from her captors). Lunch time soon became lessons on how to apply eyeliner or how to attach false nails correctly. They became interested in a world that I just couldn’t wrap my head around. Yet, we still remained the best of friends and moved on to high school together.
Here’s where the soothsayer should have said “rude awakening.” If middle school had been a small koi pond, high school was a majestic lake that thousands of fish called home. No longer protected by the buffer of my close friendship 24/7, I realized how superficial, judgmental and just plain mean teenagers could be. Albeit, this was a result of my total disregard for my outward upkeep; my self-esteem embarked on a downward plunge.
The labels they used to describe and ridicule me became my own descriptors. I assimilated to their way of judgmental thinking and became my own harshest critic. Bear in mind that I’m not saying I was an ugly duckling or anything, but suffice it to say that academics were of more importance to me at that time. Though I say that my self-esteem took a hit, I was not about to let others bring me down to their level. The influence they had on me though was profound enough for me to reflect on it now, looking back.
In my new warped state of thought, I believed that I was unworthy of all that I possessed. I was just a boring nobody who didn’t share any of the mainstream interests that my friends did. The best thing to do was to bury myself in an avalanche of books. And so I did.
Regret is a complex and ironic emotion. It dangles the dangerous “if” in our mind, urging us to imagine a past we know we cannot change; a “damned if you will , damned if you don’t” state mind. I wish I could erase my period of self doubt and worth. I know now that I was more unique than any of my acquaintances or friends. Being different then shaped me it into who I’ve become. The me I degraded by conforming to society’s black and white stereotypes has now embraced those same descriptors into a novel representation of who I think I am.
Stereotypes. You can either chose to let it negatively lead your life or proactively fight for the real you to be heard. In this day and age, why let others decide how to describe you when you have the power to change the meaning until you arrive at the perfect words that convey who you are to the world- which can be something as simple and complex as your name.
Day 13 of 25 Days of Lenten Fitness: #runstreak 3 miles plus 2 miles walking; Yoga 20 min.
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