"You don't have to be pretty like her. You can be pretty like you."
One thing I wish I could tell my younger self is how beautiful it is to be oneself. To be your unique self.
I remember when the self-judgment began to take over my life in middle school and continued through high school. I'd compare myself to other girls who'd get more attention, who'd exude confidence and seem so happy. I had no friends really and I tried so hard to be a part of the "in-crowd," (which only damaged my self-esteem even more). I had been rejected by not only boys but girls who'd felt embarrassed to be seen hanging out with me.
Along the way I began to question myself more and more, wishing I could be someone prettier, curvier, and popular. I anticipated the day that I'd fix my smile and finally become confident enough to cause people to gravitate towards me. But in the meanwhile, I was scared of starting conversations and was intimidated by people who depicted my (then) idea of beautiful. I became jealous and envious and started to damage myself mentally. To be quite blunt, I had thought about suicide but I've always had the inkling that I have something great to offer the world. I just couldn't do it.
I was bullied for being skinny and petite. I was especially bullied for my crooked teeth and bushy eyebrows. It was so uncomfortable and seemingly unfortunate to be me. I became so self-conscious that I didn't want to show skin. I literally wore pants for five/six consistent years.
The first time my legs saw the public eye was at a business conference for a club I was in sophomore year of high school (or maybe it was junior year). I remember feeling like everyone was staring but also feeling so free! And my legs were SO white. I mean you can imagine... they hadn't seen the sun in years.
I also never fully smiled in public. Or even in private. I was so embarrassed of showing my imperfect teeth. And I always felt like it hindered my personality because I've always been a smiley person, a person that laughs a lot. Not being able to enjoy my laughter and exercise a full smile bothered me forever.
The first time I revealed a full smile was a selfie I took in Paris three years ago and posted on Instagram. It was a big, BIG deal. It hit me all of a sudden that my teeth were finally straight and my smile was "picture worthy."
At that point I finally felt like I could be my true self. Inside and out.
Once I got my braces off I felt invincible. Really.
But I've always been the same girl.
I'm still the "ugly duckling" from middle school. I only changed what I allowed the public eye to see. I had always thought to myself whenever I was rejected by people how much they're missing out on an awesome, dope, funny girl.
For some reason, I needed the confidence to let my personality shine. I needed to be "pretty."
I knew that the day would come. When I'd finally be myself. I wasted so many years being quiet, being intimidated, shy and self-doubting, that now when I see myself doing outgoing things I can't believe it. I'm living the way I'd always longed for.
I had it all wrong though. So wrong. I shouldn't have exhausted so much energy worrying about what others thought of me, comparing myself to other girls, damaging my self-image. So many wasted years.
To this day I still don't understand why humans judge each other so much. Especially on outer image. You know how many awesome people you miss out on just because they don't live up to your standards of beauty?
But I don't regret those years because I learned. Now I understand. I can relate to the loners, the rejects, the bullied, the self-conscious little girls that have it all wrong.
That's why it's my mission. To enlighten the mentalities of younger women and have them realize just how beautiful they are - skinny, short, crooked teeth, thick eye-browed, awkward and all.
So if I could tell my younger self something, I'd say:
"You don't have to be pretty like her. You can be pretty like you." :)