I’m coming up on 30 years of life soon and there have been so many things going through my mind lately. I’ve been really been thinking about how much I’ve changed and grown since my teens. One recurring thought would be how differently I would have lived my teenage years if I didn’t have so many insecurities to deal with.
I lived in constant fear and anxiety, like most teenagers did. However, that fear and anxiety really hindered my life in many ways. I feel like I let my teenage years (and maybe even early 20’s) just pass me by because I was so scared about what other people thought. Part of it was because of negative and hurtful things said to me as a child and how those negative things turned into my own self-talk.
In hindsight, many of the things that I would change about my teenage years could have been easily avoided if I would have just had a better self-image. I’m hoping that this reflection will help me to identify my kids’ insecurities, as they arise with their aging, and be able to help them through it all so they don’t repeat how I lived. Keep reading to find out 4 things that I wish I would have known or believed as a teenager about how I saw myself.
Dear young BR,
(yes, that’s what I call myself haha)
People really do like you. I moved around quite a few times as a kid and changed schools a number of times. I had to make new friends so many times in my life, you would think I had it down pat. I always had an easy time getting along with people but could never let myself get close or build an actual friendship. I had (and full disclosure: still deal with) an insecurity about whether or not people actually liked me. I always had this voice in my head that told me my peers were just being nice to me but didn’t actually like me. “Yea, they invited me to go hangout with them but they didn’t really mean it. They were just being nice. They don’t actually like you because you’re weird and annoying.” I probably missed out on some really amazing friendships. I wish that I actually had the confidence to believe that I really was genuinely liked.
You can control that annoying voice in your head. I didn’t know that I had control over the voice in my head. My subconscious. I truly believed that my subconscious was something that was just there. And I foolishly trusted it. I gave into all the times that the voice told me no one really liked me. That I was annoying. That everyone thought I was weird and I needed to not be so eclectic. That my hair was nappy and ugly. That my stretch marks and two-toned skin was ugly and needed to be hidden. The list goes on. That annoying little voice in my head picked me apart on a daily and I didn’t know that I had the power to change it. This is where affirmations come in. I think that if I had started saying positive affirmations for confidence and a positive self-image as a young child that voice in my head would have been very different. But I am glad that I know all of this now so that I can start my little ones on affirmations young. My kids will know how to keep their self-talk positive and healthy.
Your physical beauty doesn’t just look one way. Everyone is constantly bombarded by the media & of what society deems as beautiful. The problem for me was growing up in an environment where there was no other representation. I spent most of my childhood in a pretty much all white school. That was all I saw. My mom would tell me every day how beautiful I was just the way God made me but now that I’m a mom I see how hard it is to try and undo everything that your child is seeing and hearing on a daily basis. I believed that I had to have long straight hair, a thin body, and light skin to be beautiful. I hated that I got so dark in the summer and that my hair would kink up when I went swimming in my friend’s pool. It wasn’t until pretty recently when I really started realizing that my beauty doesn’t only come in one look or form. I can have my kinky hair out and wild, my melanin-rich skin, and my new mama gut and still be beautiful.
Dress however the hell you want to. I have a very eclectic personal style. I love bright colors, fun patterns, mixing and matching, etc. Instead of expressing myself and looking the way that I wanted to when I was a teen, I bought into the whole concept of thinking that I had to look and dress a certain way to be accepted. Example: I’ve always loved dark make-up. I specifically remember this one instance in junior high when I was putting on make-up in the bathroom at school (because there was no way my parents would let me out of the house with a face full of make-up. *sneaky sneaky*) and one of the popular girls in my grade looked at me with a disgusted look on her face and said “why are you wearing all that dark make-up?” I stopped wearing dark make-up that day. Why did I let what she thought have power over me like that?
Fast-forward to the next school year when everyone was wearing their make-up real dark and heavy like I was the year before. Moral of the story: Stay true to yourself and don’t worry about what others think, because trends come and go like the seasons.
I was a pretty insecure kid and young adult but those days are far behind me now. I am so grateful for the confident person that I’ve grown into. I honestly could care less about what anyone thinks of me or the way that I look. I am hoping that having dealt with those insecurities and getting over them means that I am better equipped to help my kids deal with insecurities as they grow up or just avoid most of them altogether.
How were you as a teenager? Did you have any insecurities? How did you deal with them?
I’d love to open a discussion in the comments below about our past self-image issues and how we can work to help spare our children of dealing with the same things.