"You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously." - Sophia Bush
It's your first day at a new school and you're terrified that you won't make any friends. Your mum bends down, gives you a hug and utters that age old piece of advice..."just be yourself".
The truth is, I've never known how to take this advice. I didn't like myself, my life or the situation I was in. I felt like I had lost control of my life, so I hid behind people and social media in order to forget that I wasn't ok. That I was terrified of facing who I was. Once things in my life changed, I woke up. I saw things for how they were and I made a change.
At least, that's how simple I wish it was.
I was always the shy kid in the corner of the classroom, not necessarily alone, just... there. I've always had friends, sometimes even fairly popular friends, I was just never like them. I have always just been a little boring, or invisible I guess you could say. So when people would tell me to "just be myself", I guess I didn't know what to do. To me, just being myself meant continuing to be invisible. To be quiet and only speak when spoken to because that's what people had come to expect of me. I was never the pretty one, the smart one, the funny one or the artsy/talented one... I left that to my friends. Simply, that's what I was, I was a friend. I was always just known as somebody's friend. You won't believe the amount of times people have come up to me and said "Hey! You're (insert name here)'s friend, right?"
Honestly, it didn't even bother me for a long time. But by the age of about 15, I guess it kind of did. I started to feel like the person everyone knew me as, just wasn't me anymore. I wasn't shy anymore. I wasn't ok with blending in and being invisible. So, I changed, and I've been changing. Every day since then I've slowly changed things about my life and how I act and look. There have been a lot of step backs, and I can't look another human being in the eye and say that I'm fully put together.
So, being told to "Just be yourself". Here was my problem. What if you discover that you don't actually like yourself? What then? It's not as if you can just hop on a train and pick up a new personality from the nearest department store. And then of course, that leads onto a whole other problem of "what if I don't like what I see in the mirror as well?". I mean, looks aren't everything, but they can seriously derail a person's confidence. What if you look in the mirror and all you can think is that your forehead looks too big, you have too many spots, your skin is too pale, your eyes are a boring colour, etc? By nature we seem to be able to focus on the negatives rather than the positives.
So once you realise you don't like who you are, whether that be inside or outside, surely this is where you decide to make a change. But, where to start? Is changing yourself really a good thing? I'm trying to have a fresh start, as I realised that due to the people in my life I began changing who I was without even realising it. But once those people left, I was stuck. I was angry at myself for changing who I was for another person's approval, however, the only real option I saw to get myself out of this situation was to change... again. It's funny really, how the problem can also be a solution. A big change I have made, and am still in the process or making, is caring less about social media. I'll admit that I got caught up for a while with how many likes I got on a selfie I posted on Instagram, or how many people looked at my story on Snapchat. But it soon becomes like an addiction. Like you can never be good enough. The truth, and this took me a long time to learn, is that how people see you on social media really doesn't matter. A filter can hide a lot, but you can't wear them in real life. Social media is often like a competition to see who can look the most put together. But the truth is, nobody is. Surely if our lives were really all that great and put together then we wouldn't NEED to gain confirmation from others or brag about the material things in our lives.
Truthfully, I've tried a lot to change. Cutting down on social media, or at least viewing social media differently, was my first step. The next thing I did was start to look more closely at the people in my life. I was surprised by how... well, how damaging some of the people in my life were and in some cases still are. In order to be happy in your own life and in your own skin you need to surround yourself with people who build you up and make you want to be the best version of yourself. I realised that many of the people in my life were the complete opposite. In fact, they actually made me feel worse about myself. They would belittle me and make me feel worthless in order to make themselves feel better. There is only one word for this... bullying. So, that's the change I'm working on right now. Not only am I trying to distance myself from those who made me feel so low, but I'm also trying to introduce more positive influences into my life. So far, I like to think that I've made a pretty good start (you know who you are).
Mistakes. We've all made them. For a while all I could think about were the mistakes I had made. I was so caught up in the past that I couldn't really imagine much of a future for myself. But, I realised something. Are mistakes ever really mistakes? Of course we all make decisions that we regret. But, if we are able to learn a lesson from them and use the knowledge we gain from them to better ourselves, how can it really be a mistake? Sometimes pain, especially the pain that comes from regret, is a necessary step in rebuilding yourself. I had to completely crumble before I could put the pieces back together, and believe it or not, but crying helps. I will never understand why so many people see crying as a weakness. If anything, it shows wisdom. It shows that you understand that for you to move on and reach acceptance, you must be ready to break apart and stop hiding from what's hurting you.
So, at this point you're probably wondering WHY I crumbled and how I came to a point where I even needed to learn all of this. Well, that's something I can't really talk much about. Mostly because it wasn't just one big thing. It was a build up of little things. The truth is, I ran. I ran from the problems in my life. I even used people and relationships to distract me and make myself feel better. That's my biggest regret. Not only was it not fair on those people, but it wasn't fair on myself. I wish I could end this post with something inspiring. I wish I could say that I'm 100% put back together. But I'm not. I still have a long way to go, but I'm trying. This post is quite simply what it is, it's a jumble of thoughts thrown together. It's just honest, and that's all I can offer anyone right now: honesty. But that's ok, because I'm trying. I'm slowly making the pieces of myself fit together. Basically, the whole point of this is to say, it's ok. It's ok if you don't know how to "Just be Yourself".