I was homeschooled for the first eight grades, not joining public school until grade 9. I played sports and participated in activities and had a lot of friends and I liked myself a lot but when I went to school I realized I wouldn’t be accepted until I changed. That was the year I began wearing makeup, different clothes and I even changed my hair.
The point in the year that I changed all that was about halfway through, and the day I came to school different four of the popular girls complimented my look. It made me feel good to get their approval because I guess on some level they were the leaders and I wanted them to like me as we do any leaders. But that only lasted so long.
Near the end of the year, the opportunity came to try out for a local idol singing competition that would go through the summer. Immediately, I knew I wanted to do it and, even though I was afraid, I didn’t hesitate to march into the auditions and sing my heart out, and you know what? I came out top ten of forty.
Having the courage to be able to do that impressed a lot of popular kids but more importantly, it impressed my friends and gave us a stronger foundation for our friendship; and my courage gave THEM courage in themselves. Because of my example, my friends began trying new things. They began caring less about people who didn’t like them and their opinions.
My best friend, for example, I met on the first day. She was an outcast because she wasn’t perfect looking and because she didn’t have a problem with speaking her mind but as soon as she noticed me and saw I was new, she introduced herself, showed me around the school and we became fast friends – not because she was “cool” but because she was real and kind. If I were one of those girls who are obsessed with only being friends with “cool” people then I would have missed out on my truest and longest friendship.
Eventually, my “I don’t give a sh*t what people think” attitude became apparent to everyone in school and I became “cool” because of it. But did I stray from my friends? No. I had friends in all of the different groups in school but I had my main two friends and we were a unit. We were always together.
Shockingly, in grade 11, a boy who had hated me since my first day of grade 9 – who called me things behind my back and was arrogant all the time – asked to take me out to lunch. Curious, I went and he didn’t say a word about hating me – not one word. We simply had a nice conversation and he bought lunch and that was that.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you’re yourself, people respect you for that – maybe not everyone – but the right people will. And because of the courage I have to be myself, I have true friends; friends I don’t question, friends who tell me how it is, friends I trust – because I know they like the REAL me. I don’t sugarcoat who I am. Like me or don’t. I’m not going to change who I am for anybody. I like me and my friends like me too and that’s all that matters.
Being true to yourself is like a natural screening process for people in your life. The good people get in and the bad people are caught in the filter. So be true to who you are and you won’t go through life trying to be someone you’re not. You are unique and special and that is beautiful.
As Dr. Seuss said: “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”