I am often asked, ‘if you could go back and tell your thirteen year old self one thing, what would it be?’, of course I have an awful lot of answers to this but one answer that stands out in particular is ‘embrace your imperfections’, or at least what others see as imperfect.
Growing up was hard, as I am sure it is for most, I very rarely find myself looking back at my teen years with happy memories, instead I get kind of filled with sadness; a big grey cloud of mental illness, worry and an awful lot of self-hate. Years of trying to be someone and something I wasn’t, always beating myself up for not being what I saw as perfect. I would be truly terrified of what others thought of me; what I looked like, how I acted, spoke and even how I walked.
Back in 2006, when I was just thirteen years old having bushy eyebrows was a no no, in fact if they weren’t pencil thin you were seen as ugly, or at least so I thought. I remember cursing my father for giving me his big eyebrows, (sorry dad!) now, ten years later I couldn’t be happier about them, not because they are ‘in trend’ but because they suit me and so I feel that I have managed to embrace a little part of me.
I was never bullied, please don’t get me wrong but I guess certain things, no matter how harmless they were meant, stick with you. I remember very specifically walking to class when one girl started pointing and laughing with her friends, shouting over ‘Nicole your hairs gone wavy and it’s going ginger.’ What’s wrong with wavy or ginger hair? -Nothing but at the time, everything. How dare I be a little different or not have perfectly straight, brown hair. This stuck with me and I remember feeling so self-conscious about it, until I actually decided to dye my hair ginger and wear it wavy, cowslick and all. Again, I started embracing a small part of me.
I would try and force myself to be into music, listening to songs and artists I didn’t really understand or enjoy because I felt it made me fit in more. I would say it has only been the last few years that I have accepted I don’t really like music. I enjoy the odd song and it’s kind of nice to listen to sometimes but I don’t have favourites, I don’t know the latest charts or what’s in and that’s just me. I don’t have a need to fit in anymore and that is so freeing I just wish I could have known sooner. Known there is no need to fit in, that being yourself and embracing you makes life not only more peaceful but more enjoyable to.
If I could go back and tell myself what I know now; how our imperfections make us who we are, how we are all wonderfully different and how important self-acceptance is I have no doubt I would be able to look back with more happy memories. I can’t go back but I can create memories now, continuing to accept myself and all that makes me, me.
Thank you for reading, Nicole