“I don’t believe that you should be friends with these girls anymore, you are a bad influence on them”.
My Head of Year told me that when I was 13. I was told that I was something bad, that should be removed- like I was some kind of infection. And over the past couple of years, it had been hard to not feel that way, that by being myself I am a bad influence on people and should therefore shut myself away before I affect them.
I was so convinced that you could only give what people wanted to see and nothing else, because anything ‘you’ wasn’t good enough.
Bubbly, hard-working, social, reserved- anything you wanted I would have it. Sounds perfect right? Make yourself the perfect friend, they will want you...right? Put those parts away that you don’t like and let yourself become what they want you to be.
With the startling benefit of hindsight, I can sit here and tell you that ‘fake it until you make it’ is a terrible phrase. Because the moment that people believe the mask that you put is when you will truly start to fall apart. I look back at that person that I was- not in pity or spite, rather to know that I’m not that person anymore. Maybe I don’t have as many friends as I did back then, but this journey of trying to break down my own barriers, has left me with the most kind and genuine people that I know. I feel loved, and supported, and able to let down parts of myself. Be vulnerable.
So from now on I will not allow someone to say that I need to ‘get over’ my mental health. I will not allow someone to say that ‘they do not recognise this sad side of me’. There is not a single person on this earth that is entitled to tell you that you need to take a step back from self improvement- whatever form it may take. For me, it was letting myself feel because I was tired. So tired. Tired of pulling up a mask that I didn’t truly believe in and tired of numbing my emotions so that I wouldn’t confront how terrible I was feeling. This lack of energy comes and goes in waves, but it is no longer a tsunami.
Whoever told you that the real you wasn’t good enough- your parents, your friends, your teachers, yourself- they are so undeniably wrong. I know I’m making it really simple, but the moment that I looked in the mirror and realised that I didn’t recognise the person in front of me was when I started to make progress. When I started to make change.
Not for anyone else. For me.
That is the most crucial detail. In whatever way you find comfortable, make changes that satisfy your goals and the person you want to be. Personal change and goals are the most empowering, which also makes them the most rewarding. When the sentence changes from “I should” to “I am” is when you are doing you.
I can now look in the mirror. After years of being too afraid of seeing how broken and unfamiliar I had become to that 13 year old that had so much hope and love in her heart. I can now look in the mirror and can recognise that I’m not perfect, but that doesn’t mean I’m an infection or a ‘bad influence’. It is a journey and a process that you can only pursue if you trust that you will come out the other end.
So my advice to you is that today, you will do something for yourself. To start that journey, to make that first step. Look in the mirror, or release it into the universe:
“I am me. And I am enough.”
Have faith in yourself, and receive the love you deserve.