It’s simple: You just need to be you

The first thing I was told when going into high school is “make friends, as many as you can.” So I took that advice and ran with it. Little did I know, I had already set myself up for failure. 

My number-one worry in high school was that I wouldn’t be accepted. After watching all of the high school-based movies in middle school, my mind started to shape what high school would be like. You can’t help but come in with certain expectations. I’m not here to tell you that these expectations are wrong, but for me, there were some dramatic differences.

Coming into VHHS as a freshman, I tried to make as many friends as I could. I would label myself as shy, so making friends was not an easy thing to do. But I pushed that part of me away so that making friends would be easier.

My sophomore year, I had developed a group of friends, and I was satisfied with myself. 

It took me all the way until my junior year to realize I had completely changed who I was. Changing in high school is bound to happen; you develop new characteristics and new ideologies, but what is important is that you align with those personalities and hold onto them tightly. It is easy to lose yourself in hopes of fitting in with people.

My junior year, I looked in the mirror and was unable to recognize myself. I completely changed who I was because I wanted to be accepted socially. I didn’t want people to think that I wasn’t cool because they knew I didn’t have many friends. It was my biggest fear, and I didn’t let myself figure it out until it was too late. 

Having to fake what you believe, fake how you act, fake your entire personality to fit in with people is exhausting. I’m mad at myself for the pain I put myself through to make me feel socially accepted. I had surrounded myself with people that I didn’t align with, and it caused me to feel an abundance of insecurity and like a self-conscious outsider.

That moment when you’re sitting in a basement full of your “friends” and listening to the way they talk, thinking about the things that they do that you follow along with and realizing that you’re different from them, is truly traumatizing, and it made me feel weak. It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that I had changed as a person to fit in with people who didn’t make me happy. 

My senior year, I tried to start fresh. I wanted to allow myself to be truly me, partake in interests that I cared about, and show my true personality in school. What I got in return, I am finally satisfied with. I don’t feel judged, I don’t feel worthless and I feel like my voice matters. I finally feel like people enjoy being around me, and that feeling is unlike any other. It’s refreshing.

I’m happy to have learned this valuable lesson early on in my life, because it will take me far when finding the right people to surround myself with in college.

What I learned from this experience is you don’t need to have many friends to be socially accepted. You will find the people that make you experience true joy. You might find those people in high school, and you might not. Just don’t change for someone else. I promise, you don’t need to; you are perfect just the way you are, and have always been. Someone will see and appreciate that.