A couple of Saturdays ago I stood in front of my mirror, plucking my eyebrows and poking at my acne in disgust. I wanted to look perfect, and I couldn’t understand how I could feel so inferior compared to the beauty I’m around everyday. After mulling over various ideas in my head, I decided I was going to make myself “glow up.” I decided I’d make myself look attractive no matter how much it would take. I was tired of feeling self-conscious about what I looked like, and I wanted to change.
To begin my “glow,” I made a plan to complete a list of things that would make everyone find me as beautiful as I wanted to be. I was going to keep my nails and hair in tip-top shape, whiten my teeth in whatever way possible, and somehow eradicate my acne. Pretty soon I realized I had no real interest in completing anything on the list. My attempted “glow up” actually had an inverse effect. Besides the fact that I never actually did anything on the list, I found myself unsuccessful in feeling any better about myself than I had in the days before. At that point, one of the best things that ever happened to me flashed across my mind: I realized that I wasn’t happy.
All of the things I was doing were devoted to my outside image, not what was on the inside. All of the makeup, clothes, and friends in the world couldn’t bring me out of the hole I’d unintentionally sunk into. After staring at my reflection and coming to terms with the fact that I near hated what I saw, I decided to take a deep look into how my life was progressing. I realized that the only way I could feel better about myself was to come up with a list of things solely dedicated to improving how I felt on the inside too.
I started by asking a few of my friends some questions to find out how people our age feel about themselves versus the approval of the people around them. I was surprised to find that most of the people I asked rated their self image at around a three on a scale of one to 10. When I probed deeper, I realized that most of the people I spoke to showed higher numbers on the scale when asked how much they cared about their peers’ approval (between seven and eight) than when asked how much they act like their true selves on a daily basis (between four and six). I think these results show how focused we are as a generation on seeming “perfect” to others, regardless of its impact on us.
However, I also found positive information sprinkled in between a lot of the self-doubt I saw in my responses. When I asked what they’d improve about themselves, I saw answers such as attitude, mentality, ability to focus, and social skills. Many of my interviewees also vocalized their want to improve themselves for themselves, which I thought was an interesting contrast to the answers they presented during questions about how they feel about what others think about them.
As teens, it’s important that we form a concrete image of ourselves and stick to it. If you’re not strong in what you believe in, outside forces are sure to shape you as they see fit. Eventually you’ll realize that the things you do throughout the day to appease others won’t matter, and at the end of the day you’ll be stuck with yourself. What kind of “self” do you want to have to deal with?
Below are some tips that I followed to change my life that can hopefully help you take control of yours too. As teenagers, I think it’s important to take these years to solidify the person we want to be. So read what I have to say carefully, as it may help you sometime in your near future.
Stop Lying to Yourself
It’s easy to say that you’re “fine.” It’s our natural reaction when asked how we’re doing to say “good” or “fine,” when 8/10 times there’s a lot more we aren’t saying. At our age it’s difficult to express ourselves to people, especially the adults in our life. Take a moment to evaluate how you’re actually doing in life. Ask yourself: “Are you happy?” That may sound like a dumb question, but it’s truly a great way to start thinking about yourself. If you’re not happy, start thinking about some things you can do to make yourself happy, no matter how simple.
This may sound crazy, but think about yourself for a minute. How many times do you do things that have the sole purpose of making you happy? If you’re always doing things to make others happy there’s no way you’ll have any energy left to deal with yourself at the end of the day. Disregard what other people say about what makes you happy. Take the time to do something that keeps you going at least twice a day. This can be as simple as reading a book, taking a scented bath, or treating yourself to something special. Don’t be afraid to do something extravagant from time to time that you haven’t done in a while. In my glow up, I found that having something to look forward to is a great way to stay positive about your daily life.
Cut off Your Dead Weight
I realized that most of the people I surround myself with are only focused on their immediate lives. They’re living in the moment, sneaking out, acting differently than they feel. Inside, I believe they’re struggling with themselves. The amount of times I’ve watched people switch their behavior to match their peers is extremely disturbing.
I also realized that although I was going out of my way to make others happy, I wasn’t necessarily doing the same for myself. I’ve always been a shoulder to cry on for friends whenever necessary, but after recently going through some things, I realized that I can’t say the same for my friends. I stopped doing things just to appease people and worrying about what people thought of me, and instead decided to do what made me happy. I shook off the dead weight, and kept it moving. You’d be surprised how fast a change in mentality can turn your life around.
Ask Yourself what THEY do for YOU
When you start asking yourself important questions about what benefits or matters to you in the long run, you’ll slowly start to become more aware of what’s happening around you.
Are you paying my college tuition? No? Then maybe I shouldn’t pay you any mind when you try to convince me to disregard studying and bettering myself for rowdy parties and concerts.
Do you buy my clothes? No? Then maybe I shouldn’t care what you think of what I wear.
I’ve found that this also helps with self-consciousness, as once you realize how little the opinions of others impact your development as a person, you’ll start to do what you want no matter what anyone else may think of it.
Sarah, 16, is a junior at Milton High School