My middle school self was a girl who woke up earlier every morning to flat iron her hair, obsessively pressing down and watching the wispy smoke rise, hoping to God that it would make her prettier. She was naturally thin and healthy, but ultimately convinced her body was all wrong. She hated her pale eyelashes, the shape of her nose, and the way her face would turn instantly red whenever she was spoken to. She absorbed criticisms from boys with a pained smile and tucked them away to cry over later, and she was certain that all the girls whispered about her behind her back. She was a girl who was terrified of raising her hand in class, who compared herself incessantly to her peers, who could not wait to get home and melt into a heap of insecurity in the comfort of her purple bedroom.

I cannot concretely speak for anyone else’s middle school experience, but mine was far more miserable than I originally allowed myself to believe. All my years of middle school and high school have been documented in a mismatched collection of journals, beginning in 2013 and leading up until present day. These books are a blessing and a curse as they hold pages upon pages of my most immature thoughts, my abundant mistakes, and all my misguided ways of living. Despite the physical and emotional discomfort I feel while reading through them, I do consider my journals to be one of the greatest gifts I could possibly give myself, and perhaps one day, to future generations.

I am infrequently proud of the things I wrote in my earliest journals as they are tragically plagued with immaturity. But the beauty of it is the blatant transitioning and maturing one can observe as time passes. Not only does my handwriting improve, but so do my thoughts, my feelings, my emotional well-being, and so on. I can’t say for sure onto how many pages I scrawled self-deprecating thoughts, droning on and on about all the things I loathed about myself. I can say, however, that those pages have grown increasingly rare, if not nonexistent. That’s not to say that I am devoid of all insecurities, but rather I have accepted myself. I stopped ruthlessly criticizing my appearance and my weaknesses as I learned not to let them define me.

Although I am grateful for my current well-being, it continues to pain me to reflect on my past self. I believe middle school is the years in which you begin to learn the insecurities women torment themselves with for the entirety of their lives, and I hate that it so deeply affected me, and furthermore, that it affects and will continue to affect young girls. To my middle school self and to all young girls, I wish I could say that all that pain and insecurity is for the best. To some degree it is, but it causes so much harm. I am still unlearning all the ways in which I was taught to dislike myself. There are a lot of cliche pieces of advice to give to a young girl, but I think it all boils down to a matter of perspective. This can be hard at a younger age, but it’s crucial to keep a healthy perspective on the things that matter and the things that don’t. Self-love, health, confidence, education matters. Your weight, what boys say about you, the amount of friends you have doesn’t. I didn’t grasp these things when I was thirteen and fourteen and it has taken me nearly half a decade to do so. So to my middle school self, I will love you now.


CC BY-SA 4.0 To my middle school self by Emma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Beth 2 years ago

    Hey Emma!
    This piece was so well-written. I think everybody can relate to a time of self-doubt and low confidence. Although I never kept journals, I can easily remember those times and the insecurities. I think all middle schoolers could benefit from reading this and to realize that you will grow into yourself and learn to love yourself, and that middle/high school is a time of growth, that it won’t be like that forever. What a beautiful post. I loved reading this.

  2. Annie 2 years ago

    This post is harsh in content but true in nature. I don’t mean to say that your words or the message itself is harsh, but the memories and relationships that arise from reading this are, for lack of other words, harsh. I find it difficult to read this, but I also find it important, to for me specifically, but more importantly for my cousin who is beginning to go through these kinds of transitions in her life right now. This post is striking in a way that it could affect change in her life, and I hope that in some way it does. I want her to read this so she can feel and understand that she is not alone in her journey; I want her to know that I, along with millions of others, are with her along the way. Your post was beautiful, relatable, and painful in a way that catches the reader’s attention. Thank you for this post, and for the positivity it gives for the future.

  3. Ellie 2 years ago

    what a powerful and touching post you have created and shared. This is so relatable for many girls who have too undergone the struggles that come along with middle school, myself especially. You have so accurately described what it is like to be a girl growing up in society. Beauty is everything. If you don’t have the right clothes, hairstyle, shoes, make-up, etc, you are not as pretty. That is ridiculous. Young girls should not even be worried about the way that they look. That should not matter at all. Do you think that society will ever change is that regard? Will exterior beauty ever lose value? Thank you for sharing this post, I absolutely loved it.

  4. Ceceli 2 years ago

    Wow I really enjoyed reading that because it is so relatable. I too have several, not very well kept, journals that document events that had happened to me from about 8th grade and on. I cringe reading some of the things I wrote in there. But I think that having all of these journals are a really good way to look back on how much I really have grown as a person. I have been looking back at my high school experience and experiencing a lot of self reflection; looking through my journals is really helpful in this. I wish I could tell younger girls what it is gonna be like to go through these years have got through but everyone has to experience certain things to grow. Do u think at the time when first journaling your thoughts would they have been helpful later on? I know I never thought about it that way. I thought about it as a way to vent and get my feelings out. Again, I really loved reading this.

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