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