My time growing up often felt like an endless concoction comprised of equal parts misery, embarrassment, and extreme self consciousness. I was my own worst enemy— I would wake up in the mornings dreading my face, the sound of my voice, and every interaction I was going to have. Everything about me was bad. This severe self criticism lasted for years, it wasn't until high school that I began the road to self acceptance. Although most of my formative years felt like some kind of cruel torture, I do not regret having to live through them. Before you label me as a masochist, allow me to explain. Not only did I avoid peaking young (which goes hand in hand with having a false and heightened sense of self importance at a young age); I was forced, right then and there, to deal with myself and the world and learn to cope without relying on anyone but myself to do so. I also truly believe it made me a better person. I was shy, awkward, perpetually uncomfortable, and found happiness in reading books. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m the most well adjusted person you’ll meet, but I think I’m alright. Most days, I’d rather read a book than do almost anything else, but I also feel capable of doing anything else. I no longer blame myself for lulls in conversation, and I no longer feel the need to tip toe around people to avoid confrontation. I no longer feel responsible for things out of my control.

The point is this: those years have long passed, but the lessons they taught me are stamped onto me forever. Growing up under the impression that you are unloved is possibly one of the hardest things to do. It doesn’t even have to be true— my sentiments were mere delusions. But the deceptive feelings were such a strong compass for so many years that the mere act of overcoming it took intense transformation. I know there are plenty of others like me who grew despite a childhood of self criticism. It has taken me time but I have realized this: it is the former outcasts, the former weirdos who make this world turn. It’s the ones who know what it’s like the be unheard, unliked, or forgotten. It’s the kids who spent their summers with their heads buried in books, glasses perched at the tips of their noses, eyes eager for the next word, ready to absorb the story. It’s these kids who are the gems of society. They will always hear the timid voice in the back, wanting to be heard. They’ll always see themselves in the uncertain eyes, the faint embarassment, the debilitating feeling of painful self awareness and respond with acceptance and kindness because they’ve fought that battle.

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