“Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
March 8th is International Women’s Day, and as part of the campaign, YouTube introduced a supportive campaign hashtag, #DearMe. The #DearMe trend (created for women) begs the question, “What advice would you give your younger self?” Although I’m not a fan of recording myself and posting it on the internet, I am a fan of writing; so in lieu of a YouTube video, I am writing this blog post—a letter to my younger, middle-school-aged self.
Dear Middle-School Kim,
Here you are, right in the pinnacle of what is notoriously known as “The Awkward Stage.” A lot of things are changing right now, many of them too fast for you to keep up with. You don’t know who your true friends are, you don’t know where you fit in, and you don’t even know who you really are. But you know what? That’s okay. As cliché as it sounds, that torrent of emotion and rapid change is normal, and it happens to everyone. And again, as painfully-cliché as this is… It won’t last forever. Really. Trust your eighteen-year-old self. I know you won’t listen to me because this will sound like things you’ve heard a thousand times before (plus you’re stubborn), but try to keep at least some of what I say somewhere in the back of your teenaged mind.
Don’t worry too much about others’ opinions of you. I know that you just want to fit in and sticking out in any way is the last thing you want, but I’m being honest when I say that individuality is a good thing. Even if you’re not considered the most popular girl, that’s okay—you are not defined by what others think of you. If you constantly live your life trying to please others and continually shape and reshape yourself to fit the ever-changing molds of those around you, you are never going to find contentment. I know you want a taste of freedom, but that liberation cannot and will not come until you accept yourself for who you are. It’ll take some time, but sooner or later, you will learn to accept and embrace all of those things that differentiate you from the crowd. That’s where true freedom comes.
Work hard in school, but don’t let it consume you—your health is more important than good grades. Grades are important and have an effect on your future, both in college and beyond in the “real” world, but they’re not everything. Taking upper-level classes is great (as are sports and other extra-curricular activities), but going nights with little sleep is going to catch up to you. Take enough harder classes to challenge yourself, but don’t over-work yourself so much that you lose your focus and passion for things. Put forth your best effort and strive to earn good grades, but remember that your physical, mental, and emotional health is far more important than a grade.
Don’t be so afraid of failure and rejection—speak up for yourself and others. I know you’re really afraid of failure and rejection, and to be honest, you’re probably always going to be to some extent. They’re natural human fears, and more people than you would think are afraid of those two things. You don’t fully understand those fears yet, but you will someday. Take high school as an opportunity to try new things and put yourself out there. You’re going to fail a lot in life and you’re going to be rejected, but you will also succeed a lot and be accepted. Maybe you failed a test or two, but stop and think: Is that grade really going to matter in a day or a week? Maybe. In a month, or six months, or a year from now? No, probably not. Always do your best, but remember that a few bad grades are not going to ruin your life. Similarly, rejection and failure are part of the learning curve. Be careful, but don’t miss opportunities for fear of failure or rejection.
Strive to grow in your faith, and always make time for God. This is a battle that you’ll be fighting your entire life, but it’s always good to be reminded to take time out of your day for God. You won’t always do this, and you’ll have times of spiritual highs and spiritual lows—you’re only human, after all. But as much as possible, dig into God’s Word and take some time to talk to him. Be open about your faith and show Christ’s love through you in all that you say and do.
Ditch the sparkly blue eyeshadow, smudged eyeliner, and pink lemonade lip gloss. Seriously. You do not know how to put makeup on. Your hair is getting stuck on your lip gloss, your eye makeup gives off the I-just-got-punched-in-the-face vibe, and in a few years, you’re going to look back on those pictures and want to slap your seventh-grade self in the face. Do your future self a favor and stick to a more natural makeup look—tans and golds are much more flattering.
Try to keep some of that in mind, alright? And remember Romans 8:28.
Even though I can’t go back in time and tell myself these things, perhaps one of these points can help you with something going on in your own life.