I am having trouble growing up. Not in a maturity sense, not in a way where I can’t take care of bills, and not in a way of responsibility, either. I’m having trouble growing up in a world I wasn’t born into.
In the world I was born into, I remember going to elementary school, armed and ready with the courage to meet new friends and know the name of anyone and everyone I encountered. I remember effortlessly exercising respect to those around me and the adults beyond my years. There was no question as to why John’s skin was black and Annie’s eyes were small. There was no question as to what brand of clothes Catherine wore or what kind of car Brandon’s dad drove him to school in. Station-wagons and Mustangs were simply cars, dresses with labels and dresses without labels made little girls look cute, and physical features and skin colors created exciting different characters of the beginning chapters in the storybook of my life. Nothing limited my determination to conjure up an introduction, paired with a compliment, to a friendly receiver ready to race at recess and plan sleepovers… Up until the moment I started “growing up” and was reborn into the confusing world I struggle with now.
I’m 21 and, despite having exceptional conversation skills, I have more trouble trying to make friends now than I did years before. I walk into a room and I feel the eyes of girls who look long enough to summarize my outfit, make-up, hair, and my level of “pretty,” as if that’s all I have to offer the world. The warmth of smiles that I used to get from little girls (pre-hormonal and boyfriend days) are now replaced with icy judgements and lip-gloss sealed silences. And the sad thing is, all of these girls used to be innocent little girls with hearts that innately knew how to love other little girls around them, even before they could love a boy. We lose that love with other girls around us when we choose the really cute (but suspiciously flirty) guy over a friend. The moment we put 99% of our day into looking “beautiful” and only 1% in maintaining our identity, we lose ourselves. The moment we look at ourselves and find what we are told is “ugly” and allow it to be a stress in our lives, we start the path of destruction. No wonder other girls who either: a) lose their identity later in life or b) have already lost it, don’t want to be around other lost little girls who compromise themselves for the wrong idea of a woman! (And for those little girls who fall into the letter ‘C’ girls who were courageous enough to be themselves and knew better– go letter Cs!) These judgements of ourselves and others are strung together with shame and most importantly, misconceptions. We decide who we are, not anyone else. There is no universal definition of beauty. Beauty isn’t boring. It has a multiplicity of definitions, which is what makes “beauty” beautiful. If we start with judging ourselves with one specific definition, it gets easier and easier to judge others and compare ourselves to.
All around me girls are wearing the same exact outfits, getting the same exact hair, wearing the same exact shoes and all going to the same exact location (most likely a bar or club) and then basing their worth upon those things against one another. Girls who are “beautiful” are hated either because they fit the profile of a society-selected definition of “beauty” and/or they are self-seeking and arrogant. Girls who wish to be like those “beautiful” girls are struggling and missing out on their own original beauty.
If girls around me stopped competing for attention and just rediscovered the little girl beneath the layers of heartbreak, betrayal, and make-up– maybe they’d have room for confidence in the best parts of being a woman: providing unconditional love, balancing relationships with grace, and passing both of those on to our daughters.
You can’t depend on your physical looks because there is no means to an end. There is no, “If I look beautiful, I will be happy.” The only source of joy you can get from is “If I am me, I will be happy” because physical beauty runs out long before the beauty from within. Being truly beautiful from within is an unleashing of compassion, friendship, and confidence in who you are. If there’s anything that I wish I could say my age now (without sounding like an elderly lady in a Mitch Albom book), it’d be to tell every girl I met to grab their favorite childhood picture and remember what she hoped for herself in the future. We are all just a bunch of kids with grown-up faces. You can either focus on the grown up face, or focus on the kid at heart.