by Julia Bluhm

I’ve always made “New Years Resolutions” and “School Year Resolutions.” Sometimes, “Summer Vacation Resolutions.” The idea of change has always appealed to me, and that includes feeling the need to change myself. I always felt really guilty for feeling that way, probably from always hearing about how I was “fine just the way I am,” from my parents and teachers.

My resolutions were never about losing weight, getting a boyfriend, or being “cool.” They were always about things I wanted to be, things I wanted to do, and ways I wanted to act because I thought it would make me happy. Does that mean I have bad self esteem? Maybe somewhat. Or maybe it means that I’m a teenager, and most teenagers don’t really know what we’re doing or who we are and we’re just trying to figure it out. Isn’t it best for us all just to love ourselves and be content about what we were born with? Probably. The thing about being a teenager, though, is that most of us don’t really know what we’re doing. You only know if you dislike something by trying it, correct? That can work backwards, too: You only know if you like something by trying something else. Do you wear that type of clothing because you genuinely like it, or just because it’s the sort of thing you’ve always worn? Go to the store. Try on something really different. You might not like it, and discover that you really do like your old denim jumpers the best. Or you might decide that you like this new thing even better. Congrats, you’re discovering yourself. (P.S. that was a metaphor. We’re not only talking about clothes here.)

For instance, take this fourteen-year-old girl named Clara, a character based off someone I know.  She’s shy, a good student, and sick of it. Her plan for entering high school went something like this: “Be outgoing, kiss a boy, and don’t get all A’s.” She didn’t exactly know how she was going to pull it off, but she was sure it couldn’t be that hard. She carefully thought out clever things to say in her head, and praised herself when she got a word in. Even after all that hard work, she was constantly asked “how are you soooo quiet??” It was no use.

You may try to change your personality, the group of people you hang out with, or how you look. It won’t all work out. In fact a lot of it won’t. Much like Clara, I’ve tried to ditch my shyness on multiple occasions. It keeps coming back. My attempts did not end as complete failures, however: I have become more outspoken, confident, and less worried about what other people think. Those are things that make me happy, so I’m holding onto them. Forcing myself to make pointless conversation? Not so much. The same goes for naturally-extroverted people who try to hold their tongues, smart people who play dumb, and people who are afraid of heights and try to live in treehouses. Try new things, but pay attention to what is good for you. You can only go so far out of your comfort zone without getting completely lost.

Now let me introduce you to Jenna, also based on a real person. She’s from a small town, has a nice group of friends, and basically follows all the rules. She skipped out of school in June wearing Gap jeans and L. L. Bean flip flops, and strutted back to school when September came in a floral dress, thrifted boots, and tall lacy socks pulled up over her knees. At first she felt uncomfortable. She felt like people were judging her new style. Her friends commented on “how much she’d changed” through smiling teeth. She held her head high like the confident, red-lipstick-wearing girls in New York City who “didn’t give a damn what other people thought,” but she felt small. She began to wonder if she was trying to be someone she just couldn’t be.

The first thing I’d do in a situation like this is ask: Why? Did you make this change to impress someone, to be “cool,” or to get attention? If so, reconsider. But if you think you made your decision because you like it and it empowers you, go for it. Second, why is this change making you feel weird? Honestly, all changes are probably going to feel weird at first. Duh, it’s a change. If you’re feeling weird because of other people’s reactions, oh well–they’ll get used to it. They’ll shut up after a while. If wearing a tie-dye maxi skirt makes you feel like dancing and smiling when you’re alone in your bedroom and there’s no one to judge you, wear it to school. Don’t let the haters rain on your parade.

So yes, you’re fine just the way you are. There’s nothing wrong with how you act, or what you wear, or who your friends are. But if you want to try something new, there’s nothing wrong with that either. It doesn’t mean you have a bad self esteem or you’re not grateful for what you have. I’ve tried to change many things about myself, but it doesn’t mean I love myself any less than I ever did. In fact, I think it’s made me appreciate myself even more. I’m walking around, feeling like a completely exclusive piece of art that I created on my own. That makes me really proud.