Myths about the Fountain of Youth and poems about how good it would be to be young again, the idea that there were Glory Days – all confuse me. Seriously, you could not pay me enough to go back and be a teenager again. Even before I lived in a house also inhabited by two teenaged girls, I never wanted to return to that time.
High school was not a particularly comfortable time for me, for lots of reasons, the biggest being I was not sure it was okay to be me. I was probably 20 years old before I realized I’m not ugly. Certainly I’m not breathtakingly beautiful but also not hideously unattractive as I thought throughout high school.
Getting comfortable in your own skin is a big part of adolesence, but besides that, I put enormous and unnecessary pressure on myself, and was unforgiving when I made mistakes. The highs weren’t particularly high but the lows were miserable.
Feeling insecure and incompetent did not make for Glory Days at all. I didn’t know myself that well, either, and didn’t set goals that were good for me. Instead, I just sort of took on the expectations society seemed to have for what a person should want during and immediately after high school.
It is difficult to feel motivated when you spend time berating yourself. Thinking negatively just makes me want to sit still to avoid screwing anything up. It takes courage to have goals and yet more courage to work toward them. Maybe there are people who are born with that kind of courage, but I had to learn about it and experience it before it was real.
I still struggle with negative thinking and self esteem sometimes – probably everyone does. But I don’t worry so much anymore when I mess up, and I don’t feel quite so paralyzed anymore. If there was one, single gift I could give – not just to my own children, but to anyone who suffers with lack of confidence – it would be to remove the self-imposed pressures.
New things will always be scary. Putting yourself out there for people to criticize will never feel comfortable. But it’s worth the anxiety and discomfort to do what you set out to do. Even if you try and fail again and again for years. In fact, all those failures make success better.
Do people really look back and think high school and their early 20s were the best part of their lives? Why? I’m finding my 30s pretty dang pleasant!