Staying True to Myself

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Vox, Atlanta

“Look at what’s she’s wearing. … Is that even a real brand name? Oh yeah, I remember her. That’s the weird girl.”

Sounds familiar, right?

In most schools, cliques are ways for people to be around others who are like them. But the cliques are also exclusive, and people get left out. In my case, I’m stuck inside a private school where kids who don’t wear brand names or go to fancy country clubs usually end up getting ignored. It’s annoying to have to tell people, “Oh I don’t live in Buckhead” or “Sorry, I don’t know what that store is.”

I thought something was wrong with me. I started to wonder why I just couldn’t be like those so-called “pretty” girls. I wanted to be accepted and to have everything given to me with the snap of my fingers. I thought acting like a complete wannabe prep would make my school life easier, and for a little while I actually pulled it off.

I’ve been at my school for nine years, but cliques didn’t really become a problem until middle school. That’s when my friends went from playing with dolls to shopping at Phipps Plaza. They went from going to Chick-fil-A to $40-per-plate restaurants.

I wanted to be a part of the horrible “in” crowd, because being excluded really started to hurt, especially to a self-conscious middle school girl. I was left out of the loop and nobody even seemed to notice. The thing is, I’m really a pretty interesting person, but most people didn’t seem to care about anything except the clothes in my closet and how rich my parents were. I wanted so much to be included that I started to completely ignore who I was. All I cared about was fitting in, even though those girls were nothing like me.

When I realized everyone went to Abercrombie and Fitch, I started trying to buy clothes from there. When I saw that everyone belonged to a lavish country club, I tried to be invited to these country clubs. When they wore Skechers shoes, I wanted to get a pair. I wanted to have everything they had. I wanted to have their lifestyle.

As impossible as my wannabe act seems, it worked for a little while. I searched different department stores to find something brand-name. I begged my mom to drive me to different Buckhead mansions. All of these efforts seemed like they were worth it at the time. I think my mom sensed my insecurity, too, so she tried her best to get some of the things I really wanted. I finally felt somewhat accepted at school, and I thought everything was finally all right. I was so naïve. It bothers me to this day that I tried to do that.

It’s a little hard to ignore your real self when you shop at Marshalls instead of Lacoste or live in Smyrna, not Buckhead. After a few years of denial, I finally opened my eyes to the fact that I’m just not like most of the people at my school. It wasn’t easy, though. I had to completely change everything I had tricked myself into believing.

One of the questions I asked myself was, what’s the point? After much deliberation, I decided there was no point. I knew I couldn’t keep trying to act like someone that I’m not. It took me a long time to realize that trying to conform was one of the stupidest things I have ever done. I thought it was going to be easy, but it was a huge struggle to fit into a society that doesn’t fit my style.

That’s when I ditched the fake Lacoste and started to wear Vans and cool T-shirts and jeans almost every day. I stopped listening to poppy top 100 music and began to listen to alternative music and real hip hop, not crap like “This is Why I’m Hot.” Best of all, I stopped ignoring the people who were like me and started hanging out with them all the time. I have more real friends than I had before, because now my friends actually like me for me.

Staying true to myself makes it a lot easier to go through life. I actually have more self-confidence than I ever thought I would. I finally learned to like myself and to be proud of who I am. All the rest fell into place.

Copyright 2008 VOX Teen Communications