Embrace Your Differences

by Leah Peloff

Nine years old. This, according to The New York Times, is the age that most females’ confidence levels peak and they feel “assertive and positive about themselves.” The study also showed that, by high school, less than a third of girls still feel this way. Think back to elementary school. Did you really care if your shirt matched your pants perfectly? Probably not, because you liked each clothing item and you weren’t afraid of judgment from peers. In middle school, I would try my hardest to send the ugliest Snapchats possible to my friends because I thought it was hilarious. But as we’ve gotten older, people now use filters, find good lighting, and try to make cute faces as to encourage others to think as highly of them as possible.

Almost everyone has something about themself that they have learned to be ashamed of. For me, it’s my height. When I was younger, I loved being tall; I saw it as making me special, unique, and different in a good way. It made me feel powerful and being powerful made me feel confident. Since I’ve been in high school, though, I have grown to hate being such a deviation from the norm. At just under 5’10”, I have been told that “tall girls are gross” (that was a fun one), “Are you going to be taller than your date??” “Why are you so tall??” and more. Something that used to make me feel like a confident, assertive nine-yearold all of a sudden made me feel so weird and embarrassed. Without even noticing it, I let this message about how I “should” look impact my daily life; I always think twice about the shoes I’m wearing, I can’t remember the last time I wore heels, and I slouch whenever I talk to people so they don’t know how tall I actually am.

No matter what your “thing” is, the most important lesson that I have learned as I finish up my last little bit of high school is that it only matters if you let it. Whether it is your height, weight, nose, hair, body, intelligence, financial standing, etc., no societal standards can make you feel less worthy of happiness unless you internalize them. Although it is most definitely hard, and I can’t say I’ve completely mastered it, the best way you can try to embody your nine-year-old confidence is to always remind yourself that you are worthy of just as much happiness as you once had before social norms got in the way.