I remember the first time I recognized my discomfort with being alone. It was my first semester of my junior year in high school, and I was feeling unhappy about a lot of the friendships I had made in my earlier years of schooling. I felt like I had been stuck in the same place for awhile. I kept deeming myself as a follower, and I failed to meet other people and must up the courage to try new things. I didn’t know what I valued anymore, and I didn’t make the time to branch out to get to know other people on campus. Because of these mixed emotions, I was extremely upset. I felt isolated. Moreover, the worst part was that I had invested so much time into these people. In this moment, I felt like my identity— the one I had spent a majority of this time cultivating around the same people for those last two years— was stripped. When you’re alone, it can be pretty unsettling. It seems out of the norm and awkward. However, being on one’s own can also be the best thing in the world. Because of this time in my life, I learned one of the most important lessons— be your own best friend.
Why Am I Talking About Individuality?
Although this experience was pretty powerful for me in high school. It still doesn’t mean I have fully conquered the art of being comfortable on my own. When I am in a social situation and unaware of the fact that I might be “too comfortable”, I will often ignore the signs that I am not growing. I think it is important for individuals to recognize their own comfort levels and challenge themselves to grow beyond what they know. Everyone (or most people) are usually in touch with their feelings. However, this doesn’t mean they always act on them. I was unhappy in my friend group for over a year, but I never did anything about it. One of my favorite relationship gurus, Matthew Hussey, says to not only go with your gut feeling but rather to act on it. I found this to be true in my situation. For so long I would think to myself, I am unhappy. I’m not meant to have good friends. I deserve to be in the place I’m in. There’s no point in trying to branch out. My internal thoughts noted the toxicity of what happened when I was trying to rationalize my own happiness. As a result from being overwhelmed by these thoughts, I was discontent with my life.
Realizing Something More
Following a brief hiatus from that friend group in high school, I was faced with my biggest fear at the time— the fear of being on my own. The next few months included eating lunch by myself in my school’s outreach office, watching movies with myself on the weekends because I didn’t know who to hangout with, and crying to my mom about how my friends had moved on and didn’t seem to miss my presence. Despite all my anxieties, I didn’t want to go back to those friends. I had changed, and I knew that I didn’t want to be stuck in the same place forever doing the same thing with the same people. I wanted to grow, and I wanted to look at myself in the mirror and be proud of who I was/ am. I wanted to be healthy and happy. I didn’t want to feel that I was living in the shadow of someone else anymore— because that’s how I was feeling at the time.
The Elizabeth You Know— The One Who Embraces Rejection
When second semester came around, I started to see the good in my decision. Perhaps it was not for the reason one might think though. I was happier not because of the choice to leave my friend group, but because I could give myself time to grow and rethink a lot of the things that I wanted in my life. I originally didn’t want to leave this friend group. I tried to apologize to the individual that I was having a conflict with, but they told me they did not want to work it out. Being denied hurt. Little did I know that rejection was the catalyst for my life to change. Because of that rejection and my choice to leave this friend group, I was motivated to do things for myself again. I lost 80 pounds, I made new friends (ones who truly had my best interest at heart), I fell in love with education and the idea of working with others to promote peace, I applied and was selected for the campus ministry leadership program at my school, I spent so much time with myself to help heal, I started new rituals like going to the gym regularly, I picked up hiking, etc. For the first time in my life, I felt like my own person. I was healthier, happier, and more content with my choices. I had my own say in life, and I was comfortable with the uncomfortable. I no longer was living in the shadow of another person.
Growth— How Do We Grow?
Growth happens when we recognize and ACT on our unhappiness and discomfort. I am a strong believer that we keep on growing throughout our lives. To truly know oneself (I believe) takes a lifetime. If we stop questioning and start settling for what’s around us rather than make an effort to know more beyond our comfort level, then we, as individuals, are not going to grow. Comfort kills growth.
Why Do We Judge Others?
Often times when my community finds out about my life and the mindset I have, they’ll respond quick with judgements and express their jealousy. I sometimes hear comments like these: “Wow Elizabeth, you must’ve never dealt with real life problems.” “You’re lucky that you have a healthy family.” “Elizabeth, you can’t complain because you get everything you want.” “You love school, so of course it’s easy for you to get good grades.” “You’re too positive, Elizabeth.”
How Do I Respond?
For the longest time, I’ve shrugged these comments off. When people make comments like these, I know that they are dealing with heavy emotions in their own lives. Yet, if there is one thing I hope people have gathered from reading my blog posts— I am like you too. Yes, I’ve been rejected more times than you can imagine. I was bullied throughout elementary school for my weight. Yes, I have been hurt. I have been through the fire like a lot of people. In high school, I realized that I don’t want to live my life always seeing myself as the girl who was hurt by something or someone. I don’t want to prevent myself from growing. Instead, I want to move past it. My story doesn’t have to end at my adversities. Perhaps it was my own adversities that had allowed me to grow in the first place.
Insightful Outlook— You Don’t Need Anybody’s Permission To Be Your Own Person
The reason it took so long for me to branch out in high school was because I was waiting for permission from others. When individuals are in a place where external factors are not allowing them to go out and follow their own passions— then they (the individuals) aren’t going to grow. For so long I did what others told me to do. (I still do this sometimes, and, it makes me unhappy because I know I am living somebody else’s life and not my own). Matthew Hussey’s video summarizes a lot of topics I covered today in this blog post— I hope you watch it if you have a few minutes.
What Is The Takeaway? Focusing On Myself
Be your own person. So often, we get caught up in what others are doing. What’s more, we might even try to follow along with the crowd to fit in or be accepted. I am guilty of this at times. I was always doing this in my early years of high school. Yet, I know now that I don’t want to be a cookie cutter person— who is made up of what society or others deems as “cool” or “important”. I want to be my own person; a god loving, ginger dreaming, country music playing, disney movie watching, deep belly laughing, red head girl named Elizabeth. I want to embrace the fact that I love resilience and love. I want to show others that I have grown from my life experiences. I want to build myself up with positive words and affirmations. I want to be my own person and make the time to get to know people because I find them and their presence/ stories inspiring. I don’t want to live in someone else’s shadow and go along with what other people are doing. I am where I am today because of my growth and my willingness to learn from the bad points in my life. Through my high school experience I learned that individuality is more than being comfortable on my own— individuality is showing authenticity.
Summer Lovin’— Thank You!
Thank you for following along with these blog posts. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback, and I’m thankful that you enjoy reading these. I hope to have one more in the series before I head back to school in a few weeks. As always, I hope you’re having a good week so far. Thank you for reading. It means a lot.