“Tween Esteem: Loving the Skin You’re In”

Something that no one ever told me when I was young is that different is actually good

Discovering who you are will take you down many different paths.  You may start out as a goody-two-shoes cheerleader and evolve into an edgy punk rocker.  Maybe today you’re a class clown but tomorrow you’re a champion math whiz.  More likely, you’re none of these, and you just won’t know where you fit in for a very long time.  And that is okay.  As you move through life, the choices you make and the activities you engage in and the places you live will change.  Every time you do something new or accomplish a new achievement, you will become something and someone different.  The challenge is to embrace the growing and changing you and to love that girl no matter who she may be at any moment.  IMG_3364

Everyone has talents: piano, basketball, cooking, making a friend feel appreciated and loved.  But sometimes we don’t always recognize those talents in ourselves.  In my case, I was too preoccupied with fitting in to spend much time thinking about what made me special.  I wanted to hang out with the right crowd, have the right clothes, go to the right places.  Gaining the acceptance of the “popular” crowd sometimes required me to do things that made me uncomfortable.  Stepping out of our comfort zone – to do public speaking or ask someone on a date – can be a valuable way to grow and learn something new, but if you’re never in your comfort zone and you’re engaging in self-destructive behaviors, after a while you start forgetting who you are.

In addition to all the usual teenage woes and insecurities, I also had a secret.  I literally wore a mask every day of my life: a mask of heavy makeup covering up a large birthmark which spanned much of the left side of my face.  I was so worried about my mask slipping – smudging the makeup on my turtleneck, letting anyone touch me – that it became hard to relate to people.  They couldn’t really see my face, and so how could they ever really know me?  I was different than everyone else, and though I hid my physical differences as best I could, I still felt different on the inside.  Maybe my classmates couldn’t see my birthmark, but they could see my wildly curly hair, the weird sandwiches my mother packed, my lack of athletic abilities.  And so that feeling – different – stuck with me for many years.

It didn’t help when my parents split up the year I turned 14.  Now not only did I feel different, but my life actually was different.  Everything I knew from before was no longer.  It’s difficult trying to feel good in a place where everyone around you is unhappy, when your family is shattered and your friends don’t really know you and you’re constantly trying to hide a secret.  I retreated into my makeup case and applied my mask ever more diligently.  I just knew that if anyone saw what was underneath, it would be the end for me, that I would finally be completely and utterly alone.

And then one day I had an epiphany.  I woke up and realized that my challenges have been remarkable, but I still came through them.  I’m a firm believer that you aren’t handed a challenge that you can’t overcome.  Challenges build character.  Challenges make you think.  Challenges teach you to solve problems and to trust in yourself.  And when you stop and really think about all of the challenges you’ve already overcome, you start to realize that you can conquer the challenges you’re dealing with today, too.

We all have challenges.  Maybe you just moved to a new school, where you have no friends and no allies.  Maybe there’s someone who’s putting you down, trying to make you feel bad about yourself.  Maybe you just feel different, you know you don’t belong but you don’t know what to do about it.  The key is to look your challenge in the eye and never let it bat you down.  You can deal with this, and you will be better for it.  This is part of finding out who you are and learning to love the skin you’re in.

When you like yourself, you will shine.  Self-esteem is kind of like a beacon – it comes out in the sparkle in your eyes and the smile on your face, and when other people see that you are happy, they will be drawn to you, because they want to be happy too.  You will find friends who will love and accept you just the way you are, because you’ve accepted you just the way you are.

Focus on feeling good about yourself.  Point out all your wonderful qualities to yourself and do the things that you do well, because that will make you happy.  You can be anything you want to be; the future is up to you.  The only person who can ever really stop you is you, so you need to be your own best friend.  Make good choices for you and don’t ever give up on your dreams.  If anyone would have told me that I would end up in New York City working as a successful businesswoman and a writer, I would have laughed at them.  But I did it, and if I can do it, anybody can.

As a young teenager, I would have given anything to have been ordinary.  But over the years, I’ve learned that the best part about who I am – what I like the most about me – is the fact that I am different.  Different is good.  Love what makes you different and let yourself shine.

About Susanne:
Susanne Veder is an author, educator, business executive and mother, who recently moved to Aventura, Florida from New York City's Upper West Side. Susanne has held a variety of executive positions in the field of marketing for CitiGroup, the U.S. Tennis Association and a number of other companies and organizations. Over the years, Susanne has been working with inner city high school students in helping them develop self-esteem, prepare for college and secure internships – extra curricular activities and the development of student-run journalism programs.

4 thoughts on ““Tween Esteem: Loving the Skin You’re In”

  1. I would like to thnkx for the efforts you have put in writing this blog. I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own blog now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of it.

Comments are closed.