by Caroline Cioffi, LiveGirl Mentor
I love the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, "You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."
I try to live by this mantra, but it can often be hard to believe and even harder to actually live out. Ridden with bullies, judgment, and popularity contests, the middle school environment seems to be one of the easiest places for girls to lose sight of their true selves. But why? What is so great about having everyone the exact same outfit, the exact same shoes, and the exact same hair that every single middle school girl makes it their goal?
When I was in middle school, I constantly felt like I had to fit in. To me, it seemed like I had no choice. Either I strived to look, dress, and act like every other girl or I would be stuck on the outside. I think the hardest part for me was that I felt like I was the only one. I felt like being popular came naturally to everyone else and I was the only one struggling.
Talking to others, I have come to realize that, contrary to what I may have thought, I was not the only one who felt isolated. In fact, it seems to me that just about everyone felt like an outsider at least a few times during their middle school years. It helped me to realize that even the girls who looked to me like they “had it all” weren’t feeling so confident in themselves after all.
If I could give one piece of advice to my middle school self, I would tell myself to stop trying to blend in and not be afraid to stand out. I would want my middle-school-self to understand that, when you are your genuine, honest self, other people will actually appreciate that about you. Others will notice this authenticity and are naturally drawn to it. Better yet, when you embrace yourself, you unknowingly give others the permission and the confidence to do the same.
Patti Russo, Executive Director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, spoke at a LiveGirl Leadership Summit this fall and shared her “boa mentality”. She described how she keeps a boa in her car each and every day. When lacking the bravery and the confidence it takes to own who she is, she puts on this boa. Patti explained how the boa helps her to really feel comfortable and proud of who she is. To me, Patti summed up what it means to be your true self. I challenge each and every one of you to find something that makes you feel proud of who you are. Whether it’s a sport that brings out your inner strength or an instrument that allows you to truly express yourself, it is so important to find these things in our lives.
Next time you feel drawn to do nothing more than blend in, remember all of the gifts you have. And don’t hide them! Pursue your talents and don’t be afraid to stand out! Own the unique, quirky, amazing, individual person you truly are. And, should you need an extra boost, put on your green Livegirl boa! Before you leave for the day, twirl it in the mirror and take a minute to appreciate and be proud of the amazing, unique person who looks back at you.
About the Author
Caroline Cioffi is a junior at New Canaan High School. In her free time, she likes to run cross country and track, bake, and hang out with friends. She is involved as a LiveGirl mentor and summer camp counselor.