I will never forget that day, walking through the most congested part of the hallway after Christmas break. I saw this kid coming my way that I had sat next to for the entire previous semester in English. We had become friends in that class by joking and helping each other with homework or lecture questions, so when he got closer, I made eye contact, smiled and said “Hi.” And you know what he did? He looked away. He totally dodged me.
Eight years ago this June, I graduated high school. Looking back at that person gives me two feelings; the first being shame, but the other being pride because of how far I’ve come. I am a mom now to two beautiful girls and have learned a lot since my high school days, but that doesn’t change the struggles I had in high school. In high school, I desperately tried to be kind, but because of my insecurities, I too often was judgemental. Because of my insecurities, I too often was prideful. Because of my insecurities, I too often was rude. I too often gossiped. During sports, I said things in heated moments that were unrefined. But those were just symptoms of a bigger problem. I was self conscious about who I was and had low self-esteem. Probably right along with the rest of my peers, but that there lies the problem. For that reason, I’ve felt the need to get these thoughts and feelings out.
I went to Davis High. I loved it. I felt safe, my education was incredible, and I had a great group of friends. I even had loads of friends at other high schools thanks to volleyball. I got asked to every single dance and went to all that I could. I loved high school! But guys….. I was such a fake Shanae. And you know why? Because I was not confident in being me, the real me. I was afraid to act in certain ways for fear of jeopardizing my social status. Hah, what social status I ask myself now? I remember my mom saying to me one day, “When you get married and move into a neighborhood, social status doesn’t matter anymore. People are just, people.” So true.
If there was a reason to be embarrassed about who I was, I tried to solve it. For example, I didn’t think I was pretty. Solution? More makeup. After I put all that makeup on, I still wasn’t pretty, so the next solution was expensive makeup. I still remember when I bought that really expensive makeup. I dropped over 100 bucks on it. Makes me want to vomit. I was only making 500 dollars a month and I spent 1/5th of it on makeup. Barf. My dad always said the prettiest makeup was the makeup you couldn’t see, so it wasn’t dramatic, but boy was there a lot on that face of mine. And ya know what? I still wasn’t convinced that I was pretty after that.
Next problem: I didn’t have pretty hair. Solution? Expensive curling iron. Expensive hair spray that I was just going to wash out the next morning. True story: I would get up at 5:12am (have a weird thing about waking up at a normal time), eat breakfast, shower, then spend the next hour or more on my hair and makeup. And as you can guess, after all that for three years, I was still not convinced that I was pretty. The real Shanae hates doing her hair, let alone spending over an hour on it.
Next problem… my height. I was 5’10 by the time I was 11 years old. If I were a guy, I would have been the coolest kid on the block, but being a girl was a different story. Solution for this problem? Couldn’t cut my legs off at the knees, so, hunch over, stand with one hip popped, only date tall guys, exhibit body language that screamed self-esteem issues…blah blah blah.
What’s the point of all this?? The point is, I’m sure in my endeavor to make myself pretty or protect my social status, I hurt other people’s feelings. I’m sure in my endeavor to do everything in my power to fit in, I made other people feel left out. I’m sure by only worrying about myself most of the time, that I made others only worry about themselves too. I’m sure by not being confident in who I was, I missed opportunities to let my peers know that they were freaking cool.
To anyone and everyone who I made feel less about themselves for my perfectly done hair, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I put off the idea that hair is more important than self worth. I’m sorry that I put off the idea that hair is more important than self acceptance. I am sorry if my lack of self confidence added to yours.
To those that I made feel less about themselves by the use of my makeup, I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I put off the idea that makeup creates beauty. I’m sorry if I put off the idea that makeup creates self – worth. I’m sorry if I put off the idea that makeup makes you valuable. I’m sorry if my lack of self confidence added to yours.
To those that I made feel less of themselves by ignoring you in the hallways, I am so, so sorry. I am sorry I didn’t say hello, or I avoided eye contact. I am sorry I thought that who I associated with was more important than making everyone feel loved by someone. I am sorry that I was so absorbed with my own lack of self esteem that I made you feel less of a person. How do I know you felt less of a person? Because it happened to me. There were people I had classes with or played soccer with once on a blue moon, or “friends” from other schools who I’d see out and about who would see me, then quickly look away. It happened often! I specifically remember that one kid I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I thought we were friends, but that quick moment in the hall proved to me we weren’t. And. It. Made. Me. Feel. Like. Garbage. And you know what’s worse???? I then did it to other people. I did the same thing he did to me even after I knew how it made me feel because I was not confident enough in myself and my power to make a difference for good. Just by smiling and saying hello. Just by being me.
Now, junior high and high school are rough. At that age, you are desperately trying to figure out who you are on the inside, so that you can match your outside to it. And everyone is doing it. At the same dang time! So now these ripples of immature behavior are bouncing around everywhere and affecting everyone without even realizing it. The only solution I can think of that would help make that hairy armpit of life better would be kindness. It’s a catch 22. I believe that if junior high and high schoolers were kind to their peers, (and I mean, all their peers, all the time, to their face and behind their back) then their peers wouldn’t have reason to have low self-esteem. They would then do things out of kindness that would build other kid’s self esteem and it would continue on and on and on until you just had this big, kind army of awesome adolescents. The next solution would be apologizing and forgiveness. Righting a wrong, no matter how small it was, would put us back on track to our army of awesome adolescents.
But no! Insecure kids being insecure at no fault of their own, do things out of insecurity that influences other kids to act insecurely and it continues forever until we have a super cliquey high school with superficial relationships. Looking back now, 8 years later it all makes sense, and boy is it frustrating. I just want to shake my 16 year old self and say, “That super glittery purple eye shadow that you’ve spent the last 20 minutes perfecting is not going to get you that boy, is not going to get you into the MG’s, is not going to get you any more friends. And it definitely won’t matter 3 years from now. Knock that crap off.”
But, this world isn’t perfect, and I know for sure that I was not and still am not perfect. Ugh, that 16 year old Shanae is someone i’m glad to be ahead of now. She sure taught me a lot though, and now I hope she can teach you a lot. Looking back, that moment in the hall with that kid in high school seems so silly. I do actually laugh thinking about how big of an impact it left on my insecure self. But i’m so glad it happened because it was a learning experience. One of my best friends still to this day was an amazing person in high school. I don’t know that she thinks that, but her outward actions then prove she was. She had and still has sooooo many friends. I can’t even tell you. Everyone knew who she was, and I bet everyone that knew who she was would consider themselves her friend. And you know how she did it? Kindness. She was the one saying “hi” in the halls. She was the one making eye contact and smiling. She was the one letting people know they were loved instead of worrying about herself. Sadly it wasn’t until senior year that I discovered her secret and was confident and brave enough to implement it.
Let’s all make an effort to be kind to those around us. Let’s all make an effort to smile to those we see or walk past. Let’s make an effort to say hello to those who are looking down. Let’s make an effort to Be. Better. People.
To parents, let us make sure our kids have a safe place to call home. I know that’s why I survived junior high and high school. Not only was I able to live among giants and not worry about my height, but those giants were gentle giants who made me feel like I was something neat, something special, and definitely someone of value.
To teenagers, be kind to your peers. They are struggling, just like you. All problems seem significant and you never know how far your kind gestures will go.
To my high school peers, looking back now with more clarity, I am very sorry for any harm done by the high school Shanae. It wasn’t you, it was me. It was sooo me. My actions that may have been stand offish, put offish or snooty were because I was trying to figure out who the real Shanae was. No excuses, just an understanding on my part now. Thankfully, life has given me amazing experiences and people to learn from. Know that you are awesome. You are someone who has been saved for this time in history. Go rock someone’s socks off. After all, we are all God’s children, as my two year old has been singing and reminding me of for the past month.
We are children of a living, loving God. Surely, we can simply put a smile on, and say “hello”.