Sarah didn’t care that I was unpopular and isolated from the pompous cliques. We met during gym class, where she and I were two of the few girls left to be picked for soccer teams. I discovered that Sarah lived to laugh, lived to love, and lived to accept others, like she did me. In those melancholy middle school days, I spent hours cooped up in my bedroom, frustrated about my weight and the clothes scattered across my room that didn’t fit me. Even through the pitfalls of my preteen years, knowing that Sarah wouldn’t reject me because of my unruly hair or unrefined style made my life bearable. Other girls, however, were different. A mere glance in my direction made my self-confidence shrivel. I clung to my intellect, thinking that it was the only reason that people could bear to look at me.
When I reached high school, I determined that I would no longer be afraid to transcend the barriers that had held me back in middle school. New faces meant new friends, new opportunities, and a new outlook on life. Feeling the acceptance of these friends convinced me to stop basing my value on the grades I got or on people’s opinions of me.
The bonds I formed boosted my individuality, not diminished it. My freshman year, I joined three clubs. I traveled to Mexico to share my faith and build homes for the homeless. I ran for a position in the student government, lost the election, and decided that I would survive that loss.
The power of acceptance is more profound than it is imagined to be. Lack of acceptance by the Catholic Church brought King Henry VIII to form the Anglican Church. Acceptance in Germany of Nazism in the twentieth century led to the worst slaughter of Jews in history.
Acceptance touches the core of a person’s soul, empowering people to cross bridges and move mountains. It doesn’t always entail the dismissal of individuality. Instead, it often encourages the differentiation of beliefs, talents, and interests.
As enigmatical as high school cliques are, as detrimental as their pressures can be, I have found refuge in my friends’ acceptance of me. When I look at the social elite even this day, I struggle to comprehend the capricious power of acceptance. Acceptance can shackle or release, or it can suppress or emancipate. Surprisingly, when it comes to the popular crowd at my high school, I pity the members of such an exclusive group. I sympathize with the girls who conceal themselves with not only a thick layer of Clinique foundation but also a steely facade of conformity.
My journey through the turmoil of adolescence has taught me to accept who I am, accept who others are, and accept that universal acceptance is not vital to life. Broadway actress Idina Menzel sums up my philosophy. “I’m through playing by the rules of someone else’s game,” she says. “It’s time to try defying gravity.”
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