Accepting your differences

Jessica - Warren, New Jersey
Entered on June 4, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I believe in accepting your differences and living happily with who you are. Everyone is different, and as a snowflake, not one person is the same. People are so accustomed to conforming to the norms of society that they feel no one will accept them for being different. Personally, I have gone through so many phases in my short seventeen years where I have been the one out of the crowd. Different should be seen as a gift rather than a detriment in which one should willingly embrace.

In elementary school I was the earliest to wear a retainer in first grade, and then soon after became a braceface in the fourth grade. Then in middle school it was scoliosis that was my struggle. Eighth grade I had to wear a back brace during the entire school day to help straighten out my back. Being so afraid of what people would call me and assuming that they would stare at me with a judgmental eye, I only told three of my friends that I even wore it. I was so self conscious that I immediately went shopping and bought all new shirts, two sizes too big, to prevent anyone from seeing the three velcro straps that secured the brace in place across my stomach. Contrary to the popular tight shirts, I wore sweatshirts and big baggy shirts every day, no doubt ridiculed about my style.

But the most horrifying moment was entering high school, a new place full of new teachers, new faces and new future friends. Hearing from the doctor that I had to wear my brace the entire freshman year made me cry. First impressions were so important to me, and with high school all about clicks, stereotypes and categorizing, I did not want to receive the label of that girl who wears a brace. To blend in with everyone else, and be a normal teenager going through high school devoid of abnormalities was ideal, but not the truth.

Now, as graduation is quickly approaching, I look back on my high school years and realize how much these experiences have developed me into the person I am today. From these encounters of fear of what others think, I have come to the conclusion that being yourself, no matter how different, is good enough to make it through life. By staying true to my inner self and gaining confidence as the years went by, people have met the true me. Yes, I was self conscious at the time, but now I have learned that people will notice the good aspects of you no matter what physical differences are present.

Accepting my differences has only made me a stronger person. Thanks to the retainers I now have a beautiful smile, and after all those uncomfortable days with a back brace, I now have a straight back. My own style of clothes only adds to my personality. God created every person to have their distinctions. However, it is up to each individual to accept them and go through life without the constant concern of how others will judge them. You don’t have to conform to the popular wave. Instead, stay the way you are, as an individual.