This I Believe

Emily - Marietta, Georgia
Entered on December 13, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: respect
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I used to be a mean girl. I would lie, I would talk behind my friends’ backs, I would judge people, and I would isolate people who I didn’t even know. I was not this terrible person because I was happy or confident; I was a terrible person because I did not like or respect myself.

My best friends started to notice all of my insecurities and began to distance themselves from me. Of course, I thought it was their loss, not mine. I never thought about asking them why they didn’t spend time with me any more.

Summer came and my attitude grew worse. I even began to lie to my own family, the people who loved me the most. I was digging myself into a deeper and deeper hole.

I made new friends, but they came and went. I had a boyfriend, but he broke up with me because of my lies. I started to miss my real friends, but they shook me off just as I had shaken them off. I was selfish and I didn’t understand I was the cause of all the fights.

Then, on just an ordinary summer day, Danielle, one of my old friends, called and told me that Mr. Winters had a heart attack. I was in shock. He was so healthy and outgoing. I couldn’t believe what I had heard. He was the father of my best friend, Madison, and I felt terrible I wasn’t there to comfort her. I felt true regret, sorrow, and empathy, things I hadn’t felt in a long time.

The next day, I sent flowers to Mr. Winters and a card to Madison. I apologized for how I had treated her. She called me back, telling me I didn’t understand how I had hurt so many people and how self-indulged I acted. This was the first time someone had stood up to me.

At that very moment, I realized what I had turned into. I wanted to change, and I knew how to start. I first needed to find love in myself, and then love would come to others. The only way I was going to like myself was if I treated others with respect, even if they didn’t show it to me. I was excited to repair my old friendships because I knew it meant a lot to them. I stopped lying, and I started to spend more time with my family. Simple acts like picking up someone’s dropped books or being friendly with a new student were steps that made me happy about myself.

This semester, I have already noticed that I have more genuine friends who show respect to me, inspiring me to return that respect. I am now proud to be the person I am, with self-respect and dignity that no one can break. It is not always easy, and it takes practice, but showing respect is important to everyone. I believe in respect.