This I Believe

Anne - Long Beach, California
Entered on March 8, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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This I believe: I am not a cliché. I am not a stereotype, and I do not have to be. I can be my own person, and people will not only recognize my individual spirit, but they will love me for it.

For years I did not believe that this was true. For most of my life, I allowed myself to hide behind others’ perceptions of me. Every new place that I went, I let people typecast me however they saw fit, and as I discovered what their expectations of me were, I developed to fit the mold that they made for me. In this way, I created a new persona for each of my different environments.

In elementary school people thought of me as the “smart girl,” in middle school I was quiet, but at summer camp I was the popular ringleader, and on my cheerleading team I was motivated and adventurous. Although each of these characters was a different facet of my true personality, I struggled to bring them together because I feared that people would not accept me if they could not fit me into a specific pre-assigned category.

I let myself become what people wanted me to be so that I would not have to decide what I wanted myself to me. I held myself back because I was afraid of the rejection that I could face if I showed people my true self—exclusion that I viewed as the ultimate form of failure.

I only revealed myself to the people I loved and trusted most deeply—those who I believed could never hurt me. But my judgment proved wrong when one of my closest friends turned on me and manipulated the secret insecurities that I had confided in her. With a few cunning words, she tore my carefully created façade to shreds. But although she intended to destroy me, her actions eventually made me whole—only when the fragile shell that I had created around me was destroyed was I able to piece the different parts of my personality together.

I have always struggled to feel significant. Why should people care what I think? Why should people take the time to look beyond my outer appearance to see the person inside? Is there really anything special about me at all? I worry that if I make myself vulnerable to judgment, the people whose approval I naturally crave will not understand me or, worse, dislike me because I am different from them in ways they never realized.

But I believe in finding people who love me for my unique quirks and flaws, not in spite of them. I believe that everyone has something to share with me, if only I give them the chance. I believe that I should break the mold that some people try to force on me. And most importantly, I believe in having the confidence to be myself, and not letting anyone tell me otherwise.