Teenage years are hard, exams become important, friendships come and go, and every adult suddenly wants to know what you want to be doing when your 25. On top of all of this, most teenagers have the added stress of feeling judged by others. We worry that our bodies aren’t in the ‘perfect’ shape, that our clothes don’t suit us and that if we don’t get a boyfriend/girlfriend within a year we will be single for the rest of our lives. It all mounts up and makes us unhappy.
Up until the age of 15 I didn’t take any notice of my weight and I didn’t really care for makeup or fancy clothes, like many of the other girls in my year. I was a confident and strong girl who didn’t care at all about what others thought about me; until it all changed. Perhaps it was because I had got into an argument with some girls at my school or perhaps it was just the fact I had started my period for the first time, but something changed. My confidence had gone, I suddenly became aware of what people thought of me and I felt myself retreating into a small hole of unhappiness. It continued for around a year and a half until I decided enough was enough. I was tired of being stuck in the revolving door of stress, worry and sadness. I was starting to see my younger brother going through the same thing, so I decided I needed to build up my confidence again not only for my sake but also his.
I know that everyone overcomes struggles in different ways, and what worked for me might not work for you but here are three ways that helped me boost my confidence again:
- Talking to someone. It sounds cringy, I know, but talking to someone about why you feel unhappy and stressed is the most important thing you can do. For me, talking to my mum helped me realise that as long as I was making my family proud I was achieving something. I may not have been getting the same grades in maths as my peers, but my parents were proud of me so it didn’t matter anymore. It doesn’t have to be a family member however, a teacher or a therapist can also help you open up as well – it’s so much better to get it all off your chest.
- Spending time with good friends. In High School I had a large group of friends, and although I enjoyed spending time with them, as the years passed I realised that not all of them made me happy, in fact some of them made me feel more stressed out. Now I’m in Sixth Form I have a much smaller group of friends, yet I’ve never been happier. I know these girls make me happy, I enjoy hanging out with them and they constantly cheer me up, even when I’m not feeling my best. I’m not saying to go away and cut all your friends out of your life, but do contemplate if the people you spend most of your time with are making you truly happy.
- Spending less time on social media. I have to admit I absolutely love Instagram, however comparing myself to others online is something I have done plenty of times. I realised that this was making me unhappy with the way I looked as I was constantly comparing my body to not only celebrities but also people I knew at school. So I decided to go through my followers and unfollow anyone whose account wasn’t making me feel positive. Seeing positive posts, whether from your favourite celebrity or your best friend makes you feel happy instead of seeing things that make you feel down.
Learning to love yourself is one of the most difficult things to do, but its also the most important thing to do. It wont be easy or quick, it’s a process that takes years and years. Once you start to love yourself for who you are, you realise it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. Judgement will never stop, we judge people all the time, you’d be lying if you said you had honestly never judged someone. However, the important thing is to not let it get to you, believe in yourself, work on becoming strong enough to realise that they don’t have the power to affect your happiness, only you do. Exam stress will always be a part of teenage years, its inevitable as we navigate our way through GCSEs and A Levels, but learning how you best deal with stress is so important.
Take time for yourself, talk to someone you trust and most importantly, surround yourself with those who make you the happiest!
By Elspeth Singleton