Picture Perfect? | Teen Ink

Picture Perfect?

January 15, 2019
By laurenpletcher BRONZE, Clarkston, Michigan
laurenpletcher BRONZE, Clarkston, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

How many likes did you get on your last Instagram photo? The number of followers on your account must mean something to you. The comments from your sort of friends may justify how long you spent editing your post. Our academic accomplishments are meaningless without a carefully curated caption to accompany our success. We all know that popularity and good grades in school are the only way to have a happy and successful future. New-age society has shifted the way we see our personal value thanks to praised social media influencers and the four-digit SAT score.  Social media has created these uniform ideas of perfection, whether it be academics or appearances, and without the online likes and comments to enforce our self-esteem, we are left as empty shells without self-value. As a teenager in modern times, we desire to be accepted. Who will sit with me at the lunch table? Who will compliment my new outfit? Am I finally going to be noticed?

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Around the time I was ten years old, I never truly connected with the other popular girls in my fifth-grade class. I’d shove myself into their conversations, knowing that I was an unwanted intruder. Their secrets never crossed my ears, even after the most invasive attempts to get them to spill their guts. I thought they were perfect. Long hair, pretty faces, and manicured fingernails. I was far inferior. I only felt valid when my strives were rewarded with a one-word answer. I worked hard to fit inside of their clique. It was my full-time job and I never earned a dime. I tried to talk like them, I tried to dress like them and I even tried to like whatever they liked. I thought I would finally be worthy of their friendship after molding myself like dough into another person. I had no pride in myself or my accomplishments. Without the hope of being accepted into their group, I had nothing. I was just a girl, irrelevant like paint drying on a wall.


I found myself placing my value into the classmates around me instead of being worthy through my character and morals. I never understood that my worth and self-confidence wasn’t dependent on a group of eleven-year-old girls. I didn’t realize that I was the only dictator of my self-esteem and no one else has the right to control my value as a person.


But every so often, six years later, I’ll still experience a lapse of doubt and uncertainty in my life. I wonder if I am making the right choices and decisions in my life. Each doubt is a tornado that tears apart my newfound progress. Am I working hard enough to get into a good school? Am I choosing the right career path for me? I instantaneously turn back into the ten-year-old girl who only finds happiness in the opinion of others. I melt into my shoes as the anxiety and fear gnaw on my insides a little bit harder than usual. During these difficult times in life, I try to recenter myself as if the Earth was off her axis.


As I prepare myself for the distressing college applications and scholarships process, it is extremely easy to source my self-value from my standardized test scores and my grade point average. As the teacher hands back the test, the classroom is hushed with the exchanging of test scores. But, I have to understand the difference of being proud of myself for my efforts, not solely being happy based off of my academic achievements. Instead of shriveling into my fifth-grade-self in order to avoid the mess called my self-esteem, I will remember that my efforts are sufficient. I can relocate these feelings into motivation to work harder in order to reach my goals in life.


I am aware that every individual will feel self-conscious, at some point in their life. I mean, isn’t that why we post our best selfies to Instagram? We await the shower of likes and compliments that follow our recent post. We all experience a dependence on someone, however, we need to balance dependence with individualism. The only way to accept myself is to understand my flaws and learn how to surpass and overcome them. I cannot place my self-doubt into the hands of my friends and family. In the end, I need to confront the ten-year-old I was in order to become an individual in society who isn’t reliant on social media or the opinions of others.


The author's comments:

This is a personal essay that helped me realize who I am.


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