In the sixth grade, I transferred schools. However, prior to my first day of middle school, I had been friends with the same people my entire young life.
Honestly, up until that point, I never really learned how to make friends. The other kids I used to play with were a part of my life for as long as I could remember.
I suspect we became friends because we were simply in the same place at the same time, and we hadn’t learned how to act polite and reserved yet. Either that, or our parents hung out with each other all the time, so we did, too.
Regardless, I entered middle school not knowing how to make friends. But I didn’t really see it as a major problem. I mean, I made friends easily when I was a baby, so why couldn’t the more sophisticated, 10-year-old me be able to?
Clearly, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. In case you don’t remember, middle school girls (for the most part) are bitches. Seriously.
The blatant exclusivity of certain social circles was something I never really experienced until I entered this new school. Perhaps cliques existed back at my old school, too, but I never noticed them.
Being the new kid was harder than I could have imagined. In order for a clique to approve of me, I felt I had to act, dress and talk like the rest of the group members. I wanted to fit in so desperately, but I constantly questioned whether I really belonged.
By the end of my first year in middle school, my personality changed. I was no longer the naïve, little elementary school kid I once was. Over the course of just one year, I learned how to keep my guard up, for fear of being judged. I was so afraid of saying something stupid or uncool, I rarely said anything at all.
As much as I hated being so painfully shy, I felt as though I couldn’t help it. I transferred schools again for high school, and the same properties carried over. I wanted people to like me, but I thought if I opened up, someone would make fun of me or talk about the dumb things I said behind my back.
Those seven years of middle school and high school were some of the roughest years of my life. However, by the time I finished the 12th grade, I had done some serious reflecting. Being somewhat of a loner the majority of my high school years allowed me to become pretty introspective.
I started questioning why I needed everyone’s approval so badly to begin with. What I ultimately realized is this: I wasn’t the problem, the other kids were.
Here I was, thinking I was super awkward and uncool, but really, I was just surrounding myself with judgmental people who made me feel that way.
At the risk of sounding harsh, the other kids sucked. They were the ones with social problems, not me. The reason I didn’t fit in with the other bitches was because I simply wasn’t a bitch.
I began to recognize if I ever wanted to achieve happiness, I needed to find friends who were much more welcoming and open-minded. I didn’t need to change myself or hold back my opinions in the hopes of getting a clique’s approval. Instead, I needed to be around people who accepted my personality: stupid jokes and all.
Once I finally found those people, my shyness magically disappeared. I could be myself without any fear of judgement.
And it was awesome. People actually wanted to hang out with me, the real, uninhibited me.
When individuals from my high school talk to me now, they’ll sometimes comment on how much cooler and more fun I seem. I have to correct them though, because I’m not.
I’m just way less insecure.