Written by TKS Toronto student Victoria Dmitruczyk (email victoria.dmitruczyk@gmail.com)

 

You see that little baby girl in the photo up there?

That’s me, circa 2003. I’m super happy.

I mean come on… I get fed, I have a house, I’m rocking that white dress.

I have no reason to be upset.

I have no reason to pretend to not be myself. I don’t think I even know what ‘not being yourself’ means.

I don’t even know what friends are. So I’m just enjoying life, doing whatever babies do. I’m not influenced by anything external.

This is me, circa 2008. I’m now 4 years old.

I’ve grown up a bit. I make my first friend. I meet other kids. We aren’t all the same, but we’re still all chill with each other. We all bond over our mutual love of ‘playtime’.

Then grade 1 starts. Everything changes.

Now, I’m not saying that the second school starts we turn into cold, emotionless individuals who only crave social acceptance but, things aren’t as easy as they used to be.

You can tell that there are some people who are different. Certain kids are ‘weird’, certain kids are ‘cool’, certain kids are ‘scary’… The list continues on.

People get assigned labels. There’s the quiet girl, the athletic boy, the smart one. Certain labels are perceived to be worth more than others.

This never made any sense to me → We’re people, not soupcans🥫. We don’t need labels, yet we create them anyways. Why?

Everyone wants to be accepted. But not everyone can be. It’s our own egos that think that there is a limited amount of people that are allowed to ‘fit in’.

We change ourselves to match the standards that we’ve put in place. We go from loving ourselves at age 4, to hating everything about us at age 14.

So, years pass and social labels continue to get instilled.

I remember in grade 4, nobody liked me. Why, you may ask? Because I would participate in class. Because I wanted to learn. But that wasn’t what the majority of people wanted to do. In a nutshell, I was an outlier. I was the odd one out. Bam. I’m no longer ‘accepted’. When I want to hang out with others, I get pushed aside.

I was pretty oblivious to it all, thank God. But I remember seeing some of my friends completely change their entire personalities to fit what other people wanted from them.

That’s not to say that it didn’t impact me. I went from being super outgoing to being pretty shy. I would make one friend and closely just associate with them. I would overcompensate to match the ‘label’ I had been given, and attempt to make more connections this way. By the end of elementary/middle school, I graduated in eight grade with only one person I would actually call a ‘friend’.

I was fortunate enough to go to a high school far away from the environment I grew up in. I had a fresh start. I learnt to be myself. I’ve gotten back to being super outgoing. I literally start conversations with strangers on the subway when I get bored. It’s one of my favourite things to do. Grade 4 me is QUAKING. But that took a lot of work to get to.

Me on the first day of high school, can’t believe I’m putting this on the internet LOL

I go to an arts school for a music program, and because it’s an arts school, everyone is different, and diverse. Nobody really has those labels because we all bond over our shared love of the arts.

I know, it sounds corny, but, that environment change showcased to me how inauthentic I was all those previous years. My insecurities driven by the need for validation drove me into misery.

We change ourselves for social acceptance. We want to be loved. But why? There’s really no reason to change yourself for inauthentic relationships. They don’t add value. We put up these walls and hide our true selves for what? So Becky, who won’t matter in three years, doesn’t hate us? It makes no sense.

I hid my true self from others because I craved that social validation. It was my drug 💉.

Now, you might have noticed the word perceived. It’s not actual happiness. It’s fake and doesn’t mean anything, because you’re just adjusting yourself to make other people happy. Not yourself.

Receiving that dose of validation would lead to me wanting more, requiring more. Being an outlier helped in this case. Not having too many friends meant I didn’t get as much social validation, so I didn’t crave that much more. I think this is why I got to keep a lot of my personality.

That being said, I still acted inauthentic. I had been assigned the label of ‘smart’ and so, I just needed to fulfill it 🙄🤦‍♀️

I was naive, and to be honest, I probably (definitely) am still super naive. I didn’t really understand the people around me. A lot of the things they would do, ways they would approach social problems seemed foreign to me. But, I would still pretend to know more than I did for the sake of impressing others and being accepted.

I was always super ambitious and driven, but, by trying to follow these labels, I had built up a persona that wasn’t truly me.

Note: I’m only 16. I still have a long way to go in terms of understanding the world and myself. I can’t wait to see how I perceive things in two years, five years, ten years… These are the thoughts I’m having right now, and they can and likely will change.

Recently, I began tracking my moods through this app called Daylio. I’m always trying to understand myself and who I am, in addition to trying to maximize my productivity.

The days I’m below my average happiness are a result of days where I feel insecure. I think insecurity is the reason we need that hit of social validation. Here’s my take on it:

Now, at first I didn’t know how to define insecurity. I think everyone has a different interpretation of what it is. In my opinion;

🔑 Insecurity is the perceived lack of something you desire.

If someone calls you ugly, you really shouldn’t give a fuck.

I’ve been working on this and I’ve gotten a lot better at just ignoring this type of stuff (of course, I haven’t perfected it yet → words still hurt). But most people get upset. That’s because they desire social validation, and when someone questions that factor of insecurity with a statement, it brings you down a peg.

With the example of being called ugly, you crave beauty. You might have it (you definitely have it 😉), and you might not. So when someone contradicts this idea that you are beautiful, it’s not fun to hear. You are brought down.

Let’s imagine this as a -1 score. Getting what you crave increases the score up by +1

Note: Base state line represents time. Your position on the graph at any time can be correlated to your self-worth.

There’s also personal insecurity. You crave to be beautiful, and let’s say you have a feature that goes against what is considered beautiful for your general geographic area. Looking at yourself, noticing those features, and getting upset over them results in another -1 score.

The thing is, there is no need for us to be attractive. It’s all social (Note: Pretty privilege does exist, and there are some benefits, but it’s not a need). That doesn’t mean I don’t look in the mirror and hate myself some days. Need to work on fixing this because attractiveness is kind of worthless. I don’t care how hideous or attractive a person is when I choose to be friends with them.

Insecurity grows exponentially as you have more of those -1 points. And then you hone in on them because you think you’re worthless and you desperately try to fix them. Bada bing bada boom a vicious cycle is born. This is what that looks like:

  1. Something knocks you down -1.
  2. You recover, but it still burns.
  3. Then you analyze why that something made you sad. Thinking about this makes you more upset.
  4. You engrain that -1 into your self-worth.

As the negative points increase, your view of yourself decreases faster and faster as well. And with each step deeper into insecurity it’s harder to dig yourself out. Insecurity builds.

There are certain things that are easy to fix. But often trying to force yourself to fix those leads to other problems. I.e. Starving yourself to make yourself thinner → Not the best idea guys.

We need to work on eliminating insecurity in general. Not just with external aspects but with internal ones as well (i.e. thinking that a certain goal is hard to reach so you just try to go for it at all. Even if you fail, you’ll grow from that which is just generally big brain 🧠)

I think having a good environment around you is really critical.

The saying ‘you are your five closest friends’ is always floating around in the back of my mind. If you have an environment around you that empowers you and enables your success, it’s easier to eliminate that insecurity.

Once that insecurity is eliminated, you can go back to being yourself, and go back to being happy.

Now, I don’t have all the answers. I’m still working on eliminating that insecurity and maintaining my authenticity myself. But what I do know is that being yourself is a lot more fun then pretending to be someone else. Eliminate the insecurity and you’ll unlock a superpower. The superpower to love yourself and be yourself.