Dear Middle School Me:

I remember like it was yesterday the way that you cake on makeup, coating your eyelashes in layer after layer of mascara and load up on powders and foundations to conceal blemishes and imperfections as if your 12-year-old skin is full of those to begin with.

I will never forget the insecurity with which you carry yourself; though you appear at least moderately confident on the outside, internally, I know you can't stop picking apart everything about you, from the size of your thighs or your cheeks to your natural intelligence and goody-goody behavior. The list of things you dislike about yourself could drag on forever. As a result, I know you've never even pondered the possibility of navigating beyond these struggles, but take my word for it: a future where self-image issues don't consume your life is on your way.

If I was standing right in front of you right now with your baggy sweatshirts, black leggings, and neon pink braces, I don't know if I could definitively pinpoint the first thing I'd tell you. Maybe I would insist that it's time to stop shrinking yourself to fit in instead of standing out, both physically and metaphorically.

Maybe I would promise you that one day, everything that seems to be such a big deal right now, like finding the perfect eighth-grade promotion dress or navigating problems with your friend group, will hardly matter at all in the long run. Maybe all I would do is wrap my arms around you, holding you tightly until you learned to love yourself as much as I love myself now.

But ultimately, my reaction to meeting you again holds no weight, because I wouldn't be the person I am today had I never experienced such struggles with my appearance. After all, can we ever learn the true definition of self-love if we've always possessed it?

I would never want to be so insecure again, so consumed with any minor fluctuations in my weight and the things people said about me, but I needed to go through that to grow. Middle school is a hormone infested period of changes and confusion, and we can all look back on it with embarrassment and in jest, but we need to realize that it's an essential step in our path to maturity and being the best version of ourselves.

With that being said, what's my best advice? Just go through it. It sucks living your life by the rules of diet culture and following the beliefs and trends of your peers like they're federal law, but there's always light at the end of the tunnel. No matter what you're dealing with, it's going to get better. Trust me on this one.

With love,

High School Sidney