Growing up, I struggled with many insecurities, from my appearance to my talents to my personality. I constantly compared myself to those around me, feeling inferior in every possible way. Coming from India, I still looked and dressed like a stereotypical immigrant until late middle school. I lacked pop culture knowledge and felt very confused, alone, and excluded in school. Other kids could crack jokes and make their friends laugh, but I could never find the right words to string together to contribute any comment of value. I wanted to play a sport, specifically tennis, but even after years, I still was not as good as others. I wanted to dance, but even after years, I still could not move the same way as others. I wanted to sing, but after an embarrassing audition for the school choir in middle school, I never sang in front of others again. I found myself to be awkward, unattractive, untalented, and boring, and I hated myself for it.
Finding the right support system is a crucial factor in building your self-confidence. When I eventually found friends who appreciated me for who I was, and encouraged my pursuit of my goals instead of critiquing and patronizing me, I began to flourish. However, loving yourself is still an individual journey.
If I've learned anything in the last few years, it's that you don't have to fit the typical cookie-cutter description of someone who is attractive, or a good dancer, or a skilled athlete, or a talented singer, to feel successful. These are all things that fall on a spectrum, unable to be measured in any concrete way. I eventually grew into my facial features and learned how to style my unique hair to flatter me. I still looked nothing like other girls on social media, but I realized there was a special beauty in my own appearance too. I slowly began to love my own appearance.
I learned how to exude confidence when I dance through my body language and facial expressions, allowing me to perform well even if the technical details of my movements didn't exactly mimic others. I understood that not everyone dances the exact same way, but everyone can still be beautiful. I can even dance however I want to in the comfort of my own home as a hobby, and not care about anyone's opinion and simply focus on my own enjoyment. I slowly began to love my own dances.
In high school, I practiced tennis for hours and hours, year round. I eventually made it onto the varsity team, and even became captain my senior year. When it comes to athletics, hard work can build skills, but it is much more challenging to build passion, determination, and morals. I viewed tennis as a mental game more so than a physical one, and became a successful athlete who gained mental strategies applicable to any area of life. I slowly began to love the strong mind I was developing.
As for singing, it is still something I cannot do in front of others. However, when I am alone, I can sing my heart out and love how it feels. I can enjoy expressing myself in this special manner and I can feel confident in my own abilities. If I believe I sing well, then that is all that matters. Though it is still a work in progress, I have slowly begun to love my own voice.
Ultimately, you define how successful you are. You do not have to be an expert at something to enjoy doing it, and you do not have to look like a model to feel beautiful. In the end, no amount of external praise will suffice if one does not appreciate themself. Be kind to yourself, and identify your own unique talents, even if they don't match the world's expectations. And most importantly, love every aspect of yourself. Then, you can conquer life.