The journey to feeling comfortable in your own skin


Zoe Myers-Bochner, LAYOUT EDITOR

Picture this year’s homecoming dance: loud music and hundreds of bodies moving in one motion, bobbing up and down as if they don’t have a care in the world. Then, picture me running right into the crowd.

To anyone who knew me even last year, this scene would seem unthinkable. My experience at high school dances up to last spring includes crying at two homecomings, hiding in the bathroom at two sweet sixteens and skipping four other dances entirely. The thought of me not only attending a dance but being able to having fun? Impossible.

Two years ago, I spent my lunches sequestered in bathroom stalls, clinging to the sides of the toilet seat for dear life and willing the tears not to fall. I’d always wanted to write books, but instead I found my mind writing something of its own accord: a never-ending narrative that played between my ears and whispered, they don’t like you. You’re not good enough.

I wasn’t an outcast, but I felt like I had no common ground with my friends anymore; I wasn’t sure if it was because I wasn’t speaking up, or because I had the wrong friends entirely. I was smart, but not at the top of my class. Swimming seemed to be the one thing that I was still passionate about, so I threw myself into my sport only to find that I might never be fast enough.

Who was I, if people thought I was strange? What was I if I wasn’t the best at anything?

I threaded my way through sports, classes and groups of friends, scraping the edges but never being an integral part of any of them. I used to think it was because I wasn’t good enough. It took me over a year to realize that the reason I wasn’t happy was that I wasn’t doing the things that made me happy. Or, more correctly, I didn’t remember why the things I was doing made me happy.

Last Friday, I went for a swim. The state championships were the next day, and I was in a bit of a funk. It was the end of my senior season, and I wasn’t at the biggest meet of the year. Instead, I was sitting on my couch at home. I hadn’t even almost made the meet—I wasn’t even close.

For years, I had had a dream of going to states my senior year, and I had come up short. As my teammates won state titles, I watched from a computer screen on my couch. I wondered, was I able to contribute anything to my team? Why was I doing this?

Then, I went for that swim. It wasn’t a scheduled practice or a show-up-or-you’ll-face-the-consequences kind of swim; it was a simple splash in the water. I dove in, feeling the water flow over my skin. Without thinking, I let my arms and legs get into that familiar rhythm: kick-pull-breathe, repeat. Kick-pull-breathe. I realized that I had only been out of the pool for a week, and I had still missed it. I missed that feeling of weightlessness, of clarity, of letting myself put my body on autopilot because I knew what to do.

I was in the pool because I loved it; I was there because I wanted to be. And suddenly, that was enough.

Yes, you can be anything you want to be—within the confines of who you are. No matter how hard you try, you are never going to be able to change who you were born to be. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a gymnast; if you’re six-feet tall, you’re probably going to be a better volleyball player instead. If you dye your hair, the roots will always grow back in. Soon enough, covering yourself up doesn’t seem worth it.

The questions we should be asking ourselves are not “am I good enough to be doing this” or “will they like me,” but “do I enjoy doing this” and “when I am alone, will I like the person I am growing to be.”

I may never be the fastest person on my team. I may not be the smartest person in the room, and I will certainly never be the best writer to write for this paper. Still, I let myself do all of these things because I like doing them, and because I can share the joy that they bring me with others.

Liking yourself comes with a certain brand of quiet confidence. Instead of going to a concert, I can go to a board-game night at school, and I know I will meet friends with whom I can be comfortable. I can make jokes, because even if other people don’t laugh, I still will, and I’m the one who has to live with myself for the next seventy-or-so years.

Coming to this realization isn’t easy. The road to self-love is long and winding, and it is not always kind. Along the way, there are snakes in the grass, nipping at your heels and trying to pull you back into hiding. On this road, sharing your own story is an act of defiance; sharing your story can open the door for someone else to speak out, to join you on your journey.

Sometimes it feels like the journey never ends, and sometimes the end you think you are seeking is only a part of the journey. I’m not all the way there; maybe nobody is. But you must keep chugging along and reminding yourself that the effort is worth it. That you are worth it.    This doesn’t mean that there’s no room for self-improvement. In fact, it means just the opposite:  you are worthy of trying to make yourself better.

I promise you, when you get there, you will feel better than you thought you ever could. You will make friends who love you for who you are, not for someone that you pretend to be. Better yet, you will be able to be friends with yourself.

Being comfortable in your own skin is not about being perfect. It’s about being able to turn around and shake hands with your quirks, your abnormalities, your demons, and saying, “Hello, my old friend.”

It’s about balance, caring and a bit of self-love. It’s about believing in yourself enough to be able to say, “It’s better to take an 80 percent on this assignment instead of a 100 and get enough sleep,” or “I can take one fewer AP class to make time for doing what I love,” or even, “Yes, I am an imperfect person. And I am fine the way that I am.”

I want to help us get there. One article, one honest conversation, one bad joke at a time.