Dear back-then Laila,
I’m here to tell you that truly believing in yourself is the most powerful thing you can do.
It’s difficult, I know. You spent your childhood surrounded more by books, siblings, moving boxes and animals than you did around your two friends (who were long distance, but that was okay because you spent hours on the phone with them every week). You were homeschooled since the second grade, you embarked on your own projects just because you were interested in insects or the digestive system or words. You didn’t know what it meant to wait for deadlines and opportunities because you always went ahead and created your own. You grew up surrounded by a self-defined world that most people couldn’t really understand. It was a reality that you thrived in, but as you grew older, the people you ran into told you that you were not allowed to be proud of it.
At first, their words didn’t matter. But they kept being repeated. By people you looked up to, by people you wanted to be friends with, by people you didn’t even really know. Your weirdness was something to be begrudged. Your differences weren’t something to be proud of. You were too other to be a part of us.
The words dug deep underneath your skin, forming roots and self-doubt where there didn’t use to be any. You began to close yourself off from what you could be, intent only on ensuring that you were what others could find palatable. It became a game you played, figuring out what you should be this time, to fit into this group or that cause. You became the ultimate people-person. But you lost your own self.
I know you just wanted friends, but true friends don’t make you change.
I know you wanted to fit in, but fitting in isn’t supposed to mean losing you.
I’m here to tell you that your story is not as strange as you have been led by others to believe. It’s okay to have to work towards accepting yourself but know that the words of those around you mean nothing when you aren’t giving your own self the chance to thrive and be.
I want you to know that your weirdness will be a source of pride for you one day and that your words, once laughed at for being so big, will be words that are read and passed on by those who once scorned you.
It’ll take time. You’ll have to work through the vendetta you are undergoing against yourself. Some days you’ll move forward in self-acceptance, and other days, you’ll fall back on self-doubt. But on the day that you finally regain the joy and thrill of being truly you, you’ll find the world finally lights up around you with the knowledge of your self-worth.
There’s something about embracing yourself that is so full of freedom, of joy, of light. I know you aren’t supposed to take pride in your weirdness, but I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to embrace yourself.
You owe it to yourself to welcome the unknown.