KDematosPicIt’s easy to get wrapped up in things going on around you and to lose a sense of yourself. There were times growing up when I would go along with something my friends were doing, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with it. There were times I took up a new hobby because that’s what my boyfriend at the time was interested in.

From the time I was 14 to now (I’m currently 22), I feel like I have changed so much. Eight years passed in the blink of an eye, but in that time I experienced and learned a lot. I look back at the way I handled things in high school and I get upset with myself. When I was younger, I let other people control how I felt and, sometimes, even how I acted. I let people treat me poorly because I didn’t want to lose their friendship or I didn’t want a relationship to end.

I let people make me believe that my ideas and my interests were dumb. I let people influence the music I listened to. I let people have control over what decisions I made. I never left my house without wearing makeup. Then I dated a guy who convinced me makeup made me “fake” and I looked better without it. Now that I’m older, I realize I shouldn’t care what people think. To be quite frank, I really couldn’t care less what others think now, and it’s an incredibly freeing feeling.

It took a lot of time for me to get here, but maybe that’s because it comes with age. My best friend and I always laugh about things that happened to us in high school. We get angry at our younger selves because if we had the mindset then that we do now, things would have been so different. But I guess you live and you learn. I’ve learned that my interests and my quirks are what make me who I am. I no longer care that I’m the only one who laughs when I quote The Office or FRIENDS. I don’t care that I look like a crazy lady when I’m driving down the street jamming to One Direction. I don’t even care if someone sees my crying in my car before class when I’m having a particularly rough day.

love yourselfEveryone is unique and has their own interests and traits that make them who they are. How boring would the world be if we all only liked the “cool” or “popular” things? If it makes you happy, then that’s really all that matters. I know the term “guilty pleasure” is never intended to be a negative thing, but I really hate it. Unless it’s hurting others or illegal or something you know you shouldn’t be doing, why should you feel bad for enjoying it? Nothing that brings you happiness should be associated with guilt.

Growing up can be really awkward in general, regardless of age. But eventually, you reach a point where you realize the only opinion of you that matters is your own. If you don’t like something about yourself, then by all means change it. But make sure the decisions you make are for yourself. The earlier I would have learned that, the earlier I would have learned to love myself. People are going to find a way to label you, no matter what. But if you’re happy, that’s the only label that matters.