What My 'Awkward Phase' Taught Me About Beauty

By Bri Roselius 

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we? It’s 2010 and a pre-pubescent Bri can be found blasting the Jonas Brothers, bedazzling her diary and applying way too much sparkly gold eyeshadow. It was the era of bottom liner and the notorious “smirk.” I was thriving.

It’s hard to imagine a time without social media at the touch of our fingertips, a time where driving in a foreign part of town required a paper map, and a time where society wasn’t obsessed with body image. Don’t get me wrong, 2010 was in no way the golden age of our generation, and I can assure that you won’t find any history book highlighting the blessed days when Jersey Shore aired on MTV.

Unlike the genetically blessed tweens we begrudgingly see all over social media today, we all had our fair share of "awkward phases." Whether you replicated Avril Lavigne’s emo look, perfected the digital camera mirror selfie or rocked a forearm wrapped in silly bandz, we all experienced the early 2000s boldly and without hesitation. Why is it then, that we cringe when deleting old Facebook photos or joke about how “weird” and “awkward” we were? In retrospect, the early 2000s was the calm before the storm––the quiet period before the massive growth of social media announced its entrance into society. Entering without so much as a knock, social media was immediately deemed the most popular girl in school. The internet suddenly became so accessible that people couldn’t help but become self-obsessed. Teens and tweens began to equate their self-worth based on the number of likes they received. Your own opinion became irrelevant, and instead, a pool of hungry Internet trolls eagerly commented their opinions on what you chose to do with your body.  

I won’t deny it, I used to wince looking at scrapbook pages filled with photographs of my tween years. The photographs didn’t reflect what society told me was “beautiful” by today’s standards, so I masked my insecurities with humor while simultaneously tearing myself down in the process. I was 12-years-old.

Today, I am 20-years-old and fighting a perpetual battle between who I want to be and who society tells me to be.

I may not look the same as I did at 12, but I’ve begun to appreciate that period in my life. The clothing I wore, the makeup I donned, and the music I listened to were all activities I genuinely enjoyed. I didn’t allow society or social media dictate who I was. I never felt uncertainty about posting a photo online or felt worried I wouldn’t receive praise on my appearance. Most importantly, I didn’t bear the chains of restriction and self-doubt that burden me and so many other women today.

Call it what you want, but that "awkward phase" I endured was the most freeing period in my life to date. I didn’t always think this way and I’ve only come to terms with it quite recently. Those tween years everyone drags on about taught me what true beauty embodies: liberation. We were kids high on life, more focused on catching the next episode of Lizzie McGuire rather than our like ratio on Instagram.

Believe it or not, we are prisoners bound indefinitely to social media. Until we find self-acceptance within ourselves, we will never break the chains of societal expectations.