My 13-year-old self lacked guidance in many areas of life, but perhaps the most blatantly obvious area was fashion. I remember strutting through the hallways of Wayzata East Middle School in my black Aeropostale skinny jeans and my black zip-up hoodie. My brown and green Nike tennis shoes further complimented my outfit, and my look wasn't complete without my iconic middle-parted low ponytail and my wrist full of rubber bracelets that I so proudly collected. In addition, I unfortunately suffered from acne at a young age, and wisely came to the conclusion that using a lot of dark eye makeup could draw attention away from the rest of my pimple-ridden face.
All of this is to say: I was ugly. Yes, I'll admit it.
I was the queen of pubescent awkwardness. It wasn't until I was 15 or 16 that I hopped onto Accutane, bought clothes that weren't considered "unisex," and learned how to actually use a makeup brush.
Oddly enough, I look back at my days of objective ugliness and remember a confidence that I haven't known in a long time.
Despite my boyish fashion sense and my red-tinted skin, I had no shame in who I was. I was friends with practically everyone in school. I was a lead in every single middle school play. I got good grades, I was on a good basketball team, and that was essentially all that mattered to me.
I was happy.
I can remember when my "ugly confidence" began to shift. It was the summer before high school and I had practically begged my mom to let me download Instagram. All my friends had accounts, and I simply could not be let out of the loop. She reluctantly agreed. Soon, my camera roll became saturated with pictures of my friends and I "staying fierce," doing duck lips, and throwing up peace signs. We began hanging out and doing certain activities just to get a "good" Instagram post - although looking back, they really weren't that good.
Life suddenly felt competitive in a way that I wasn't used to. It was no longer about how many free throws I could make in a row, or if I could get the lead in the school musical. Now, in this new, strange era, it became about how many likes I could get. The better you looked, the more likes you could get, and the better you would feel about yourself.
As a young teenage girl, it's easy to let your worth be defined by external factors. Luckily, in the time that I was a young teenage girl, Instagram was relatively new. Although it was a popular app, most people had similarly cringey posts with terrible preset filters. Nobody really knew what they were doing, and it was kind of fun.
I often think about what it would be like to be me, at 13, in 2020. It seems rare to see an ugly 13-year-old anymore. There are plenty of young teenagers now who have full-fledged skin care routines and outfits that look like they were torn off a mannequin at Urban Outfitters. The beauty standards of today are practically unattainable, and many young girls foster social media accounts with literally thousands of followers. I think about my 13-year-old self - in all of my awkward, pimply glory - and I wonder how she would hold up in today's world.
I want girls today to be allowed to be ugly. I want them to be confident in themselves exactly as they are. I want them to have the space and the time to figure out who they are, away from the judgemental glare of thousands of followers. I miss being ugly, and confident, and unaware of the gaze of my peers. I miss proudly walking down the hallways in my chunky Nike's and my wrist full of rubber bracelets. I miss the days where no one cared and we were free to uphold our own beauty standards.
As college women, I think it is important to model authenticity. In a world that is continually telling us that our value is based on our appearance, ugliness is an act of rebellion. Maybe this week, I'll bring back my middle-parted low pony. Maybe I'll stop wearing make-up, and maybe I'll step out of the house in the most unflattering grout-fit imaginable. Maybe this week I'll remember the confidence I had in myself before the world told me who to be. Maybe I'll take notes from my 13-year-old self - ugly, unfiltered, and completely confident in who she is.