#DearMe: A Message to High School Dana (in Honor of International Women’s Day)

IMG_7758YouTube recently launched a new campaign with the hashtag #DearMe — in collaboration with International Women’s Day (which falls on March 8th). The idea is simple– people create and upload “video letters” to their younger selves, with the goal of raising social consciousness, as well as inspiring and helping girls deal with problems and feel less alone. The hashtag promo was modeled after #ItGetsBetter, launched in 2010 in response to suicides of teenagers who were bullied because of their sexual orientation. As a woman, as a feminist, as a teen who struggled, I want to join the movement and share my own #DearMe letter in the honor of International Women’s Day. I’d love to hear your #DearMe advice in the comments, or shoot me a reference to your own link!

Dear Dana,

Hi! How’s high school? Is gymnastics going okay? Are you hanging in there during your first year of undergrad? You don’t know me yet, but this is a letter from an older, cooler, more confident you! It will take you about 10-12 years to get here, and the road will be rocky but I promise, it is TOTALLY worth it because you’re going to do some amazing things between the ages of high school and 25. But, girl, seriously, I know you’re going through a lot right now– which is why I desperately want to give you some advice– there is a lot of extra baggage that you could shed throughout the journey, so just hear me out!

1. First of all, Dana, Stop Hating Your BodyStop Hating How You Look. Stop Hating Yourself. Stop Weighing Yourself on a Scale three times per day. Stop Observing Yourself in the Mirror. Stop Trying to Lose Weight. Stop Dieting and Counting Calories. Dana, your self-hatred and self-loathing has consumed your mind for years– time you will never get back. Women and girls are fed unrealistic expectations of the fictitious “perfect” body every day, and it is REALLY hard to avoid the pressure to conform to societal expectations. But really, you don’t owe anyone a perfect body, or perfect hair, or perfect anything. Your looks and your size do not determine your worth as a person. You ARE good enoughyou always have been. It is going to take awhile, but you will learn to accept and love yourself. It sounds cheesy, but learning to love yourself is what is going to lead to a happier you. (Besides, you are in KILLER shape– embrace the fact that you can do a ton of pull-ups and push-ups. Your body is different from many other women and girls’ because you’re super athletic and muscular– be proud of that!) I know your hair is a pain in the ass, and you hate it, but I promise you will learn to style it. (PS- I’d advise you to avoid the bangs that you had from 2009-2011.) Also- Your acne gets better, but seriously, just schedule an appointment at the dermatologist, and start wearing sunscreen.

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2. Just like your body, your relationship status does NOT determine your worth and dignity as a person. Stop dumbing yourself down in order to get these boys to like you.  I promise, brains before beauty ALWAYS. You’re really, really clever, open-minded, and you have a lot of potential. Use that noggin!! Just, really, Dana, stop wasting your time with these stupid boys. They’re not actually that cool, and hanging around with assholes was never your thing, and they don’t make you feel good. Seriously, do you remember the boy you lusted over for two years during high school? Come on, he’s just SO not your type. And, the other man you were in love with for almost three years during college? I know how much it hurts, but just let him go. He doesn’t care about you in that way, and you and I both know that the two of you are not at all compatible.

3. Your Sexual Assault was NOT your fault. I’m sorry that you grew up in a slut-shaming, prude, sex-is-bad environment. It will take you some time to come to terms with what happened, and understand what happened, and accept what happened. It is hard because you don’t have the support you need from certain people, but you will find plenty of support from other friends, as well as complete strangers on the internet. I promise, Dana, you will heal, you will grow, and you will help others as a result.

4. There is life after high school, and the first year of undergrad. There is life outside your hometown. That awful, popular girl who bullied you all those years during middle and high school; the mean girls on your sports teams; the douchey co-workers and managers who made work a bit miserable for you; The catty girls from freshman year? Forget about them. You don’t ever have to see them again. You are going to have an amazing, uplifting, open, accepting group of great friends from all corners of the globe and from various walks of life. Oh, and by the way, you are not, and have never been, a Republican– as I said, you’ll learn that once you leave Wisconsin for France.giphy

5. Study abroad is not your last chance to travel. Don’t listen to the people in your life who do not share your same passion. Because believe me, you will do a lot of traveling after the age of 19, but you have to make it a priority in order to make it happen (and you do.)  So, have some faith, be patient, stay the course, finish your degree, and you’ll find yourself doing exactly what you wanted to do in your twenties.

6. Stop trying to fit in. Stop trying to conform. You are a really unique person– own that.  You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing just because it is “cool.” Just be you. 

7. Don’t feel guilty, even for a second, for living your life and doing what you want, with your career, with your travels, with your money. Be selfish, learn to say “No“, and put yourself first– that’s what everybody else does. Stop being so self-conscious about what people think– no one gives a shit. And, above all, own your decisions. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and do not be afraid to quit.You’ll be so much happier this way. Really, Dana, the only person in this world you can count on is yourself.

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Anyways, Dana, I promise, it does get better.

XoXo,

25-year-old You 🙂

Bisous,

Dana

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