Gina Vaynshteyn
August 08, 2013 8:18 am

When I was a kid, I always wanted to be cool. But truthfully, this was impossible to pull off. My mom didn’t get it, that glitter Limited Too tank-tops (remember those? They were the best!) were stylish, and I was always sent to school with something pickled and leftover in my lunch box. I was a first generation daughter to old-world Eastern European parents; my tween concerns were alien to them. My hair was frizzy, an undistinguished brown, and it looked like my grandmother had full control over my wardrobe. I had to wear glasses, and they were round and purple. My two front teeth were huge and gapped, like a beaver. I was a mess, you guys. If twelve year-old me knew me now, she would have passed out, because twelve-year-old me wanted nothing to do with herself.

Middle school is always the worst. If you don’t agree with me, then you’re either a liar or Megan Fox.  Besides my unglamorous middle-part and knock-off Vans, I was hyper-reclusive. When you’re rocking the big old triangle Jew fro hair and don’t know how to pull off mascara, it’s at least mildly beneficial that you learn to speak up. I was the girl who sat in the back of the classroom, hoping I would never be noticed. But, as most people painfully know, middle school girls are mean. And those Abercrombie skort-wearing sun-kissed teenage sires tore me apart. By the time I was fourteen, I didn’t feel pretty, cool, or comfortable in my own skin, and I didn’t have anyone to turn to and ask if feeling like this was okay. My brother was eighteen years older than me and living in Indiana, and when they were kids, my parents used to have to go to the bathroom in outdoor buckets, so naturally, they felt no sympathy for me. I had no guides (one like the inspirational Dove toolkit would have saved my angsty little life!), and I felt embarrassingly and hopelessly alone in this awkward odyssey.

I want to time travel back to this girl and shake the hell out of her. I would tell her to stop worrying about how different she is, because that is what makes her beautiful. I would tell her that everyone (except Megan Fox!) takes some time accepting themselves. I would angrily tell her to never cut her own bangs again, especially if she didn’t plan on straight-ironing them (if you ever visit my parent’s house, there is a giant blown-up photo of me and my curly bangs parted down the middle, and it’s smack-dab in the middle of the living room) every morning. I would tell her to love her body even though it’s hard to some days. I would tell her to ditch the crappy friends who weren’t ever going to look out for her. I would promise her that boys would eventually like like her, that they would give her flowers and that someday, she would be the one breaking their stupid hearts. I wouldn’t tell her about the amazing things she would accomplish in her twenties. She’ll find out on her own.

Honestly, I truly started embracing my quirky qualities (the impossible hair, the skinny wrists, my less-than-stellar vision) in college. Once I moved out of my parent’s house, I was constantly surrounded by people my own age of different backgrounds. Even though I went to college in vapid Orange County, I still managed to meet really diverse, eclectic people.  I met one of my best friends in a World Literature class, I fell in love with poetry, I hosted a radio show with my roommate, I edited my school’s literary magazine, and I met my (now) fiancé. After I graduated, I started writing. Even though I majored in English, I never submitted my essays or poems before. I was scared, admittedly, but I knew I finally had a voice that was worth being heard. I started submitting my creative work and non-fiction everywhere, and simultaneously decided on applying to grad school.

Getting rejected is hard. It kicks your butt. But if you’re passionate, you keep going, you kick back. You send out more e-mails, you write until you get tired, and then you go to Starbucks, order a triple-shot espresso and keep going. I had a book review accepted by The Rumpus last year, and then a month after that, I became a HelloGiggles regular contributor. I finally had a platform! I could finally use my messy notebook full of ideas to good use! I started a blog (which I totally need to update) and a Twitter, and I really capitalized on my ideas, my voice, my thoughts, and concerns. I would have never in a million years been able to do that when I was younger. Confidence is something that I didn’t naturally have, but learned to develop slowly over time.

Now, I’m lucky enough to engage with the amazing readers and writers on HelloGiggles, smart young women (and guys!) who are here for the laughs and the discussion. I also get to work with undergrads at my university and help them with their own writing. This fall, I’ll be teaching my own class, and yes I’m beyond scared. I have the chance to make an impact on so many people, and that means a lot to me. Because ten years ago, I was a sad, dorky little girl who hated any spotlight as well as her freckles. I’m writing this because I know some of you read HelloGiggles because you want real stories. You want advice. You want real-life examples of average girls who are trying their best to accomplish the most. Trust me, if I got through the 2000’s, you can get through anything.

Dove truly encourages young women to embrace their inner and outer beauty, and want to emphasize that beauty, confidence, and self-esteem are all inner-related. Dove and HelloGiggles want you to find the strength within yourself, and the power to be anything you want.

Did you stumble and fall through your childhood and tween years? Was I the only one with terrible owl glasses? Are you passionate about something? Let us know and share your story!

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