I scroll through an old high school classmate’s Instagram feed and feel slightly jealous. Jealous because I’ve never had the courage to be more open like she is, to grab life by the horns and just live it. To be uninhibited and carefree, with people who are as beautiful and accomplished as she is. To be unashamedly content in her own body, supporting the closest people around her and loving life to its fullest extent.

I’m ashamed to admit that I say, “What about me?”

I have a job that pays the bills but doesn’t fulfill me. I have friends who I’ve met through work, but I sometimes wonder who will still be there after I’m gone. I have fears and economic uncertainty, because I was naïve or dumb or unaware, and thus I wonder, “What if?”

And I have this nagging feeling that I am missing out—that annoying little thing called the “Fear of Missing Out.” I sit here typing this, one month shy of turning 25, and I am evaluating my life. How have I grown as a woman and what can I do to make my life better, more enriched, more incandescent?

The scared little girl

Let me begin with where these questions and insecurities are coming from. They spawn from a dark past that I continue to believe I’ve gotten over, worked through, and yet, all my insecurities from childhood still rear their ugly head.

When I think I won’t have enough to pay that next credit card bill, I revert to the little girl who was called nasty names by classmates and was made to feel inferior. When I look in the mirror and ask myself if I’m beautiful, I am reminded of the men I’ve liked throughout my life (the first being way back in third grade) and the way I’ve always been strung along.

When I try to envision my future—strong, bold, a job filled with passion and independence—I see that scared little girl again, the one who has no idea what her future holds and what she’s meant to do when her confidence is constantly shaken.

I sit here writing this and I’m crying. Crying because I think that as part of my personal growth, these last 25 years have taught me the power of me—as an individual, as a smart, capable woman, and as a person who can be and do whatever she wants—but I’m only just seeing her now.

I sit here crying because I realize that as part of my personal growth, I need to let go of that scared little girl and forgive the current woman who sits, jealous of people who seem to have it all. The people who seem to be perfect and accomplished and beautiful.

And I sit here crying because I’m realizing I’ve never fully forgiven myself for everything I’ve endured. And that’s what has held me back.

So I’ve decided that in order to let go and begin enjoying the life I truly deserve, I need to forgive. I need to stop comparing myself to those girls from yesteryear. And I need to tell myself it’s OK to be unsure, but to never be afraid.

I am looking into the face of my past and saying that it doesn’t define me. I haven’t really been able to tell myself that until now, because being bullied leaves a permanent scar that never truly fades. Being bullied was heart-wrenching for me, but it has enabled me to slowly discover who I am, what I value and what makes me a better woman.

Being bullied was awful, but I’ve realized I’ve never quite forgiven myself. Instead of being jealous of Instagram posts, I should be happy because the people in them are happy and confident in their life choices.

I have the power to change my life path

So, I sit here writing this, taking the first step on my journey of personal growth. I am ready to forgive myself because I deserve to be happy. I am ready to ask for help because I no longer want to sit in the dark, facing these feelings alone.

I’ve come to realize that I’ve never allowed myself to be fully present in life. I’ve coasted because I’ve been afraid to be hurt again, to be let down, to fail.

I am ready to live life on my terms, because I no longer believe that the friendless little girl exists inside me—the one incapable of having friends or trusting that they won’t hurt me. And I am ready to let go of my past, wholly and completely, because I believe that up until this point, it has stopped me from being my best self and has held me back from experiencing all that I could possibly enjoy.

In this moment, I’ve come to realize that I’ve never allowed myself to be fully present in life. I’ve coasted because I’ve been afraid to be hurt again, to be let down, to fail.

I’ve been a good student, a hard worker, a loving daughter and a loyal friend, but I’ve never been able to see myself as everyone else sees me: as the woman who is confident, capable, smart, sophisticated, beautiful and worthy of every good thing that comes her way.

No longer can I let my past dictate my future, nor can I let my fears and comfort with my current state of being serve as my crutch. No longer can I feel insecure around people from my past or feel jealous of their accomplishments and happy lives.

I have the power to change my life path. I have the power to tell that little girl from my childhood that she will be OK and that she will make it through. I have the power to tell that little girl that she will be successful, that she will be beautiful and that her accomplishments will translate into her best life. And I have the power to enjoy life on my terms, to do things I love and seek a life that is meaningful to me.

Being bullied and feeling insecure is never something I asked for, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. It has taught me to be a better person and to want more for myself. I’m working through my insecurities and beginning to forgive myself. I’m learning how to be my best self.

And that’s the most incredible Instagram post I could ever want to see.

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