At the end of secondary school, we had a prom. And at the end of college, we had another prom. I didn’t go to either.
When I was sixteen, my self esteem was lower than you could possibly imagine. When everyone around me started getting hyped up for prom, I couldn’t help but feel ridiculously anxious. Prom is the kind of event where everybody makes themselves look all fancy, and then other people compare you. Who has the best dress, best hair, best makeup? I couldn’t stand the thought of being looked at so much, judged so much, and compared to all of the beautiful girls around me. My chest was too flat, my hair was too limp, my skin was too bad, my vision left me rendered with ugly glasses. There was no way that I was going to parade myself around when I felt so low.
My friends tried to encourage me, bombarding me with messages about how I would miss out, how I would look fine, how I would enjoy myself once I got there. The seemingly endless conversations telling me to just push myself and step out of my comfort zone made me feel worse, because actually, it’s not that easy to face your fears like that. My best friend was supermodel material, so the thought of standing beside her while she looked like a younger version of Blake Lively was torture to me.
The same fears struck once again at the end of college. The difference was that this time, I actually intended to go. I bought my dress, I got a new lipstick, all the plans were made. Then, on the night of the event, I found myself looking in the mirror and bursting into tears. There was that familiar feeling again, holding me back from yet another event. I spent the rest of my night in my pyjamas at my sister’s apartment after crying on my mum for what felt like forever, while my friends all had the time of their lives with free ice cream and a photo booth, dressed to the nines. Another one lost.
My battle with anxiety and low self esteem has been a long one. I can’t tell you how many plans I’ve cancelled just because I can’t stand the way I look in the mirror that day. The thought of getting dressed and leaving the house is just too much to handle sometimes, even if it’s just to pop to the corner shop.
It wasn’t until I started taking medication for my anxiety that I finally let go and stopped caring about the way I looked so much. Instead of spending two hours a day trying to get my hair to curl just right and getting my eyeliner straight, I can now let go enough to just do the basics. I can even leave the house without makeup now (but only on rare occasions, I’ll admit).
Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and push yourself to do something brave. But other times, it’s okay to just admit that it’s not your cup of tea, and you’d rather be in bed. You have to find your own balance and make your own decisions, and eventually you’ll expand your comfort zone at your own pace. Prom wasn’t for me, but Freshers Ball was, and I finally got to wear that dress I’d bought. Come to things in your own time, it will all be okay.