My Interests Are My Insecurities
By Seren Cho // Dec. 21 2019
I walked into my first day of seventh grade without any semblance of the changes within me that would take place during this formative year. As usual, I sat somewhere where I would not draw too much attention--not in front, not in the way back, but in the middle. I took out my binder covered in stickers and pictures and set it on my desk. I looked at the clock. I had ten minutes until class started. I took out Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero, his first installment of the Percy Jackson sequel series, and began to read. I was in my element.
As the year went on, I tried to make friends and connect with people by talking about my interests. As you can probably guess, I talked too much about Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and not enough about who was dating who, which seemed to be the talk of the town instead. The thing was, I simply didn’t care. It was of no interest to me. But, I did care about whether Annabeth and Percy were still together, as one should.
I continued trying to find someone who was just as passionate about “Percabeth” as I was. No such luck.
I began to question whether or not my lack of finding friends had to do with me, rather than a prospective friend. Did I not make a good first impression? I didn’t think so. I believed myself to be friendly and accepting, but as I continued to talk to people in class and face their disinterest, I realized they simply weren’t interested in the same things I was.
Instead of moving on and seeking out someone that did hold my same interests, I criticized myself for even being interested in “nerdy” things. In the eyes of my 12 year old peers, I wasn’t worthy of their friendship if I wasn’t interested in celebrity gossip or trying Starbucks secret menu items.
I developed an insecurity in what my interests were. While I didn’t stop being interested in those things, I frequently second-guessed myself. Would talking about Harry Potter help me make friends? Or will it backfire in my face? The constant back and forth between embracing myself and shielding it away was exhausting.
Halfway through seventh grade, I met a group of girls with whom I became friends with. We sat everyday together at lunch, laughing and talking like we’d known each other for years. I felt safe and comfortable with them, which wasn’t something I experienced everyday. But, I still harbored a secret: my love for nerdy things. After plenty of overthinking and back and forth, I decided I would share my secret with them. I came clean one day at lunch and told them I liked Harry Potter, among many other things. Their reactions surprised me. Two of them didn’t care in the slightest. Their perception of me didn’t change. They still wanted to be my friend. The other told me she liked Harry Potter, too. Despite being one of the most successful franchises of all time, up until this point, I felt so completely alone. From that day on, I don’t think a day went by when we didn’t mention Harry Potter at least once. As someone who constantly faced rejection, it was almost weird that they reacted so positively. Weird, but nice. I was grateful they still valued me as their friend.
Even when things started looking up, I have always held a sort of judgement for myself based off of my interests. I never stopped reading Percy Jackson or watching Teen Wolf, but I would sit in bed at night, trying to fall asleep, and think to myself: why did I have to like the things I did?
The main problem was that I felt like I didn’t belong. Anywhere. Up until becoming friends with those girls, not a single person I knew held the same interests as me, so clearly I was the one in the wrong. This lack of belonging manifested itself into self-loathing and insecurity that continues to plague me as a college student with many friends who love Marvel just as much as I do.
I went back and forth between embracing my quirks and hating myself for them. This inbetween made me insecure about who I was. I would pretend to be someone I wasn’t at school, then in my room I was someone completely different, but completely true to me.
It took years of learning self-acceptance to get over this insecurity.
In high school, I wanted to be confident in myself, and in my interests and hobbies. So, I went on a quest to embrace my true self, putting aside my anxious thoughts about what people would think of me... I dyed my hair bright purple and pink. I wore a Harry Potter themed necklace everyday to school. I wrote about my own person beliefs on feminism in the school newspaper in a conservative-dominated community. I tried to present myself on the outside the same way I thought of myself on the inside. Sure, I got weird looks, and heads may have turned toward me as I walked down the halls, but I was being true to myself.
Even though I prioritized being myself, I still felt insecure because I wasn’t making friends. The girls I was friends with in middle school and I all went our separate ways once it was time to start high school. I sat in my Latin teacher’s classroom everyday during lunch for a few weeks. We would chat about the new Star Wars movie or Game of Thrones while we ate our food. But, I realized I had to go out and make friends with people my own age.
Let me tell you, it was hard. It took years to find my people. I spent freshman and sophomore year with a group of girls I wasn’t close with, but stayed with them because I had no one else. I got stuck. I stayed with them because of habit. I was afraid to venture out and potentially face rejection as I had before, so I stayed where I was even if I wasn’t happy.
Junior year was full of trial and error. I realized that if I wasn’t happy, then I needed to make myself happy. I met new people in my classes and hung out with people I hadn’t before. I jumped from group to group experimenting where I fit best. Through this, I faced rejection and acceptance from different people, figuring out exactly where I belonged. I would mention my love for “nerdy” things almost as a litmus test with every new person I met. It was through this trial and error that I became close friends with people I still call best friends today. I was finally comfortable. My last year of high school I was unashamedly myself, truly embracing the person I am. I was unapologetic about my interests and passions, and if someone judged me for it, then it was their loss rather than mine. Rejection, instead of making me more insecure, made me more sure of myself and to whom I was devoting my time.
Because these friends supported me in everything I did, I learned that having different interests was okay. It didn’t make me inferior, or different, or not worthy of friendship.I learned to embrace this side of myself unapologetically. So what I didn’t play a sport or drink mochas? I’m obsessed with Frozen, and I’m proud of it!