Hi I’m a 13 yr old girl and I have a problem where I get too sensitive about things. My brother used to hit me, call me names and always made me feel bad for my self. When my friends make little jokes about me I get too serious. When someone yells at me over petty stuff in class I’m embarrassed and start to cry because I don’t know how to reply back. Fourth reason is how people make fun of my weight and how fat I am. Fifth reason is friends always have a problem when I do dumb things and don’t make sense at all. I just want to learn how to get over these things so people can stop calling me sensitive all the time and high school is coming up pls help me!!
You’re not alone. It would be hard to find a thirteen year old in the developed world who isn’t insecure and vulnerable. Our supposedly evolved society breeds a sense of inadequacy in our youth that is completely at odds with what any parent would want their child to be feeling. Whether it’s weight or fashion, grades or social skills our children are confronted with aspirational messages around superficial assets that definitely don’t help the world go round. On TV, in movies, on the internet and even in those old fashioned things called magazines and newspapers the attributes celebrated are to be flawless, skinny, sought after, befriended by hundreds of strangers on Facebook and popular among your contemporaries. That list of requirements is virtually impossible to comply with if you’re a proper teenager. Not only are you hormones raging and interests changing, your body shaping and your brain awakening but you’re also the least confident you’ll ever be. The most important thing to remember is that for the vast majority of people, this stage in life is the worst you’ll ever feel. Even those around you who appear to have no such insecurities are going through internal misery I can promise you. That’s often why they take it out on others. Far from having the time of their lives at your age most adults look back on their teens with relief that they’re over and a degree of shame. Just count how many pictures of parents (yours or anyone else’s) taken during their teenage years are displayed around the homes you know? You’ll locate cute pics from childhood but rare indeed is anyone’s teen splendor preserved for posterity on the mantlepiece. No one thinks they were at their best at fourteen I can assure you. Why do you think teenage diaries are such a popular read when you reach adulthood if not to snicker at how narrow or naive your interests and ambitions once were! Even at fifty I probably look better than I did at fifteen. Look further afield at teenagers growing up in some of the most deprived spots in the world and it’s an altogether different picture. There young people are throbbing with ambition, bursting to succeed, focused at school if they’re lucky enough to be attending one and desolate if they can’t. The truth is that it’s privilege that allows us the time and energy to be so judgemental of each other and makes us blind to the values that we’d do better to dwell on. You need to take your example from those outside your small-minded social circle and find something more satisfying to sustain you. Let them waste away their teenage days bitching about each other and judging their peers while you change the world. Make Malala your role model instead of Beyonce. Whether it’s burying yourself in great books instead of aching for an invite, finding a soup kitchen or charity to lend your spare time to, identifying a subject to become an expert on, taking up a sporting challenge, or making friends with other kids struggling to fit in there’s no end to what you can do to improve your sense of self-esteem and make a difference to the world around you. Your brother sounds like a bully and I presume you’ve told your parents? Physically abusing someone isn’t just wrong but against the law so ensure that a sympathetic adult knows what is going on. In other areas you need to find your own feet so that the ground doesn’t tremble when you’re confronted. Dig down to your invincible inner core and rather than set your standards by those around you focus on your own interests and ambitions. Once you’ve determined to expand your horizon’s your tormentors will recede into the far distance and your attention will be focused on something bigger, better and far more important then what they think of you. They can spend their precious formative years trying to conform to the stereotypes they’re exposed to but you should resolve to do better. If you spend your time working out how to make your own life really matter all the rest will become just background noise and distraction. And remember, you’ll never feel as useless and full of self-doubt as you do when you’re a teenager so life can only get better!