As a child, you constantly hear adults complaining about teenagers. How they are antisocial, grumpy and impossible to get along with. I always thought to myself, “I’ll never be like that, why would I be?” For it seemed to me that teenagers (teenage girls to be precise) were this way because they cared too much about how they looked, makeup and hairstyles were the second most important thing in their life, and the most important thing was boys. Now that I am a teenager, I can say that although these things are important, they are not the reason why being a teenager is so hard.

You like loud music, hanging with friends and you can never have enough parties. You just cut your hair to match your best friend’s and you love wearing jeans. You’re a teenager. But being a teenager is more than just music and clothes — being a teenager is about being you.

There are a lot of changes between childhood and being a teenager, and many of them are unexpected. For me, the most dramatic change has occurred recently. I have started to see the world as a new wide place. A place where drinking and drugs are common problems, peer pressure isn’t something you are warned about but a daily factor in many of your decisions. Friends you have known since forever suddenly do the things that are completely devastating for you, and slowly they turn into strangers. And the secret thoughts and fears told to you by your best friend are no longer about life, but about death. Suicide isn’t something you hear about on the news, it is now what keeps you up at night when your friend doesn’t reply and you don’t know why. You worry about them, about school, about what other people think of you. You put on a brave face to the world and cry yourself to sleep in the safety of your own room.

Depression. Stress. Anxiety. Well over half the teenagers who experience depression, stress, anxiety or a combination of the three, experience it because they think they don’t fit in. They think their walk has to be like their class’ favorite pop star’s, they think that their clothes have to match the ‘popular’ clique’s, they think they have to play the same sport as the rest of their friends…they think they have to conform. But being a teenager is about expressing yourself, right? But, if so, how can you show off your individualism by conforming? How can you be yourself if you just want to look like somebody else?

Happy, sad, angry, confused and scared. They used to be the extent of your emotions, with a few others occasionally appearing in special circumstances. Now you don’t even know how you feel. One minute you can be happy, relaxed, calm and cool, but then one short text message can leave you angry, jealous, scared, worried, and frozen. They don’t tell you when you turn thirteen that feelings can bounce and change in seconds. I think we should be warned. Wouldn’t you like a letter in the post, telling you what will happen? Those things will be scary, confusing, and different…but that you will make it through? We need something to hold on to when life is slowly slipping away, being replaced by something we cannot understand. Tell your friend today that they will make it, make them smile. Because we need our friends, and we need to keep smiling. Listen to a happy song, tell a funny joke, just hang in there and never give up.

Being a teenager is not about fitting in. Being a teenager is not about conforming. Being a teenager is about being special, unique and the best person you can be — in a nutshell, it’s about being yourself. Teenagers often look at others and think that unless they’re like them, they won’t be liked or appreciated. They couldn’t be further from the truth! If you copy everyone else, then you’re not special, you’re just one of the mob! But if you’re not afraid to just be yourself and show off your own talents and flair, that is what people will see in you and love about you. They will love you for what you are, rather than what you’re not.

Never be afraid to be yourself. You have your own set of positive attributes, so why think you have to be like someone else? You’re you, and there’s only one you in the whole world, so be proud of yourself! Do you play an instrument? Are you the world’s next J.K. Rowling? Can you shoot a goal like no one else? Whatever it may be, you can do things no one else can. You don’t need to be like the majority –- if you imitate everybody else, how will you stand out?