As an 18 year old teenage girl, confidence is something I have battled with for many years now. In today's society, we are pressured in to looking a certain way, being a certain weight and liking certain things. For example, being a size 8 is considered acceptable, however, being a size 20 is somehow not. To me, this is ludicrous. But it is only recently that I have realised how much pressure we are put under by the media and our peers. This post is very personal for me, however I feel that by writing it, it will show me just how far I have come over the years.

In 2011, I turned 14 and entered the dreaded age of puberty. I piled on the weight and, as a result, became a completely different person. During my childhood I was extremely bubbly and loved socialising and trying new things. I still do enjoy those things, however, I went through a period of being completely anti-social and was stuck in denial. During the summer of 2012, I went on holiday with my extended family. At this point, I was still my old self. However, when we returned and I saw our many holiday pictures, I realised that I had put on around a stone and a half in weight. This shattered my confidence, and I immediately untagged myself from every single one of them on FaceBook. From then on, I became obsessed with my weight. I started noticing the way other girls looked, comparing myself to all of my friends. This made me feel terrible, and I started taking it out on my family. I stopped going out with friends and became a complete introvert. My low self esteem got so bad, that I was scared to even look at someone of the opposite sex for fear that they would judge me. I wouldn't even go into a shop or a coffee shop if it involved speaking to someone at the till.

Over the next two years, this continued. I was extremely shy and only had three friends. I was obsessed with counting calories and dieting. I tried countless diets, each and every one of them complete rubbish. You name it, I probably did it. I even went though a phase where I only ate fruit. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was fruit after fruit after fruit. It all sounds very stupid now, but at the time I would do anything if I thought it would help me lose weight.

During the summer of 2014, I realised I'd had enough. I knew that I had a problem and I needed help for it. I wouldn't say that I had an eating disorder, however, my relationship with food was definitely an issue that needed sorted. I booked an appointment with my GP and off I went to get help. However, during my appointment, I completely broke down in front of my doctor, and it wasn't until then that I realised I had a genuine problem. My doctor referred me to a specialist, and two months later we had set up a meeting. I only had two meetings with this specialist as I didn't really feel like they helped me. I was then referred to a dietician who then referred me to a psychologist. I was finally getting the help that I needed. Over the following 12 weeks I had a weekly meeting every Friday at 3pm. Not only did she help with my relationship regarding food, but she also made me realise that my main problem was my confidence. Every week she worked with me on improving my confidence and teaching me how to love myself. At the end of my sessions, I felt so much better.

Almost a year later I am completely different to the person that I was. I no longer count calories and I'm back to my old bubbly, outgoing self. I'm not going to lie, I still get nervous sometimes that people will judge me, but I no longer care as much as I did. I now have a boyfriend, I moved out and am now living in a completely new city all by myself at university. Something that I thought would never happen. I've come so far, and I love how much I've improved. Whenever I feel low nowadays, which I still do sometimes, I just take some time to think. My boyfriend loves me exactly as I am, and so do my friends and family. So why care what strangers on the street think? Live is too short to care what other people think about you. Just do what you love and wear what you want. My main point here is that in order to truly enjoy life and be the best version of yourself, you need to love yourself. You need to look at yourself in the mirror and realise how amazing you are. You are so unique, and instead of hating that, you should love it! So ignore what the tabloids and social media tell us is "perfect", and instead, realise that you are perfect as you are. Because if we were all the same, life would be extremely boring. It took me a long time to realise all of this, but I can assure you that it's true. I'm so much happier now than I was 5 years ago, and it's all because I started to love myself. Confidence is definitely the key to your happiness.

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