Going through high school is tough. During junior high, your hormones are at an all-time high, your skin is breaking out, and for some reason, you feel like crying all the time. Throughout the years, I struggled with self-confidence and the fear of being unwanted by everyone.
In middle school, I felt too skinny, and my clothes fit awkwardly. I was insecure about my hair, my voice and anything else I could think of. I felt like the ugly duckling.
As time passed, it didn’t get much better. Everyone was getting boyfriends and wearing makeup and doing all sorts of things. I just felt lost. I started hating my body and the way I acted. I wanted to change everything about myself. When I started high school, I sought out male attention to feel validated for my appearance. Consequently, I found myself feeling even more pain, knowing most of the boys who talked to me were thinking only of their pleasure and personal gain. I felt even more alone.
During my sophomore year, I developed an eating disorder. I was at a point in my life where I wanted nothing more than to become someone else. When COVID hit, my school was closed; I pushed away my friends and isolated myself. My eating disorder was only getting worse, and I was constantly exhausted from my lack of nutrition and physical activity.
My faith life was at a standstill. I was going to Mass virtually, sitting in my living room, paying no attention to the words spoken on the TV. I wasn’t praying. I felt like God wanted nothing to do with me. I felt like I didn’t even belong in my church. I had convinced myself that I was unlovable and unwanted.
Then I went back to Mass for the first time since COVID and received the Eucharist. I went home and sat on my bed and just cried. I felt like I was at home.
I felt hopeful, and I felt loved. I was still struggling with my eating disorder, but I was now praying. I had God on my side, and I knew it now. About two months after going back to Mass, I told my parents about how I had felt for so long and what I was struggling with. I had been given the courage by God to seek out help and to realize that I wasn’t OK. My parents were able to get me the help I needed, and I was able to talk to professionals about how to handle my feelings of self-doubt.
My relationship with God was not where I wanted it to be, and I tried to fix it. I was going into my junior year and was brought into a new friend group, who helped me grow in my faith. When I went to Mass, I listened to the words instead of just sitting there. I prayed frequently, thanking God for giving me strength. I knew I was wanted and worthy of love. I joined the diocese’s Youth Advisory Council and met amazing youth from all over the state. I had a community, one that I knew would last a lifetime.
An example from the Bible that reminds me of my struggle is the woman at the well. Despite her reputation of being a prostitute in her town, Jesus still speaks to her. He still treats her as a person. He looks upon her with love in his eyes. In the same way, Jesus loved the woman at the well, he loves me. He loves me despite the hate I had for my body, which he designed just for me. He loves me even though I pushed him away and turned my back on him. That love is the love that saves.
I still struggle from time to time. I’m not perfect. I have to go to the Father, the one who loves me above all things. In his eyes, I am beautiful, no matter what. Things like thick thighs, chubby cheeks, stretch marks and acne scars don’t make me ugly, they make me human. God created all of us in his image. He doesn’t make mistakes. For the girl who may hate the way her stomach looks or the boy who feels like he isn’t tall enough, I want you to know you have a God who loves you endlessly.
Madeline Kennedy, a senior at Charleston High School, attends Sacred Heart Church in Charleston.
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