School is starting very soon for me. I’m going into 8th grade! Lately it’s been really hard to go to sleep. I’m actually typing this at 3:39 am. I talked with a friend of mine earlier and we started talking about uniforms and stuff. (I go to a small private school) I wore my uniform and she wore hers. As usual I looked stupid in mine. My skirt was basically at my knees which isn’t too horrible but I feel like it makes me look old. And I just hated how I looked in it. Now, I’m not exactly a pretty girl. I’m overweight. Not extremely but enough to make me self-conscious. And I also have acne and pimples and stuff. It’s not super horrible compared to others but still. And compared to my friends who all look amazing! They all have mainly clear skin and are fit and everything, I feel like crap. So my self-worth has really just gone down the drain. Anyways going back to my friend, I told her some of this. How I don’t look very pretty and I’m ugly compared to her and stuff. And throughout it she’s like ‘What no! Ur not ugly!! Dude I feel the same way’ and stuff like that ,and I kept telling her “Dude you’re literally gorgeous and I feel like whenever someone says ‘ur not ugly’ or ‘ur super pretty’ they’re just lying,’ and she was like ‘I feel the same way!!’ And so the call ended and everything and I was feeling better. But then I started overthinking hours after the call, and realized that throughout that conversation, she didn’t once call me pretty or anything like that. She just kept saying I wasn’t ugly! And I feel so selfish saying this since she was just trying to help, but not once did she compliment me or anything. And so I realized that she really doesn’t think I’m pretty. And I honestly don’t know where I’m going with this – I just really need to rant and get some advice! So then I keep telling myself, who cares what anyone thinks! It literally does not matter! And everyone is also worried about how others perceive them. And with this new worry along with my stress of starting a new school year and leaving friends behind, and hoping that I still keep in touch with lots of them. It hurts. And also with just wanting to cry, to sob, to scream, to shout. But for some reason not being able to cry or shed tears – it’s just really piling up. I tried talking to another friend and I told her “I hope ur not still mad at me” (we got into a fight earlier) “cuz I really need you” and she was like “I’m here, what’s up” and usually I can talk to her. I can be honest with her and just tell her. But I was too embarrassed I think, so I just asked her about sleep pills and she said “you don’t need sleep pills, you just need to let go of some stress. And then she was like “I’m a little upset with you dude. You say you need my help but don’t want it. Maybe you should think about what you say before you say it next time,” which made me feel even worse. I just didn’t wanna pile up more stress on her. Her mom has cancer and money is low and they’re in debt and on top of all that she cuts and stuff so I just didn’t wanna bother her with anything else. And she was being sweet about it and stuff, like “I can’t force u to tell me but I can’t help u if u don’t” so I have half the nerve to go tell her everything, but I’m too scared. Honestly this was just a rant for me, but I would really appreciate it if you could tell me what you think I should do. Should I talk to my friend or should I get some insomnia pills? How do I handle the stress better, and how do I get myself to cry? I know you don’t have all the answers, but I hope you can let me know soon!
So first of all – I love hearing from you, and it’s totally fine to write me and rant. No problem at all. So don’t worry if you don’t have an exact question. Sometimes the most useful thing a dog can do is just be there to hug and cry into their fur, I know! I’m happy to be that!
But I will talk about two things here. Your self-consciousness and your sleep.
First, about the self-consciousness. You are going into 8th grade, so I’m guessing you’re 13 years old, is that right? Your body is changing more and faster than it has since you were a tiny baby, and more and faster than it ever will again. This is the biggest lasting change you’ll ever go through (unless of course, heaven forbid, something happens to you that causes a permanent injury!). Most particularly your hormones are exploding, which causes weight gain and skin issues. Now I don’t know what you look like, and as a dog I judge people by other things than looks anyway. But I can say it’s totally normal that you’re going through a phase when you don’t look as pretty as you did a couple of years ago, or as pretty as you will a couple of years from now! My human friend Handsome told me that he was a “late bloomer,” so his face didn’t break out till he was two years older than you. Meaning that you might go through this now and then look a lot better than the kids like him in a couple of years! But in the meantime, of course I’ll suggest you do things for your health that improve your looks, like exercise more, drink more water, keep sugars and caffeine down and please please please don’t start smoking or vaping, as those will only make things worse. Will these guarantee a perfect complexion and a model figure next month? No. But they will keep you heading toward the best you can be.
Now one thing we dogs have over you humans is this whole self-consciousness thing. Because our brains are smaller, we literally Don’t Have it! Humans tell me I’m a beautiful dog, but I’m not aware of that beauty, or of the beauty in any other pooch. I call my human Handsome because I love the way he looks and smells, but is he someone others would call Handsome or Plain or Ugly? I don’t know – or care! He’s gorgeous to me!
And there’s no time in a human’s life when they’re more self-conscious than their teen years. Right where you are! So it’s normal to feel like you’re the ugliest person in the room, or the least liked, or the one everyone thinks of as dumb. And let me tell you – you’re wrong! Because everyone else in the room feels the same way. Your friend was telling you the truth when she said she feels the same fears you do. Now was she purposely avoiding telling you you’re pretty, or did she just not think of it? I don’t know.
But here’s what I do know. You Will Get Prettier. Your face will clear up, and if you choose to work at it, your figure will improve. So no matter what you think of yourself today, this all can get way better.
Now onto sleep – It’s also normal for teens to have sleep issues, and especially to feel the need to stay up late and sleep in late. But you do want to – for your studies, for your looks, and just your health in general – work to get your sleep patterns at least a little closer to school hours. Worries and stress will always make anyone have trouble falling asleep, but I know a few tricks you can try to help you doze off earlier.
First, stop all electronics at least half an hour before you want to sleep. Yes, that includes your phone! The light from them seems to make lots of people’s brains stay awake. Instead, do all the electronic stuff you want earlier, and then stop, get yourself ready for bed, and climb in with a book or a magazine. Why? The reflected light from pages affects you differently from the radiated light of a phone or tablet or computer. Reading printed material will actually get your eyes tired instead and lead to your falling asleep.
If that’s not enough, though, here’s an idea I like a lot. Lie there in the dark, and ask yourself two questions: What was the worst thing that happened to me today, and what was the best? As your mind works to answer each, it will have to scan over your whole day. And in doing that, it might uncover something you’ve forgotten. “Oh, I was supposed to call my aunt back!” “Oops I have to do that one page of homework!” Then just turn a light on, write that thing down, and try again. Often you’ll fall right asleep then; your brain hadn’t let you go unconscious while that issue was still there unremembered!
And if that’s still not enough? That’s when I’d say you might consider talking to a doctor. But until then, I’d focus on the effects of electronic light and the stress of too many things being on your mind.
Okay, Arty, that’s a lot to take in, I know!
Oh, but there’s one bit that pulls this whole letter together. Did you know that the body burns off lots of fat while sleeping? And that getting good nights’ sleep is as helpful for weight-loss as exercise? And did you know that getting lots of sleep is great for your skin too? So ironically, fixing the one issue here is going to help the other!
I won’t tell you to just have fun in 8th grade. You’ll be self-conscious, tired, and go through some rough experiences I’m sure. But I can and will urge you to try as best as you can to break through all that, and connect with friends, enjoy growing up, and laugh as much as you can.
After all, laughter is one of the few joys in life we dogs don’t get to experience. And since you don’t get a tail to wag, you really ought to indulge it!!
All my best,