Starting high school is a nerve-wracking experience for anyone, but it’s especially intimidating if you stand out from your peers. Roxanne Bayer knows firsthand. When she began 8th grade, she was super excited, but it didn’t go quite as planned. In her Teen Flaunt essay, the 18-year-old reflects on her journey toward self-acceptance, and she tells us exactly what it was like to feel so different from other students. Since she’s from Windhoek, the largest city in Namibia (South Africa), her darker skin made her feel insecure.
This was so surprising to Roxanne, because she originally comes from an area with Apartheid, or a segregation system. As she explains in her essay, “People of different ethnicities still live in different neighborhoods of the city. Thus, you generally go to the school closest to you, leading me to spend my seven years in primary school surrounded by people and children that looked like me.”
It definitely took some time for Roxanne to adjust. She remembers that first day of class:
So there I was, the only brown girl (with just two other brown boys), surrounded by people who all knew each other and were already friends. Being an introvert didn’t help the matter either. I wanted to make friends, but I couldn’t find myself to cross the racial barrier. I never felt so insecure about my race in my entire life.
She felt incredibly insecure and remembers standing out in all the class photos. Her hair was much darker and thicker than her classmates, and her eyes were a darker shade of brown too. She even had a different accent, causing her to feel even more uncomfortable.
Much of her 8th grade year continued like this, until grade 11, when she says she realized that it was her own insecurities preventing her from forming friendship. She cared about how she looked—but her classmates didn’t.
So here I am, at the end of grade 12, the only brown girl in my group of friends, but the happiest I’ve ever been. Instead of standing around break times with people who look and sound like me, I’m having fun with people who think like me. The number of similar interests we have is unbelievable, and I even found my best friend amongst these green-eyed, light-haired girls, because what made us friends wasn’t skin deep
To read the rest of Roxanne’s awesome essay about self-acceptance, head over to the Teen Flaunt site! And for more Teen Flaunts that we love, check out these stories:
- Samantha’s sister has Amniotic Band Syndrome
- Nick, 17, embraces his body size
- Courtney, 17, has Spina Bifida Occulta
If you would like to have your teenager or student (age 13-18) write a “Teen Flaunt” that could potentially be published on the Teen Flaunt page, please submit the proposed essay (no longer than 700 words) to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Did you know there’s a health and well-being magazine for teens that features inspiring stories every month? Learn more about Choices here, and check out our past pieces about Ashlyn, who feels no pain, and Georgia, who was born deaf.