We’ve been friends for so long and through so many changes. Every time we see each other, no matter how long it has been, we reconnect and our bond feels unchanged. At least until recently. It breaks my heart that where I once saw acceptance, I now see judgment. The comfort I have always found in your presence can’t be found anymore. Maybe this is my fault. I’ve never been great at opening up but opening up to you never scared me in the past. For the first time I have to be conscious of how I act and what I share. My words, my clothes, even my body feels judged. My career choices, relationship choices are weighed and ranked among others. Other “friends” of yours.

This isn’t what scares me the most though. It isn’t why I have been writing and rewriting this letter, in my head and on paper. You aren’t just judging and ranking me; you’re judging yourself just as harshly. I see that you’ve accomplished so much in these last few years. You’ve followed your plan to a T. But friend, you have abandoned your heart in the name of success. In many ways I am so proud of who you have become, of the determination that has brought you success in the eyes of many. But I can’t forget the openness, the honesty, that those around you were once compelled by, easily opening up and sharing everything with you. You’ve pushed yourself so hard and the world can see your success, your entirely perfect record. But this society leaves some things off the score-card. The acceptance that defined our friendship has been neglected on the path to perfect grades, the perfect career, style, and beauty.  You shine in these regards but you no longer embody the freedom I once heard in your laugh.

I believe that you found judgment, and sometimes hatred, resentment, and fear, could fuel the hard work and change society was asking of you. Those things can motivate change in us but we will never feel good about it. We will not find pride or happiness there. The purest growth, the growth that feels like blossoming, cannot come from such dark places. It can only come from places of kindness, acceptance, and hope. Ultimately, instead of hating ourselves, we have to believe in ourselves. Self-acceptance, self-love will give you confidence in who you are and who you aim to be. It allows you to embrace your strengths and always do your best. Please do not give fuel to the expectations of society for I can tell you from my own experience that the acceptance of strangers won’t mean as much to your happiness as acceptance from yourself. From here going forward, please continue to succeed and grow, but grow in the areas that matter to you, the areas that will make you a person of whom you can be proud. Most importantly, find the beauty that I have always seen within you. Find motivation from the good things in this world, not the bad.

My friend, if you bring the best of who you are now together with the best of who you once were, you will find not only the love and respect of strangers but that of yourself as well. I know that you have the incredible ability to love yourself and embrace life, growing in ways that you dream and in ways that you never could have imagined. Don’t forget that for your whole life you will have the ability to choose who you are and who you want to be. Speaking as a true friend who will always be there for you, I hope you will use love and hope to succeed in your own image and make this world a more beautiful place.

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