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They were adorable. Always first to wear the latest fashions. Gorgeous hair. Pretty skin. Just about perfectly symmetrical faces. All the guys wanted to snatch them up. They could do no wrong. They got by with a flirtatious smile. No one ever bullied them. They were fly.

And from middle school through about my junior year of college I wanted to be in that number of girls. I wanted to have their kind of fun where people just gravitated toward me, wanted to be like me. I wanted a full purse and social calendar.  Little did I know (or care, at that time) that all that “fullness” was accompanied by an empty head and an empty heart.

It really is a normal feeling – wanting to belong. We dig being adored and accepted by those we’ve placed on pedestals whether we realize it/want to admit it or not. The question that arose while I was in the midst of trying to belong was, “What/who are you trying to belong to?”

As I grew tired of the same ol’, same ol’ and started figuring out who I was, I found myself giving severe side eye – my facial expressions betray my thoughts on a daily basis – wondering how these girls made it this far with such trivial pursuits and outrageously materialistic interests such as: how much they resembled some Hollywood star or which reality personalities were going to fight each other on television tonight. Really? To have had a conversation about the presidential debates or black history had proven fruitless and frustrating countless times. Trust me. I tried it. Was this “ditzy-ness” really what I wanted to attach myself to? Did I really want to make a joke out of EVERYTHING only to ultimately end up the punch line?

The beauty and adoration I found so enchanting as a youngster, I now realized were the ONLY contents of their cup. It became painfully clear that their conversation skills peaked at things like their so-called haters, where they could buy the bag Rihanna was rocking and the ankle-deep controversy of “Love & Hip Hop.” Whenever we spoke I found myself disgusted or annoyed or embarrassed for these girls’ horrible lack of knowledge or all of the above. But I was more disgusted, annoyed and embarrassed for myself, forcing a smile and playing along, dumbing myself down to fit the mold.

Now, make no mistake: It’s not a matter of believing I am intellectually superior; Lord knows I am learning DAILY. It is, however, a matter of actively choosing not to be influenced/aggravated by petty, superficial views and pursuits with which others seem to be perfectly satisfied. If after all these years there is no growth within your peer group then it’s only natural for those who have grown to seek out those who will grow with them. I made the decision quite a few years ago to leave and never rejoin the shallow circles into which I had once so feverishly wanted to be included. To stop pretending that Prada shoes and clubbing were my top interests. To walk away from those who literally caught fierce attitudes if you parted your lips to say that you did not worship the ground Beyoncé walks on. I didn’t want my role models to be Rihanna and Draya and Gaga. I revered Zora and Oprah and Maya. I wanted to talk about current events and classic American literature and travel and black history and relationship dynamics. I wanted to have enlightening discussions about faith and life experiences. I realized that what I was craving was what any real friendship should be; a mutual uplifting bond, not just membership into an empty-headed group. If the result of our friendship doesn’t leave both of us better, what is the point? I was learning nothing from these girls except everything I did not want to be. While they were always the pretty girls who got whatever their hearts desired, leaning on their looks and popularity served them a terrible injustice as it pertains to dealing with reality. Looks are wonderful. Popularity can be a useful tool. But it all means nothing if inner substance is never nurtured and developed.

When you reach the point of embracing personal growth, you naturally break away from those who don’t serve that purpose or embrace the same for themselves. I just know I choose to surround myself with those who reach for more than just the surface things and as a result, life has been enlightening in ways I never dreamed possible.

La Truly’s writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change among young women through her writing. Check her out on Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly.

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