I’m a young, black male in America. I am a young, black male in America who plays guitar. I am a young, black male in America who plays guitar and likes rock music. I am a young, black male in America who plays guitar, likes rock music, doesn’t care for sports, wants to do well in school, and has addressed his mental health issues. My point is, after a long time of feeling totally uncomfortable, I am finally starting to feel more comfortable in my own skin.

When I was younger, I felt like an alien. There wasn’t really a person like me, and this is not to brag about anything. I was just unique in the environment I was in at the time. Not to make this about race, but I have to address it. My fellow black people who are close to what I mentioned above, did you ever have the feeling that you were “too black” for white people and “too white” for black people? Because that is what I felt back then. It is a weird feeling of isolation and it definitely doesn’t feel good. Not to mention, it certainly doesn’t set a good foundation for being mentally fit.  That being said, I have finally learned to let certain things roll off my back and just call certain people ignorant because they don’t understand.

In general, it is kind of hard to get comfortable in your own skin, but as a sophomore in college I think I am finally starting to grasp it. Here are some things that I’ve learned about what it means to be comfortable in my own skin.

Being comfortable in your own skin doesn’t mean everyone will like you. Certain people just don’t mesh and won’t mesh, and that is completely fine. Not everyone will vibe with you but it isn’t your job to change who you are in order to fit in. Quite frankly, those people shouldn’t matter to you. You are your own, special person and you should never try to seek approval from those who don’t like you.

Self-acceptance is being comfortable in your own skin. Self-acceptance is the first step toward truly being comfortable in your own skin and once you do, it feels AMAZING! However, it is also somewhat difficult because it means accepting ALL about you. Your weird ticks, the way you walk, the fact that you touch your glasses 24/7 (that might just be a “me” thing); you accept all of it.

Fake it until you make it. A little tidbit about me: at my high school (which I loved to death and still love and will praise until the day I die), for about 2.5 years, I faked my confidence. You ever heard of “fake it ‘til you make it?” Well, that is exactly what I did and I did it so well that I convinced everyone I was confident, but I hadn’t made it yet. I faked it for a while and at my high school, I was confident but the sham went away when I got home. This brings us to my next point.

Surround yourself with people who allow and enable you to be yourself. After I left an environment where I felt like I had to fake until I made it, I went home to a place where I could truly be myself. At home, I was not confident and frequently needed my parents to reassure me. At home, I could relax and didn’t have to worry about faking it. And, if I had doubtful moments (which I still do), I had a great support system to build me back up.

Loving yourself is crucial when it comes being comfortable in your own skin. I learned that it is almost impossible for me to have self-compassion in the moments when I have self-doubt, fear of rejection while simply trying to figure out college, life and adulthood all at the same time. Perfection is a word that I’ve had to erase from my mind and forgiveness had to be permanently implanted. I am learning to forgive myself for my thoughts, my mistakes and even my  constant need for perfection. More importantly, I am learning that I don’t have to have everything figured out by the time I graduate from college. Life is an ongoing learning process that doesn’t have a deadline.

Being comfortable in your own skin requires intention. It wasn’t until after the first semester of my junior year in high school when I THOUGHT I felt confident and comfortable. However, I quickly realized after leaving high school all that confidence went away. You see, I was comfortable in the high school but not within my own skin. To start getting comfortable in my own skin I had to go through the above-mentioned steps. I had to be intentional about it because self-acceptance is still harder than I would like it to be. You have to practice, forgive yourself for self-doubt and keep reminding yourself of how worthy your uniqueness is. Let me stress that it is hard, and at 19, I still don’t fully know who I am yet, but I like that I am trying to like myself.