A Psychologist Breaks Down The Science Behind My Awkward Emo Phase
Let’s just say some things are better left in the past.
Hi, I’m Diamond. ???? I’m a pretty normal 20-something who loves adventure, stuffing my face with food and singing show tunes in the shower. Exhibit A: Here’s me stuffing my face with a crab cake at my senior prom.
I’ve been this way for a very long time and I don’t plan on changing any time soon.
At one point in time, though, there was a different Diamond. Twelve-year-old Diamond was shy, hiding behind her “Twilight” books and listening to My Chemical Romance and Boys Like Girls to get her through the day. Instead of wearing the clothes that were “in,” this Diamond wore graphic tees from Hot Topic with the names of her favorite bands plastered on the front. This Diamond was ~*emo*~.
I never really fit in much, always enjoying things my peers didn’t like. Instead of listening to The Pussycat Dolls, I was rocking out to Panic! At The Disco’s first album. Instead of going to cool parties, I was beating Guitar Hero in my basement for the 20th time. Instead of fangirling over Chris Brown (hey, this was a different time, pre-domestic abuse), I would say I thought he was cute, but it was Pete Wentz’s eyeliner that really made me swoon. I was always really good at hiding my true self—I pretended to like all the “mainstream” pop music and pretty-boy actors my friends were crazy for. But a little website called MySpace told a different story about me.
My MySpace backgrounds were almost always black with neon-colored hearts and crossbones and MCR’s “Helena” blasted through the speakers of anyone who clicked on my page. Updates about yearning to be noticed by my crushes filled my profile since I thought MySpace doubled as an online version of my diary. If my updates weren’t direct thoughts about my crushes, they were probably lyrics that resonated with me. (Please see the chorus to Boys Like Girls’ “Thunder.”)
When I look back at my page, I’m embarrassed, but I’m also a little curious. Why did I declare myself “Little Miss Emo”? I reached out to Leila Ellis-Nelson—Doctor of Psychology and cofounder of Chicago’s behavioral health care practice Changing Perspectives—for some understanding.
I sent Dr. Ellis-Nelson a series of screenshots from my MySpace page to have her evaluate what possibly could have been going through my head as an emo kid.
First, I had Dr. Ellis-Nelson look at my profile overall. Since MySpace relaunched in 2013, profiles have received MAJOR makeovers. There are no more neon backgrounds, embarrassing statuses or emo melodies to accompany my pictures. That doesn’t stop the profile from being any less embarrassing.
Since I had explained to Dr. Ellis-Nelson that I was not from Newport News, Virginia, like my profile says, she was curious why I chose that location. “If you’re really from Los Angeles [for example] but felt L.A. was a source of pain, maybe you picked someplace far away to help mentally separate you from a place of stress,” Dr. Ellis-Nelson hypothesizes.
She’s right—my hometown was three hours away, in a completely different state. I spent a lot of summers in Newport News, staying with my grandparents every year until I was 15. My best friend lived in the house next to my grandparent’s, and whenever I would get sad, I thought about the summers I spent with my best friend. I guess you could say that was my “happy place.”
After the stunning and insightful observation about my now-simplified profile, I couldn’t wait to hear what Dr. Ellis-Nelson had to say about all my selfies. Because I was so self-conscious, I made all my photos private. I was pretty sure Dr. Ellis-Nelson would comment on the running theme of all my photos: They never show my full face. And I was right.
Her first observation was that hair or glasses covered my face in each of my pictures, except one, which shows only my shadow.
“Covering your face with something in every picture makes me wonder what you were hiding or who/what you were hiding from,” she explains. “It’s as if you want people to see you, but didn’t feel comfortable with them getting to know the true, authentic you.”
Again, she was 100% correct. I began to question Emo Me. Why had I hidden my true self from everyone? Then it hit me: I felt like I wasn’t truly accepted by anyone around me.
My father had just left my brother and I unexpectedly, I had just transferred schools and my best friend had just moved to Florida. I was upset with all of the change in my life. Since my mom thought emo kids were just toned-down goth kids, I wasn’t allowed to have pink streaks in my hair or publicly look emo, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t emo on the inside.
I shied away from those problems by hiding behind a MySpace profile that let me express myself the way I wanted. In a sense, MySpace was a therapeutic mechanism for me and I didn’t realize it. I was able to deal with my sadness in an untraditional yet effective way, and for that, I’d like to say thank you, Dr. Ellis-Nelson—and thank you, Tom.
You can check out this link for more information about Dr. Leila Ellis-Nelson and the Changing Perspectives organization.