I just wanted to share what I wish I knew when I was a teenager. Yes, I know that making mistakes is a part of growing up, but still…knowing these things would have made my life so much easier.
1. I didn’t look that bad.
One of the big things I could have done without in high school is being overly self-conscious. Self-conscious about how I looked, what dudes thought of me, what my classmates, teachers, etc. thought of me. It wasn’t worth it. One of my biggest takeaways from life is that being perfect (or trying to be) is more trouble than it’s worth. It won’t get you what you really want – life enjoyment, fulfillment, and love. That doesn’t mean you should not always try your best, but don’t waste your life away trying to achieve a perceived ideal.
To all my teens: you are young, fresh-faced, and cute. You are also smart and talented. You’re at a stage in your life when you can accomplish anything you want, and begin living whatever dream you want. Don’t waste your time comparing yourself to the popular girl in class, or the girl who’s hair/legs/boyfriend/whatever you wish you had. This is your life to live, and the only thing you will end up regretting in the future is if you didn’t take advantage of it. You know what is beautiful? Enjoying your life, smiling, doing what you are great at, and being smart. Both guys and girls find that irresistible. Being overly anxious about whether your hair looks good is not attractive. If you love yourself, everything will fall into place.
2. Enjoy the learning process.
If you inferred this from #1, I had a type A personality where I had to HAD TO get perfect grades every single quarter. A-minuses and B’s were my biggest nightmare. Unfortunately, the stress of performing well every time interfered with my enjoyment of learning. While you should definitely work hard and try your best in school, don’t overstress yourself. Teachers like curious students who genuinely like learning, and those students get good grades anyway. Enjoying school makes your life a lot better.
Also, high school is the last stage of your life where you will get to learn about many different subjects at once. Some of you probably don’t really appreciate this because you despise math or history. But it’s something I missed when I entered college and had to choose 1-2 majors to really focus on. In high school, you can really take advantage of learning everything from biology to American history to English Literature or Art History. Especially enjoy your Literature and art classes in high school – you are less likely to major in those in college.
3. Don’t let dating troubles affect your self-esteem.
While there are high school romances that turn into lasting, life-long relationships, don’t count on it. Chances are you might have some un-pretty breakups or conflicts. Just remember that what happens in your dating life is not a reflection of who you are. When I was 16, I dated an insincere guy who went to college (whom I met through a mutual friend). I don’t know what I was thinking, but I tricked myself into thinking he was really into me. He was – but not in the “I want you to be the love of my life” kind of way. I was personally not ready to lose my virginity at the time, which led him to one day unceremoniously leave me for another girl in his class.
Yes, it hurt. But I wish I didn’t let it affect my self-esteem as much as it did. If you are going through an emotionally rough time, don’t hesitate to ask for help – whether from your friend, parent, counselor, etc. Always trust your own decisions and don’t let yourself get pressured into doing something you don’t want to do.
4. Try new things.
Join a debate club, dance team, or sports team – even if it scares you out of your mind. Chickening out of something just because you are scared is something you will regret doing in the future. It is much better to do something a little crazy and fall on your face than just sitting at the sidelines all the time. One is called living life, and the other is called watching it pass by. I was the shyest girl in class and was almost blackmailed by my friend into joining the debate team with her. But the next thing I knew, I was flying out to national competitions and giving speeches in front of hundreds of people. I loved it because it was both intellectually stimulating and helped me overcome a big obstacle. Challenging yourself is how you really grow.
5. It gets better.
In high school, you may feel like you don’t completely fit in with the people you have to see everyday. That is okay. I had a small group of friends in high school, and they were really nice – but I still didn’t feel like they always understood me for who I was. I found more people I related to in college. So just continue to broaden your horizons, get to know new people, and try new things. You will eventually find your niche.