Dear High School Self,
First of all, holy moly I am so proud of you. I know you are doing the best that you can with everything… school, friends, family, and remembering to feed the cat (sorry, Prissy).
I wanted to remind you of some very important things. So please put your phone down and try to read through this fully without getting distracted (aka go to your room and shut the door so your sisters don’t ask you to drive them somewhere… or borrow your new sweater).
First things first, and this might sound cliché… but dream BIG. Like SUPER BIG. Even if you don’t have straight A’s, the perfect SAT or ACT score, even if you don’t get into a ranked undergraduate school, AND even if you aren’t taking any AP/honors classes.
Listen, you could go to graduate school at Vanderbilt. You could own your own company one day. You still have so much time to create, modify, and achieve your dreams.
Just because Madison in your algebra class knows she wants to be an oral surgeon doesn’t mean a) she will actually become a doctor and has her life perfectly together or b) you are a failure and should know EXACTLY what you want to be.
Okay, now take a moment, close your eyes, and image yourself achieving your wildest dreams. Seriously, do it.
Close your eyes and heighten every sensory detail about what comes to mind. Notice what clothes you are wearing. What room you are in. If there are other people in the room with you. Notice where your body is positioned. Are you in a chair or standing up? Notice what time of day it is. Etc.
Try to do this exercise every day… Use this image as motivation and fuel. The more authentic you can make the image of you achieving this goal, the more likely it will be to happen! You gotta see it to believe it! Another cliché for you because they exist for a reason.
Now, moving on… here are some other little/big things to remember. I wrote them for you in bullet points, so your brain will retain it better (P.S. – You don’t learn bullet points are significantly more helpful for you with studying until college so maybe try that out now in high school… consider this a bonus tip.)
- It is okay to like things that your friends don’t like. Seriously. If you enjoy watching SpongeBob or listening to the best of Motown music, own it. Life is too short to pretend you like something you don’t or to deprive yourself of things that bring your joy.
- Grades aren’t as important as you think. Heck, get a C on purpose! Do you know what they call Doctors who got C’s in high school or college? Doctors. Focus on doing “good enough” in school—pay attention in class, do your homework, and study (without jeopardizing your sleep). The perfectionism game is an exhausting one and you will only end up hating yourself and school if your goal is to be perfect (because you will NEVER achieve it. Sorry I’m not sorry. Tough love.)
- If you feel like you want to get revenge on an ex… I highly suggest that you ask yourself, “what would your grandmother think if she heard about this?” Just don’t do it.
- Try not to compare. Yes, other people will have nicer clothes and more expensive cars than you. But the comparison game doesn’t stop after high school, or college, or getting married, or ever. We live in a society where everyone compares CONSTANTLY. Similar to perfectionism, comparison is a game that never ends well. Instead, try to focus your attention on your values when you notice yourself feeling jealous. Are you being honest with your family and friends? Are you being a good friend? Are you being respectful to authority? These are things that will always be within your control; you can always choose to be good over looking good. The best way to build self-esteem is by doing estimable things.
- Don’t cheat on homework, quizzes, or tests. It’s never worth it. And if you get caught, be honest. Re-read the above bullet point for more information.
- Don’t worry about the popular kids or what social group you are in or not in. Just find at least 1 or 2 really, really good friends and that is all you will need. I promise. These are the friends who will travel hundreds of miles to see you and will answer the phone right before falling asleep to talk with you. These are the friends who will be at your wedding. So believe me, just 1 or 2 friends.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed ask any trusted adult (a teacher, a parent, a friend’s parent) if they can help or find you a counselor. Go to counseling now while your parents are still willing to pay for it.
- There are way cooler things you will get to do in your life than date. This is probably the most important thing I want you to remember: You are enough. You, singular you, know how to take care of yourself, how to make yourself happy, and are trustworthy. You can find security within yourself. This is a life practice so practice it now… every day.
Reflecting back on high school and seeing what high schoolers are going through today, I can’t believe how much responsibility you have and are still able to have a social life. Take it day by day. Be yourself. I’m so proud of you… so last tip, be proud of yourself!