How to Survive High School:
Love Yourself Before You Can Love Others
By: Macy Udy
High School is a required level of education of all American teens. Since it is yet another decision that teenagers don’t get to make, it is easy to fall behind, becoming less and less motivated towards this structured education. In a rush of money, clad shoes and secret tear stained linoleum, school becomes less about learning and more about surviving. Surviving social spats; stabilizing the future, what college, what career; earning money for these paths, for immediate needs, for dating, for nights out; developing relationships with friends, family, and significant others; participating in extracurricular sports, clubs, and activities. How is someone supposed to survive when there is so much on one’s plate?
It may seem overwhelming at first, especially taken from the big picture, but high school is meant to be an enriching experience that helps develop quality adults for the future.
According to Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, teenage years are a time where we learn to adapt and identify ourselves as an individual. This promotes change, almost as if you were perfecting the absolute outfit. Sometimes easy, sometimes not, we go through different pairs of ‘pants’ and ‘accessories’, figuring out what truly feels right. And sometimes, the perfect outfit isn’t perfect forever. Experiences cause our ‘clothes’ to shrink and not fit right so we move on to new and better ‘clothes’. Feeling forced into a certain way to live will not guarantee a fulfilling high school experience. Just like how everyone’s physical appearance is different, so is everyone’s opinions and heart. While standing out is often frowned on in these judgmental years, it’s how we make those endearing memories to hold on to. As my dad always says, “high school is meant to be an experience.” The academics aspect and even the future aspect is important, but don’t forget that these are the years of personal growth.
While everyone loves a good clown, leave the juggling to the circus. Prioritizing your day to day life helps to prevent the build up of stress and anxiety that is so common in high school, and life after. And sometimes, schoolwork isn’t always the priority. Those mental health days are crucial to let your body and brain, and even heart take a step back and breathe. “It’s going to be ok,” is such an overused phrase, but for good reason. Those hazy days (and even months) will happen, but if there are cautionary steps taken in advance then there will be so much more hope for when things don’t turn out the way overactive brains tend to think.
High school isn’t meant to be an easy experience. As Pablo Picasso put it, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn to do it.” This isn’t a time to put learning on the back burner, instead, spark every single possibility that interests you. Whitney Christensen, a popular math teacher at Westlake High School, didn’t realize she wanted to be a math teacher until high school. You may not realize that you love something if you never leave the protected bubble of comfort and give risk a chance. Failure is the best way to grow. If you change your perspective that failing isn’t actually failing, but a lesson to flourish in then that’s where success is imminent. The more opportunities you expose yourself to, the more people you will meet and attain life experiences from.
There will be so many people to interact with, and develop lasting relationships with, but at the end of the day, cliche as it sounds, the most important relationship is with yourself. How can you expect to have healthy relationships with those around you, if internally you struggle to build a relationship with yourself. People will only love you as much as you love yourself. Life is hard. Life is so hard. But if your best friend is yourself, then it is adamant that you will succeed. Why? Because instead of investing your energy to constantly be pleasing others, you will be able to share your light to help others realize their own true potential. This isn’t an easy journey, and isn’t an overnight accomplishment. If anything, there never is a finish line of wholly loving yourself. It’s a progressive journey, with no possibility of stagnation. There will always be movement, either backwards or forwards. Which way you move is up to you.
Growing up I never would look in the mirror and be proud of my reflection, or even myself as an individual. There was always someone prettier, or more talented, or better in all of the ways I strive to be. After a bout of social conflict Sophomore year I realized this is not who I wanted to be so I decided to tweak a few things and once I did my entire outlook changed. The first that had to go were my derogatory juxtapositions with myself and my peers. Theodore Roosevelt wisely declared, “comparison is the thief of joy,” and it’s true. Instead of dwelling on the negative things that you aren’t, focus on the positive things that you are. I wasn’t the most talented, but could I be the kindest? I couldn’t be the prettiest, but could I be the happiest?
The next thing that I had to get rid of after removing the negative thoughts against me and my peers, were the negative thoughts inside myself. Every thought against myself was only detrimental and bringing me down. This wasn’t just an observation. This was science. Developing healthier mental habits happened by removing the negative thoughts and replacing them with thoughts of gratitude. I may not be able to choose what happens to me, but I can definitely choose how I respond to what happened to me. As soon as I fully transformed my way of thinking high school changed. Now it wasn’t a matter of getting through the day, but a matter of how could I make today great. Once that basic guideline was set for my brain so many other puzzle pieces fell into place. When I was happier, happier people were drawn to me, and the cycle continued. This was how I could ‘make it through high school’ and I was more than grateful for this change because now when opposition came my way I was able to bounce back up.
Everything hasn’t been daisies and sunshine and there are still strong moments of self doubt and drops of lows, but it’s so much better than it was because I made the choice to change.
High school isn’t supposed to be miserable, we aren’t required by law to be unhappy. It’s a simple matter of discovering yourself, setting your priorities straight, and making the constant choice every day that loving yourself and those around you is what will slowly change the world.