1. The world is big, and we can get comfortable in our bubbles. Take time to learn about other cultures to broaden your knowledge and empathy. Just because people do things differently or have different beliefs doesn’t mean they are bad or wrong.
2. Don’t listen to your inner critic – Your worst enemy is yourself. It’s not the teacher or student who gets better grades than you or your parents; you. There’s always a reason to put yourself down and tell yourself you’re not doing enough or you’re not good enough. We like to call our inner critic Bertha, and If you listen to Bertha, you’ll never realize your true potential and worth. Know that you are enough and don’t deserve criticism. A tool to minimize Bertha’s impact is to ask yourself, what do I know about myself that makes Bertha’s statements untrue; and what kind of things can I tell myself to take Bertha’s power away?
3. Who else is worried about world geography and geometry? That class that stresses you out keeps you up at night and gets you up in the middle of the morning IS NOT GOING TO MATTER next semester or a few years from now. Yes, it is essential to know the information, and yes, you have to pass the class, but you don’t need to lose sleep over it, cut out time with friends and family over it, and you don’t need to compromise your mental health. Just a friendly reminder for my overachievers!
4. People-pleasing at the cost of your own authenticity won’t win you any friends – Being a “pick me girl” isn’t going to help your popularity. We’re grown to think we need to please others and put ourselves last. You can put yourself first and find your voice amongst everyone else who won’t speak out. They will probably respect you for it.
When we start to put ourselves first, we find that we matter and our opinions matter. Friends are people who should support, love, and care for us regardless of our quirky qualities. If someone is hating on you for liking certain music or speaking out against the not-so-nice things they said, then they aren’t worth your time. You should never have to pretend to be someone just to fit in with the crowd. People will like you for who you truly are, so don’t hide it.
5. What other people say about you doesn’t mean it’s your truth: Yes, people will talk, and yes, people will talk about you. It’s just sometimes how high school works. We can’t prevent what people say about us, but we can determine how we think about ourselves. So even if someone says, “You’re a loser,” “You’re weird,” or “You’re a bitch”, that doesn’t define who you are.
6. Thoughts are not facts! Our brains like to make us think that things are not okay, and if we don’t catch on, our thoughts begin to spiral. Spiraling can paralyze us from moving forward and even impact our moods. When you feel like your thoughts are getting out of control, take some time to ask yourself: “do I have all the facts?” and “What can I do at this moment to help myself?”
7. No is a complete sentence. “No” can feel uncomfortable to say aloud, and if we don’t say it, we can sometimes find ourselves in sticky situations. Saying NO, prioritizing yourself, and setting boundaries are all forms of self-love. You are worthy of a peaceful life and do not have to explain to others why your boundaries are in place. Saying No also falls into the category of giving consent. When you say NO, others have to respect that.
8. Make the first move: A voice in our head tells us to “don’t do that thing, don’t take that chance.” We don’t do it because we are worried about what that says about us. Often we end up thinking about what we could’ve done rather than just doing it. We rethink and think of all the “what if” scenarios about the situation. Even if someone tells you, “no,” you’re in the same position as you were before. Overthinking doesn’t get results.
9. Reach out for support. It can be challenging to think that anyone else, especially an adult, could understand why you are struggling. Having one trusted adult in your corner will help make navigating sticky situations not easier but smoother. Our friends can be great listeners, but they do not always have the tools or resources to help us. A trusted adult does not have to mean a parent; it can be a teacher, a therapist, a school counselor, a coach, or your friend’s parents.
10. You’re not alone – people are thinking the same thing. In session, I have people draw a circle with a square inside. In the circle, I have clients write down all the people whose opinions or thoughts they are worried about. Inside the square I have them write down people who love them and whose opinions matter the most. Next, I have them write the percentage, out of 100, of how much time they occupy their mind thinking about the judgments of those outside the square vs. inside. 99.9% if the time the percentage is higher on the outside of the square. That means nearly every person you contact with is more focused on the judgments you are making about them than the judgments they are making about you. Imagine what life would be like if you focused solely on the people that mattered vs. the stranger in the grocery store. (shout out to Brene Brown for the great tool!)
11. The awkward conversation you had yesterday isn’t worth overthinking or the energy spent thinking about it. I remember some pretty awkward conversations I have had throughout my life, and I can still physically remember how embarrassment felt. It is hard not to think about how others perceive you when you make a mistake or have an awkward conversation. What I have learned that eases my nerves and helps me laugh it off is to remind myself that embarrassment and awkwardness are part of the human experience. A mantra that I continue to tell myself is, “It’s only awkward if you make it awkward.” Don’t let “Bertha” win! You are a magnificent being, quirks and all. Another thing to keep in mind is tomorrow; someone will do or say something that will make others forget your awkward encounter
12. It’s okay not to peak in high school. Thinking back to high school, I was not kind to my body regarding how I mentally and physically treated myself. I was convinced that I had to look and act a certain way, like the “cool kids.” Looking back on it now, the “cool kids” were the ones who didn’t chase trends or obsess over what others thought of them; they were the ones who minded their own business and went off to create a life for themselves that cultivates joy. High school is a moment in life; it is not life. I wish I had someone tell me that the “glow-up” isn’t solely physical, it is emotional and mental, and there is no timeline for when your “glow-up” has to occur.
13. Love is not only expressed through words but actions: As Taylor Swift says, “Cause, when you’re fifteen, someone tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them.” In high school, you will date and explore what you want out of a relationship. Just know that love isn’t just a word, but how someone shows you that they care about and value you. You shouldn’t have to wonder when your partner will text you or what they genuinely think of you. Find someone who texts you first; they’re out there.
14. Date people, who bring out the best in you (not the crazy): Who else had a crush on the “bad boy” in rom-com movies? Real story, I dated that guy in high school, and it wasn’t worth it. You realize sooner or later (hopefully sooner) that that person consumes the time and energy that you deserve for yourself. So before getting into a relationship, see if your positive qualities shine when you’re with this person or if it seems like you’re in a movie (not a good one).
15. Emotions are VALID! It is okay to feel anger, sadness, joy, excitement, etc. However, as you learn to regulate your feelings, remember that you control the reactions and actions you take towards your emotions and others. Life can be trying at times, and you may feel completely alone, but remember being mean and lashing out at others isn’t okay, nor is it fair to those who love you and are trying to help.
You won’t have everything figured out at fifteen, and that’s okay. You think you need to know everything right now, but you don’t. It’ll come when it’s time to know and do those things. You don’t need anyone, even yourself, to pressure yourself to be someone you’re not.
by Sarah Joyner, LCSW