Originally Published in the March 2014 Issue 5 of "The Mainsheet"
I think it’s fair to say that teenagers often suffer from a lack of self-confidence. If you listen around campus, you will hear student fat talking, diminishing their accomplishments, and generally being unkind to themselves. Being confident in high school is really hard! Media influences are constantly telling us that we aren’t skinny enough, pretty enough, strong enough, man enough, or smart enough. How are we supposed to learn to love and take care of ourselves with all of these societal pressures?
The truth is, it’s nearly impossible to block out outside influences, but we can try to focus less on what others think of us and more on what we think about ourselves. I am so tired of being hyper-critical or unkind to myself, and I know that many students are tired of this unnecessary, unproductive self-loathing too. I am a firm believer that until you can treasure and be confident in who you are, you can’t really let other people in to love you. I know it’s hard, but instead of thinking about all of the things we do wrong, we need to switch gears and think about all the things we do right.
We are capable students. We work hard in school and are constantly pushed outside of our comfort zones to participate in new activities and try new things. We are friends and confidants. We help our peers through tough times and bring joy to the people around us. We are strong. We power through difficult situations and handle conflict. We are survivors. We are Chadwick students. We can’t be held back or held down.
There is a quote from the book now movie The Help, which I just love. Nurse Aibileen says to the little girl, Mae, who she is watching, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Aibileen helps give this young girl confidence to be who she is. Wouldn’t our community be better if we all tried to be Aibileens?
My personal mantra is a great quote from Saturday Night Live alum Stuart Smalley. Whenever I am feeling insecure or not good enough, I repeat this line to myself: “ I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
Let’s help each other up, and not tear each other down, Chadwick. Let’s tell our friends that they are good enough and smart enough and beautiful just the way they are. Let’s be competitive and have a drive to win but not win to the detriment of others. We need to make the successes of our peers our own. We need to build, connect, and collaborate.
We need to allow ourselves to fail. We need to allow ourselves to feel. We need to be willing to risk it all and follow our hearts. We can’t be afraid of rejection or being told no. We don’t want to live lives of regret or what ifs. And we can’t let disappointment shake our drive, sense of self, or confidence (yes, it’s easier said then done).
We need to soak in being young, (occasionally) free high school students for as long as possible. We need to be students, and have fun too. We need to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves time off and not feel bad about it. There are always going to be things to gripe about. Friends, significant others, teachers, coworkers, assignments, bad coffee, rough mornings, etc. But life is often about your attitude and how you are handling conflict and hardship. Your confidence and happiness can be derived from your attitude and your ability to pick yourself up and try again.
No one is going to walk through life or high school unscathed by opposition and disappointment. You are going to fail, probably have your heart broken once or twice, and guess what- you are going to survive! You can still be confident and wonderful, and you will work through it.
I try to find my sources of happiness in the love and support I feel from my friends and family; however, I find my real center and love in myself. High schoolers place a lot of value in what others think, but remember, it is in your power to not let anyone steal your joy and happiness. Your confidence will shine loud and proud when you start believing and loving yourself just a little bit more.
Photo Courtesy of Kate McEvilly February 2014