10 Things I Would Tell My High School Self (Updated)

Originally published May 18, 2020.

So… I just graduated high school. #Classof2020! Anyway, as I stand at the top of this mountain that is my high school career, I find myself as a vastly different person from who I was when I began this journey. And now, as I begin my trek up the new mountain that is my college career, I find myself thinking of things that I wish I could have told my high school self to make life a bit easier. Here are 10 of them.

It is perfectly fine not to always make the best grades.

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I can’t tell you how many times I got bummed out because, as hard as I tried, I could not raise my grade. I never failed, but it always got to me when I put in more effort than my classmates to raise my grade, they would get As, and I would be stuck with high Cs. This was something I had to learn about over time. It is fine just to be doing “okay” in school. You do not always have to have high As and 100s on everything. It is enough if you are trying your best and putting in the effort asked of you. And no one expects you to be perfect all of the time. There was only one perfect person ever to walk this Earth, and people didn’t really like Him very much at the time. No one expects you to be Jesus.

It is not wrong to let friends drift away over time.

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This is something that a lot of young people don’t think about. As you grow older and evolve into an adult, friends from when you were a kid might become less relevant. Also, as you get older, you and your friends will start moving in different kinds of circles and have fewer opportunities to see each other. You might also change in other ways – you will begin engaging in various types of hobbies, enjoying different kinds of media, and having different goals than when you were a middle schooler. And sometimes, you and your friends won’t “mesh” as you evolve. It is great to stay in contact if you wish to, but you are not a bad person for letting some friendships become less strong or fade away. God places people in our lives for seasons of time, not for our entire lives.

You don’t have to constantly seek the approval of adults.

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This is still something I struggle with as a college student. As a chronic people-pleaser and practicing perfectionist in high school, I often felt as if I was doing something fundamentally wrong if I wasn’t constantly receiving praise and positive feedback from the authority figures in my life. I have had to learn that it is perfectly fine if some accomplishments are only milestones to you, ones that others around you do not understand. Other people do not know everything about you, so how can they see what breakthroughs or triumphs are tremendous accomplishments to you? Celebrate your personal milestones and accept, but do not expect, the acknowledgment of authority figures. The people who love you and are a part of your daily life will care about these accomplishments just as much as you do because they know what they mean to you.

Spiritual growth is just as important as academic growth.

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This is a truth I wish I had realized sooner in my life. Too often, I had opted out of attending Wednesday night worship or skipped church retreats because of my go-to excuse of “having too much school,” even when this was not entirely true. I had the irrational fear that my teachers would assign projects out of the blue and I would not be able to complete them because I was “wasting” time at church events. Over the last few years, I have realized something very important: time spent with the Lord is NEVER wasted. Of course, this does not mean you should feel guilty for not going to that retreat that weekend a major assignment was due. But with good time management and effective studying methods, you can maintain good grades, have multiple hobbies and social life, and continue to grow in your walk with Christ.

Comparing yourself to the “popular” kids is never beneficial.

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I never actually wanted to be the cool kid when I was younger, but I still felt bummed about my life after hanging out with the cool kids I knew. I knew it wasn’t rational or beneficial, but I did it anyway. I believe that comparing ourselves to others will always be a problem until we start comparing ourselves to Jesus. I know that this might seem like an infinitely harder role model to live up to, but think about it: Instead of using the cool kids as a model of what I should have been like, I should have used Jesus’ example of love and sacrifice as a model of what I could be. A version of myself that models Christ. This role model is the only one you or I will ever need. 

It’s fine to ask for help when you are confused.

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It took me many nights crying over the homework I did not understand to realize that asking others for help is not a sign of weakness or stupidity. On the contrary, being bold enough to ask others for help is a sign of bravery and self-awareness because you’re acknowledging what you are struggling with and are putting in the effort to seek help from those who are more knowledgeable than you. This applies in every area of life – Educational, spiritual, emotional, and all of that. When help is available, try to take every opportunity and utilize the resource as much as you need.

Your friends are struggling as much as you are.

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Most of my friends in high school were good students with good grades like me. Also, like me, they all worked very hard for these grades. However, I didn’t completely realize this until I was out of high school. I always thought I was the only one struggling in a certain class or staying up late obsessing over the homework I didn’t understand. Only later, when I started admitting to friends when I was having a hard time, did I realize that they had been struggling just as much as me, some in the same areas, others in completely different ones. Being open with others about when you are struggling can help form a sense of community among your friends and peers and make them feel less isolated in their struggles.

Family is sometimes more important than school.

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It is true that you never really appreciate what you have until it’s gone. During my earlier teen years, I tended to avoid my family and disliked spending time with them, opting to study or do an activity by myself instead. Now that I am four hours away from home, living alone at college, I am missing the small things I used to do with my parents and brother. I did not realize how much they meant to me and improved my life until they rarely happened. I would say that this applies at any point in life, to be honest. Time spent with family is vital in everyone’s life and should be high on your priority list.

Both your mental and physical health are very important in your life.

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I never pulled all-nighters or forgot to eat for days during high school (or college, for that matter). However, I now know that I had minimized the importance of my mental and physical health on several occasions, instead focusing on an important school project or studying for an upcoming exam. I have discovered that neglecting your mind and body is like running on a nearly empty gas tank. Everything becomes harder and more depressing when you are not paying attention to your well-being. Self-care is not selfish and can help you be more productive in the long run.

Trust in God and His plan.

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Technically this one is the last on the list, but it is the biggest and most important message I would give a younger version of myself. The truth that God has a plan for my life is one that I struggled with. I did not want to give up control of my life. I thought I could do things better than Him. As you can probably guess, I was wrong. It is easy to remember that God is in control when we mess up but harder when we think we are doing well. I would encourage you and me to remember that God has a plan at all points of our journey, both high and low.

Please like, comment, and subscribe if you connected with my post and would like to see more of my crazy, exciting journey with Christ and mental illnesses. Every interaction I receive here means a lot. Thank you and God bless you!

Until next time!

One thought on “10 Things I Would Tell My High School Self (Updated)

Add yours

  1. Great post – so much pressure is put on us when we are in high school, and it’s definitely good to be reflective. So as to not be discouraged further in life. I especially like the point about not taking grades to heart. We can be anyone and do anything we want without reducing ourselves to an A, B, C or D on a paper when we were 15!

    Miriam | A Hygge Escape

    Liked by 1 person

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