I can vividly remember my very first day of high school. My first class was science, and I was the very first one that walked into the room. After a few more students came in, one girl – who later ended up becoming one of my best friends – looked at me, and took a seat at the other end of the room. A few years after we became friends, I asked her why, out of the twenty or so empty seats in the class, she chose the one that was the farthest away from me. She said it was because I was wearing a brand name shirt, I had straightened hair, and wore nice makeup. I just looked like one of those mean popular girls who buys expensive stuff and talks about everyone behind their backs.
I could go on about how wrong she was to “judge a book by its cover”, but instead I’d like to touch upon something that I’m a little ashamed of today. After my friend described the pretty negative first impression she had of me, I was ecstatic. I was never “popular” in grade school or high school (shocker, I know). In fact, I was always kind of a loser. Throughout grade eight and the beginning of high school, I was terrified that my life would turn into a live version of Mean Girls and the Regina George’s of the world would set out to make the rest of my life miserable.
Speaking of Regina George I couldn’t help but notice that in the movie, even though she’s the meanest girl in the school (obviously), everyone envies her. I asked myself if so many people are afraid of those “popular kids”, why does everyone aspire to be like them? The answer I still don’t know, but what I have figured out is this: The ones worth idolizing are not the ones who hang out every Friday night and gossip about every single person they’ve ever met and post it all on Twitter. Sometimes, the ones worth idolizing are the ones who sit alone at lunch even though everyone calls them a loner, or are the ones who raise their hand in class to ask the “stupid question” that everyone was secretly wondering about, or the ones who hang out with their same two best friends every Friday night. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was one of those girls who sat around in a basement listening to everyone’s gossip, that I realized being “popular” was definitely overrated.
I often think back to my first day of high school: that stupidly expensive shirt I bought for the sole purpose of trying to impress everyone, and all the anxiety I had, not only about going to a new school, but about how I was going to create and maintain a good reputation. It took me four years to realize that the people I was trying so desperately to impress were actually pretty shallow. The clubs that everyone made fun of were the clubs that were most inspiring to me, and the ones that I became the most involved with. These were the clubs that encouraged me to get involved in my community and led me to opportunities that ended up changing my life.
If there are any pieces of advice I could give you from my own experiences, it would be these:
Stop caring about what other people think. I know it’s a cliché you hear fifty times a year, but once you actually do it, life becomes so much easier. Stop envying the people who talk behind everyone’s backs. If all they want to do is make others feel uncomfortable, they’re not worth your time. Start seeing the merits of your own life and enjoy every “uncool” moment you experience.
If you’re concerned about your reputation based on your appearances or who you hang out with, don’t be! Base your reputation on your character, your passions and your experiences. Trust me, these qualities are way more valuable than the brand of your shirt.
If there’s something you really want to do, or a club or a team that you really want to join, join it! You never know what opportunities and friendships you could be missing out on.
In conclusion, don’t envy Regina George. Don’t become Regina George. She’s bad news.
If you feel like you’re surrounded by these kinds of people and need a break, come to The Phoenix Leadership Conference! I can personally guarantee that you will meet some of the most positive, energetic and empowering people you will ever meet.
I hope to see you there!