You look around and see yet another person who seems to have it all together…
And how does that make you feel? Excited for them? Joyful for them? Are you ready to go give them a big high five? Probably not. More likely it makes you feel jealous, resentful, and worst of all, unworthy. You feel less than because it seems that everyone around you has it all together and like you have nothing good to celebrate. This my dear friends, is the epitome of senior year of high school and it quickly lingers into adulthood.
Maybe you are reading this right now and you are in high school. Maybe you are reading this right now and you are 25 like me or maybe you are older than you care to admit 😉 Regardless of how old you are, you are likely internally saying “Amen” because unfortunately, no matter where we are in life, we feel this way. Why is it so easy to feel like we aren’t enough?
There are many reasons we can point to and depending on where you are at in life right now, the main reason may differ. This one though is going to be for my high school seniors. But don’t stop reading if you don’t fall into that category. It still totally applies!
The social media highlight reel
If you took a minute to think about what you post on social media, do you think of all the failures you’ve posted about? Likely no. While social media is truly great for so many reasons, it is also a false reality. I promise I’m not here to say all social media is bad! I’m sure as you are reading this, dear high school student, you have heard enough of that. I actually LOVE social media, especially Instagram. I’ve made some very dear friends through Instagram and have had amazing opportunities come from social media. It is a great tool and an incredible way to connect with people who are like minded and share similar interests and all those great things! However, we of course like to put our best foot forward out on social media, just like we do in the real world. Think about it. Do you like to go to school looking your absolute worst? Probably not. So of course you aren’t about to start posting about how you just got rejected from your first choice school or didn’t earn the scholarship you wanted. You don’t brag about losing a game or messing up a few bars of your solo for band. We all focus on the positives for social media. Often because we have been taught to hide away reality. To hide what hurts, to hide rejection, to hide what may make others feel uncomfortable.
In this crazy season
It is October which means college applications are soon due, school acceptance letters are already starting to roll in, and scholarship applications are starting to pile up. You likely can’t go anywhere without being asked what your plan for next year is. Maybe you have a plan figured out, a career path in mind, a school you love, and all of that. Or, you might have no clue what you are doing. Whichever boat you are in, there is tremendous pressure. In the midst of trying to figure all of this out, you also have school, sports, clubs, groups, family, friends, church, etc. to keep up with and you are constantly being pulled in so many directions. This is a crazy time! Absolutely crazy! If you are spending at least one night a week crying into a huge bowl of ice-cream, that is OKAY! In fact, it is much more common than you think.
Having it all together
I remember exactly what it was like to go through this crazy season. Going into senior year of high school, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher (at that time I still wanted to be an elementary teacher), so I applied to two different colleges. I applied to the school my parents went to and to Saginaw Valley. Ultimately, I didn’t completely finish applying to the other school because I knew I didn’t want to move to Chicago to go to school. Meanwhile, I was also making a decisions as to whether or not I actually wanted to pursue college sports. I had just finished up a season with a highly competitive AAU team and realized that was not a lifestyle I wanted to pursue while in college. I was receiving phone calls almost weekly from various schools and I had to keep giving the same answer. While I was confident in my choice, every time someone asked if I was playing college ball, and I would say no, I could see the shock and disappointment on their faces.
Saginaw Valley took me and offered me some scholarships. I was asked to join the Honor’s Program and another program that focused on studying abroad. I felt confident that I wanted to be a teacher and was set on going to Saginaw Valley. It seemed like I had it together on the outside, and I know that I had plenty to be grateful for, but I definitely did not have it all together. Why share all of this? Because, I remember what it was like to look around and think that all of my friends and classmates had it all together. It was so easy to compare myself to everyone else’s highlight reels and be left feeling unworthy and insignificant.
While I wish there was a way to make senior year less crazy, the truth is that this highlight reel phenomenon is not reality. The truth is we all have failures, set backs, and disappointments and maybe if we posted and talked about those, then we wouldn’t all feel so lonely. It is more than likely that this year you will face a disappointment and it will hurt. It might be an opportunity that you thought you were perfect for. While I can’t promise that won’t sting, I can tell you now that I am on the other side of this whole college and life beyond high school life, that there are many ways to find success. There isn’t one school that is the only way for what you want to do. It is so easy to feel that way because colleges are experts at marketing every single thing they do to make it sound like you will be a nobody in life if you don’t do X, Y, or Z. But this simply isn’t true. It also isn’t true that your friends and classmates around you aren’t facing their own setbacks and failures, even if it seems that they are only talking about amazing things! Often times, people who go above and beyond to talk or post about their successes, are actually hiding very hurtful disappointments.
The Road Ahead
The truth is no matter what you are planning for right now, your plan is already designed and as even though it would be so amazing to be able to know exactly what you are going to be doing in the next five or ten years, nobody can answer that question. I think what causes us the most anxiety (at least I sure feel this way) is the unknown. You are getting all this messaging that by senior year you should have your entire life totally figured out and that is almost laughable because no one has their own life figured out! And if you are believer like me, you know and can take comfort in knowing that while you don’t have it all figured out, God does. If you asked me going into college if I would end up after two years completely falling in love with photography and entrepreneurship after spending five years working toward a teaching degree, I would have laughed. God surprises us and often times, even your best thought through plans can change. So while you navigate this crazy time in high school, remember that when you are feeling defeated or discouraged, you are not alone. Other’s highlight reels should not be what you use to compare yourself to, especially when you are feeling low. Even though it may not feel this way now, you will be just fine! Take comfort in people who care for you and don’t be afraid to be real! Share the good moments and the bad and you may just find you have much more in common with others than you think!