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Ahh, sweet 16! It’s a major milestone in every teenager’s life: slightly scary, mostly exciting and life-changing. I’ve been there.
Here are some friendly tips to make the most of your high school years and beyond – to not just live, but thrive.
1. You are Not Alone.
Teenage, especially high school, can be confusing. We’ve all been there. I’ve felt it too.
If it’s any consolation, do remember that everyone – I repeat, everyone faces the same struggles you are facing today.
Yes, even that friend of yours who seems to have everything figured out. When the lights go out, everyone of us is the same.
But that’s not cause to be disheartened. Because you, like everyone else, have the power to overcome them.
2. Dating can Destroy or Empower
Ahh yes, relationships! To be more specific, romantic and sexual relationships. They can take you to cloud nine, or make life a living hell for sometime.
Most teenagers start dating at 16, in high school. I was no exception either, and I’m really fortunate to have found a wonderful, understanding girlfriend.
Don’t let the peer pressure get to you. Here’s an inside scoop: most of your friends who are 16 have accomplished almost none of all the sexual and not-so-PG-rated feats they brag about. Everyone feels the pressure to brag, and many do so actively. Some are even pressured into doing it.
With 66% percent of American 12-25 year olds harbouring some form of regret regarding their sexual debut, you should be mindful of your choices. If you do indulge in sexual experiences, it should be a positive, exhilarating experience for both of you.
From my experience, the best relationships are founded on love and driven bymutual trust, respect and reciprocity. And at times when things seem to be falling apart, the stubbornness to keep a wonderful relationship going is key.
And if anytime you find yourself questioning whether the boy or girl is worth it anymore, ask yourself a simple question: would I be happier with or without him/her?
If the answer is a no, let go, respectfully. However, if it’s a yes, hold on tight and don’t give up!
A good relationship will be the spice of your life.
3. Treat Everyone with Respect
As a teenager, it might be in vogue amongst your fellow friends to be disrespectful, arrogant, and in some cases downright abusive to certain peer groups: girls, weaker students, the “nerds” and so on.
Well, it might make you stand out amongst some of your peers, but lack of respect and empathy isn’t going to get you very far in life.
And please do not, for goodness sake, deliberately belittle that girl who just confessed her feelings to you to give out that “bad boy” vibe amongst your friends. It’s not cool.
The key to be likeable and being universally liked and respected is treating everyone with respect and empathy.
It never hurts to pass a smile at a friend, say a supportive word or two or wish “good morning!”. Be it a friend, a friendly stranger, the janitor or your teacher.
You shouldn’t need a reason to bring a smile on someone’s face (except it making you really, really happy), but if you do need one, there is: be selfish. Respecting people will earn you universal respect and admiration.
4. Start Figuring Out What You Want
Now, 16 is too early to completely figure out what you want to do with your life. But now is the apt time to start thinking about it.
Be mindful of what your heart beats for – the things which make your heart light up in joy, the things which raise that fire and passion inside you. Those are the things you will love doing your whole life.
They will change. Today you might want to be a scientist, half a year later you might be thinking of being a lawyer, a few months later a musician. That’s alright. Allow yourself to drift along freely.
And in the end, by the time you leave high school, most of us will have figured out one thing out of this entire basket which we truly want to be.
5. Invest in Yourself
I can’t stress this enough. All your life, you need to keep developing yourself.
The truth is, none of us are truly content with who or what we are. Everyone of us yearns to be more, to be better.
Perhaps you want to be a better speaker, perhaps a better writer. Perhaps you want to be better at breaking the ice. Perhaps you just want to be more popular.
Don’t just dream about them, work to make them a reality.
Reading up about personal development, behavioral psychology and looking up resources on how to develop yourself and your personality is a spectacular choice that will take you a long way.
Look around you. There is no dearth of “high school transformations” – the stereotype is a shy kid turning into a wonderful, likable guy.
Do your own variety of a “high school transformation” to yourself.
Sidenote: The fact that you’re reading this is good news in itself. It shows your concern for developing yourself. Keep going, you’re doing great!
6. Become “Street Smart”
Let’s get this clear once and for all: being “book smart” and “street smart” are not mutually exclusive.
You don’t have to be a “bad boy” to be street smart. It is perfectly possible to be both “book smart” and “street smart”, and truth be said, that seems to be the most desirable combination.
So-called “street smart” skills are essential to be successful in life. Unfortunately, except a handful of very elite schools, almost no educational institution will teach you all the skills necessary to be “street smart”.
Handling relationships, developing interpersonal skills, the art of speaking and rhetoric, influential skills, negotiation, handling people… these are things most of us need to learn by ourselves, by trial and error.
They are probably slightly more important than “book smart” skills. Don’t forgo on them. Put yourself out there, make mistakes and learn from them. Work on them yourself.
7. Step Out and Explore
Do actually study. I know, it might seem like the most difficult thing to do in the all too exciting high school, but you’ll be thanking yourself later in life.
But please don’t limit yourself to just your curriculum textbooks.
There’s a big, bright world outside. It pays to keep our eyes and ears open. Life will wow you with virtues and feelings like loyalty, love and friendship – they will transform you for life. They are never to be found in textbooks.
By the end of it all, you’ll realize that the world has already taught you more than textbooks ever will.
8. Begin to Define Your Personality
By the end of high school, you should have a fair idea of your own, unique personality. 16 is the time to start asking the right questions to achieve this milestone.
I’ll give you my own example. Just like you, I went through the volatile process of discovering and defining my personality.
By the end of it though, I have a fair idea of who I am and who I’m not. I’m not the popular kid. I’m not the womanizer. I’m not the “bad boy”. I’m not the athlete. I’m not an extrovert. It’s really easy to get caught up in what you’re not.
But I am good at writing. I’m a blogger. I’m excellent at strategy-making and drafting documents. I’m an introvert, and I use my quiet aura to my advantage (my friends still are oh-so-surprised that I could get myself a high school sweetheart :-D). I’m committed to a single girl – I love my girlfriend. I have my own sense of ethics I will not budge from, even if my friends call me names. And so on.
Everyone of us is different. But I think everyone should have a fair idea of exactly what they are, and what they are not.
Once you realize that, come what may, don’t budge from it. Unless you want to.
High school is an exciting opportunity to start discovering who you actually are or wish to be.
9. Never, Ever Lose Your Attitude
In your teenage years and beyond, there will be many people who won’t treat you with respect – who won’t give you the credit you deserve. There may be some who, God forbid, deny you your rights outright.
Always stand up for yourself and your rights. Don’t let anyone treat you as inferior or with disrespect.
It’s easy to let go of our self-respect when we faced with trying circumstances – such as when you’re appearing for a job interview or facing your classroom bully. Do hold everyone to the same standard.
Remember, self-respect and having a spine pays, but arrogance is overdoing it.
10. Above All, Chill.
Have fun, you’re just 16!
You’ve just embarked on a wonderful, exciting journey that will take you to momentous heights. There will be many difficulties along the way. Stand up to them, but don’t let life get to you, ever.
You will be making mistakes – don’t fear them. The key is to learn from them. Just don’t do something you’re gonna regret the rest of your life.
And above all, keep everyone close, but your friends closer! Friends teach us so much just by being friends. School and college buddies or besties can last a lifetime. They are your most valuable asset, and always will be.
This article was originally published on Thrive Global.