By: Shannon Vandewarker, Shannon is married to Westminster Chapel’s High School Director, Dan Vandewarker. She writes on a regular basis over at www.shannonvandewarker.com/blog. Middle School and High School can be seasons of great pressure and pain, but they can also be filled with great fun and fulfillment. I deeply believe that these seven years can be a great foundation for your life to come, if you live them wisely.
My Middle School and High School years were a combination of the two, and so… not because I did it all correctly, but because I could have done a lot during those seasons of my life differently, here are my top three pieces of advice for Middle School and High School ladies.
Stop comparing yourself and your life to others
You know that girl, the one you secretly wish you were, but you’re too scared to admit it? You know the one. She seems to have the perfect life. She’s dressed impeccably, she’s liked by everyone, she works hard to get good grades and doesn’t seem to mess up the relationships in her life, like you seem to do yours.
Well, she doesn’t have ‘it’ all together. It’s not as good as it seems. She has her secret pain, too. Her life isn’t all it seems to be cracked up to be. How do I know, you ask… well, you.
Yes, you are that person to another girl.
Your life, it seems impeccable to someone else. You’re that person that someone in your classes’ wishes they were, and sister you know the reality of your life. It’s not as put together as it seems either.
The person you want to be, she’s inside of you, wanting a chance. But it starts here: in a vulnerable and open place. It starts with being ok, with everything not being ok. It starts with knowing that we ALL are works in progress. Beautiful works in progress. So the comparing game, the game you play in your head. It’s all in your head. You have a beautiful life to live at your fingertips and within your grasp. You’ve been given the chance to live life; your one and only beautiful life. Step into it, today. It’s yours.
So stop comparing yourself, your body, your life to others, it’s only robing you of living the life you can actually live. When you stop comparing, you can begin to see the wonderfully unique and brilliant real life you can be living, right now, today, as you walk with a good and beautiful God who has created this one brilliant and bountiful life to live for you.
Discover your unique beauty and surround yourself with people who celebrate it
Our society has done you a disservice, my friend. And for that I’m deeply sorry. You’ve been sold a barrage of lies from the time you were little that told you things like, to be beautiful you had to be… a certain ethnicity, a certain weight, and oh, yes that very certain size or range of sizes. The lie continues to tell you that if you don’t fit into that particular retailer or marketer’s idea of beautiful then you must do everything you can to change who you are in order fit into that idea of beautiful.
But the thing about it, is that God’s ideal of beautiful is much more diverse than that. God’s idea of beautiful is the skinny and the curvy, is the dressed to-a-t and the dressed in a t-shirt. God’s idea of beautiful in fact casts the net so wide to include women of all ethnicities and hair types and body types. They are all on the same playing field in God’s eyes. And that’s playing field is called BEAUTIFUL.
You see, God thinks all of these women are beautiful because they are each made in His divine image. And my friend, our God is a deeply beautiful God, has said that YOU are the pinnacle of his creation. Yep, you heard me. You are the cream of the crop. You’re the winner of the top model show in God’s eyes.
You are His grandest and most beautiful creation.
That’s one of the deepest truth you can accept about yourself during Middle School and High School: that you are deeply beautiful because you were created by a deeply diverse and creative and beautiful God. You are the spitting image of Him, this is what it means to be made in the image of God. It means we’re like Him.
And God’s idea of beauty, well, it starts there, but it certainly goes much deeper than that. God doesn’t just look at the outside, like everyone in our society does. He looks deeper and knows that you possess something totally mind blowing:
You have unique beauty that no one else on the planet has!
Our society, your classmates, your friends, even maybe your family members may tell you otherwise, that what is beautiful looks like… (fill in the blank), but you need to start believing deep in your soul that you are uniquely beautiful in the way only you can be. After you start internalizing that, surround yourself with friends, mentors, family members, teachers and coaches who will celebrate your unique beauty with you and will cheer you on to live out your one beautiful life.
Fill your time with things that will expand your view of the world and yourself
The summer after I graduated High School I met a girl, I’ll call Danielle. Danielle was very fascinating to me. She read books in Spanish and spent a lot of her time playing with paint and paper to create great introspective works of art, she called an art journal. Danielle told stories about going to old record stores and listening to music on vinyl . She would find the greatest adventure in exploring new places or in enjoying her favorite flavor of ice cream on hot summer days. Danielle was in a lot of ways completely different than I was.
I think what I found so refreshing about getting to know Danielle was that she hadn’t lived life in Middle School and High School on the rat race of being involved in every single activity she could, and taking all the advanced classes she could so that she could enter into college ahead, much like I had. The thing I was drawn to about Danielle was that she had chosen to spend her time exploring who she was and exploring the world around her, and was deeply wise and grounded and a whole lot of fun to be around because of it.
I don’t envy this next generation and the amount of pressure each of you walk around with to be involved in all the sports and extra-curricular activities, and band and church, and… and… and…
But I do think you still have the same unique opportunity I had. When you’re in Middle School and High School you actually have a lot of time at your disposal. I know it may not seem like it because of all the responsibilities and commitments you have, but trust me… you have a lot of free time.
The challenge will be to use that free time, well. Use the time you have to really explore; new places, new topics. Read a ton, or watch a ton of documentaries if you’re not a reader. Meet new people. Take some risks to try out a new hobby. Just because you haven’t tried something yet in your life doesn’t mean it’s too late.
Exploring our great big world and exploring your deepest self is one of the most important things you can do during this time. Take some friends, trusted mentors and your family along the way, sharing with them what you discover. You will be molded into a fascinating person through it, and you’ll discover really how big and diverse God created the world to be.