Advice I Wish I Was Given

Lauren Bulanek, Op/Ed and Shark Stories Editor

There is beauty in vulnerability.

Don’t let fear keep you from speaking your mind. If you have something to say that you think should be said, say it. Spread kindness, don’t just keep it in. Complimenting others will make them feel better, and it will make you feel better (I call it secondhand warmth). If you get used to noticing the beauty in others, you may start to see it in yourself as well. Start by trying to compliment three people a day. Thoughtful and sincere compliments don’t take much time to give, but they can have a lasting impact. If you’re worried you won’t say the right things, then try to say the things you want to hear.

Tell people how you feel about them. Remind your friends that you love and support them, even if it is just through a meme. Tell the people you care about why you care about them. If you find something about them to be beautiful, tell them. Modeling supportive behavior can help it spread, so you receive the same love you give. Don’t let your insecurities stop you, and don’t let their insecurities limit them. Everyone is insecure, and meaningful reassurance can make the burden of existence a little lighter. 

Most importantly, Sappho once said, “What cannot be said will be wept.” You will probably regret what you don’t say more than what you have said. Life, especially high school, goes by quickly. Say and do what you want to while you have the chance.

Romanticize the little things.

You don’t have to find beauty in everything, but try to find beauty in some things. It can be hard to find a silver lining in certain situations, so instead try to find moments that make problems more bearable. Pay attention to the way your friend lights up when they see you. Watch the clouds race across the sunlit sky on a windy day. Notice the way your mom lets you know she cares about you, without actually saying it. Appreciate that a seagull has never pooped on you, despite them tormenting students during the lunches. Being happy isn’t easy and there are things you can’t just snap out of, but you can find moments of happiness, even when you’re smothered by a cloud of negativity. 

Love with every fiber of your being.

Make sure the people you care about know you care about them. You can tell them you care without actually saying it. For example, you could tell them to let you know when you get home safe or bring them their favorite drink sometime. Love doesn’t have to be grand – small thoughtful gestures go a long way. 

Be the kind of person you wish you had in your life. 

Figuring out who you are can be very difficult, but focusing on who you want to be can make figuring out your identity easier. Don’t try to change who you are, instead, improve how you show who you are. Do the things for others that you want someone to do for you. 

Practice self-love.

Compliment yourself three times a day. These compliments can regard anything about yourself. You are more than your looks. Consider your traits, skills, and interests, in addition to your body image. Learning to admire smaller things about yourself, like the length of your fingers or your ability to wink, can help to make the big picture more beautiful in your eyes. 

Changing how you view yourself can help to improve your self-image. For example, you could pretend a trait you have is one of your superpowers. Maybe your power is having a really great taste in socks. Or maybe you never misjudge the size of Tupperware you need for your leftovers. 

Also, try to change the language you use to describe yourself. Though words may seem small, they can have a big impact on your well-being through internalization. Positive and accepting language can help you shift how you view yourself. For example, instead of saying you’ve “changed,” use words such as “grown.” 

Creative solutions are a good thing.

It is okay to handle things your way. Find something that works for you. If your mind functions differently from others, it doesn’t have to be a weakness. Find a way to make it your strength. 

For example, if you feel overwhelmed easily or struggle with focusing, handle tasks in groups of three. So if you have to do homework, do three questions at a time. Then, take a break in between those groups when you need it. Or if you need to clean your room, pick three spots to clean. Once you’re done, take a small break. It is okay to award yourself in small, healthy ways. It can even increase your productivity.

Asking for help doesn’t make you weak.

It can be really hard to ask for help without feeling like a burden. Asking for help doesn’t have to be difficult though. The sooner you go to someone you trust, the easier it will be for you to face the problem. The longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to deal with. You can ask for help in a healthy way in three simple steps. First, address the problem. Then, explain how it impacts you. Finally, suggest a small way a person can help you.

It is very important to communicate what your problem is so that you and the person you’re asking for help have a mutual understanding. They can’t help you if they have one hand tied behind their back. Though being vulnerable can be difficult, if you trust them enough to ask for their help, they probably want to help you. Telling them what’s wrong doesn’t have to go into extreme detail, just make sure they understand the problem and allow them to ask questions. 

Though telling them how you feel may not seem like a big deal, it lets the other person know why you need help, not just what you need help with. Once again, you don’t have to go into too much detail if you aren’t comfortable with it, just let them know how you are feeling. Using descriptive language can help the other person to see from your perspective. 

Lastly, providing a suggestion on how they can help you is a big deal; it can keep you from feeling like a burden and provide them with a manageable way to support you. Just telling someone you need help isn’t as helpful as providing them with a way for them to help. Small tasks make it easier for them to help you and keep you from feeling dependent on them. Also, asking for help in ways that could be mutually beneficial can keep you from feeling like a burden. For example, you could ask them to spend time with you, help you cook a meal, have a self-care day together, remind you to take your medication, or just be there for you to talk to.

An example of how to ask for help could be, “Hey, I am falling behind in school and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. I have a couple C’s and I’m starting to feel like I’m drowning in school work. It’s gotten so bad I don’t even want to go to the classes I’m struggling in, even though I know I should go and try to improve my grade. I was wondering if we could have a weekly study group? I think your support would help me to get my grade up, and I could help you study for your classes.”

You do not have to fit into a box.

You are dimensional. This isn’t a high school movie. You don’t have to be a jock or a nerd. Labels can be helpful when you’re figuring out who you are, but don’t let them isolate all that you are. 

Being complex doesn’t make you fake. You can show different sides of yourself at different times. There is a time and place for everything. There may be a side of you that you don’t like, so you try to hide it since you’re working on it, and that is okay. 

Not everything has to be a competition.

Don’t let the school system or anyone else pit you against one another. Instead, focus on bringing each other up. Everyone can pass a class, someone doesn’t need to fail for another person to succeed. Instead of tearing each other down, try to build each other up. You can form study groups, make group chats, share your sources, or help each other with homework. 

Practice healthy communication.

This can be really difficult when you don’t have many examples of it. It isn’t demonstrated much in high school since people pride themselves on being petty when in reality they need to see a therapist. Learning how to communicate in a healthy manner and practicing it can help those around you to learn.

Life is scary, but you are not the only one that is scared.

Talk to others. You don’t have to deal with anything alone. You are only as alone as you want to be. But if you don’t want to feel alone, make sure others don’t feel alone as well. If you want someone to speak up for you, speak up for others. Don’t let your isolation corrupt you, instead use it to learn what you should do for others. You aren’t alone in your fears. You aren’t alone in your problems. You aren’t alone in your hopes. You aren’t alone in your needs. You aren’t alone.