I recently gave a talk to a group of high school juniors and seniors on “how to prepare for college.” Afterwards, Noel, a junior, thanked me for coming and then told me she’s worried about the whole application “thing.” When I asked where she wanted to go to school, she said, “I don’t know. I don’t think I can get into a good school.” I asked her why she thought a “good” school wouldn’t want her. “I don’t know; it’s just that there’s a lot of competition — a lot of kids better than me.” Ugh — she sounded as upbeat as my 90-year-old arthritic grandmother! I asked where she’d like to go and she named two schools, each of which was competitive, though not in the Ivy League stratosphere. I suggested she apply to them along with her “safe” schools. What did she have to lose?
Her mom joined us and I quickly learned that Noel was no slacker either in academics or activities. Impressed, I again encouraged her to apply to her dream schools. Her mom nudged her, “Do you hear what he’s saying?” She looked at me without smiling, shrugged and said, “I guess, but I know they won’t accept me.”
If we break down Noel’s inner monologue, it goes something like this: I can’t get into where I want to go THEREFORE I’m a loser THEREFORE I have no chance at happiness THEREFORE why should I even try THEREFORE my life sucks … STOP!
This is crazy thinking and we all do it in some form, though some of us have perfected it into an Emmy-winning soap opera.
Noel doesn’t know for a fact that the schools she wants to get into will reject her. She hasn’t even applied to them.
Also, she’s thinking in polar opposites and torturing herself in the process: “Either I get into one of these two schools OR I am doomed to a miserable four-year stint at some crappy college.” There are scores of schools where she could thrive, but she hasn’t investigated them because she’s too busy playing the victim of her own unhappiness.
Why do people think that being negative is actually a positive thing? Negative thinking isn’t going to help you, so why choose to be cruel to yourself?
Be confident. Confidence comes from taking stock of who you are at this point in your life — the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. The confident person acknowledges their weaknesses and owns their strengths. From confidence you can assess a situation, make reasonable choices, and assume responsibility for those choices.
It’s a cliché, but true: Your attitude in life determines life’s attitude towards you.
Be confident. Be kind.