I took my daughter to Jr. High orientation yesterday. You would have thought we were just running to the grocery store for all she cared about it. When I started middle school, I was prepping my outfit for weeks. I had consulted with friends regarding every possible situation that could arise. I had tried different hairstyles and even though I did not wear makeup, I likely found some lip gloss or cover up to have on hand. It was a BIG DEAL. When I went to middle school, it was the same kids I had been going to school with since kindergarten and the building had a total of 1 hallway. And I was nervous.
When I started high-school I put even more time and energy into my first impression. We could go walk around the school to find our classrooms and I spent hours debating outfits. Orientation day? I was worked up for days, knowing there would be new kids, and anxious about fitting in. I tried on every outfit and then tried them on again. I processed and prepared with friends. I was obsessed with making a fabulous first impression.
My 12 year old though… could care less. All of the elementary schools feed into the Jr. High so there is going to be 5x as many students as she is used to. Changing classes, finding rooms, new teachers… didn’t even phase her. In fact the only anxiety this kid has is her locker combination. It took about 10 tries to get it open and she now manages to open it successfully every third try.
Why is she so calm cool and collected about this? It’s not like I provide her with a great example of self-esteem and being secure in who you are. I still spend way too much time and money on clothes. I still buy beauty products that I believe will turn me into a super model. I worry every single day about what people think about me. I live in constant fear of rejection. I live in constant fear of failure. The world is my locker combination.
Most of my childhood I was surrounded by peers who cared a lot about superficial things. I was teased about most everything and I never fit in. I can still picture getting laughed at in 1st grade by my table mates about my lunch. I was just telling a co-worker about junior year in high school in which my lunch was stolen every day. (And then when I bought a lock for my locker, that was stolen to). My college roommate moved out after first semester.
Could it be that her school and peer environment is just that much better than mine was? Has the world changed that much? Have all the anti-bulling campaigns made an impact? Is she just so oblivious that she does not notice the kids who are starting to wear make-up and fashionable clothing? Or does she really just not care.
No matter what the answer is, I have a kid who does not have anxiety about Jr. High and who is happy with who she is. If her biggest struggle this fall is her locker combination, then it might be high time to look to her as an example for positive self-identity.