Take a moment to think back to that scene in Mean Girls where Janice is showing Cady around the cafeteria, naming off all the cliques. You’re in the movie now. It smells like 2004 and NSync is playing over the loudspeaker. You have a tray in front of you with mystery meatloaf and a glob of what may have been peas in a past life. Which table are you sitting at? It’s okay, we’re all guilty of it– the labeling. In high school, we fit ourselves and those around us into boxes. It helps our brains to categorize and therefore organize the information it is taking in; it would be absurd to absorb the truck loads of data teeming within each campus.
At my high school, I am a lot of things.
Sometimes, I am a prude. I am not a prude because God asked me to be, or because my mom told me that I ought to be or even because I am afraid of cooties. I am a prude for no other reason than because I want to be (and, okay, maybe I’m a little scared of cooties). And it’s taken me a long time to realize that that is okay.
Over my high school years I have gotten significant flack, mostly from my guy friends, about my disinterest in sex. Frequently, I’ve felt pressure to explain away my actions (or lack thereof). I’ve even found myself feeling guilty for my incapacity to commodify my body on the hormonal black market that pulses throughout high school hallways. I have been called selfish, and mostly refrained from relationships out of what felt like acceptance of self inflicted consequence for the choice I was making.
Being selectively selfish; the practice of making choices precisely within your comfort zone.
Now, as I embark upon my final semester in my secondary schooling, I am thankful that I have stayed true to my intuition. By no means do I give this thanks because I feel any sense of superiority over those that have chose differently than me. It is because this breakfast-club-esque label I have earned myself of “prude” has allowed me to realize the often overlooked importance of being selectively selfish; the practice of making choices precisely within your comfort zone.
To clarify, I am not saying that one should meander around their classroom stealing lunch money or kicking puppies. This is not an advocation for maliciousness, nor is it intended to minimize the insurmountable value of empathy and compassion. This is a just a reminder. To all of the girls (and guys) whose hearts are so big that they can barely see their own feet, and thus have trouble taking steps for themselves:
It is okay to put yourself first.
It is okay to make choices for yourself and no one else.
It is okay to say no.
It’s ok to be selectively selfish.
My teachings are primarily on par with that of the old cliche ‘do things that make you happy’, with the contribution of the caveat don’t do things that don’t make you happy. This can, at times, be challenging. From our very first steps to our very last, it is characteristic of human nature to crave validation of some sort. The toxicity and competition of high school, however, make that positive reinforcement hard to come by. While this is generally horrifying, it is part of what makes those four years such a transitional phase in the lives of the American teenager.
As much as we might like to romanticize it, a person’s identity is little more than a compilation of the choices they make.
Fake it till you make it.
One is forced to at least feign confidence in their decisions. Freshmen tumble in with the grace of Bambi–if the story was actually her learning to walk without her mother, then soon after being expected to decide what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, and figure out how to pay for it…not that I’m bitter. This, without a certain degree of selfishness, can cause one to become habitually submissive as a crutch. It is often the easier way, to let others decide for you, but is undoubtedly a dangerous cycle to get caught up in.
As much as we might like to romanticize it, at its core, a person’s identity is little more than a compilation of the choices they make. These choices will vary of course– magnitude, importance, impacts, etc.– but we all know size does not matter. What each of these choices will have in common is simply the person that made them. It stands to reason then, that one should be allowed to make choices for themselves.
Each decision should be considered as partial to ultimately shaping the person that you will be. Think of it almost as hand crafting your best friend– you are the only person that will be there for each moment in your life, so it is intrinsic to assure you are someone you don’t mind spending time with.
Be the star of your own love story.
Start small; to kick it off, I leave you with a list of 11* ways I have found effective to being selectively selfish:
1. Eat more chocolate.
2. Take baths, with candles and incense.
3. Wear your favorite pair of jeans everyday for a week.
4. Listen to your favorite song until you sing it in your sleep.
5. If your dog is annoying, just take yourself for a walk.
6. Say “no”
7. Wear sweatpants in public sometimes
8. Stay in bed all day and binge watch Netflix just because you can
9. Seriously, chocolate
10. Buy comfy underwear, no matter what
11. Drink tea from a fancy teacup with your pinky up. Unless you don’t want to. Then, don’t.
*I picked the number 11 just because I felt like it.
Photo via Pinterest.