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How To Deal With the Competitive Atmosphere of Arlington

It is a well-known fact that Arlington, Virginia is one of the best places you can raise your children. It has some of the best public schools in the country, and the opportunities are truthfully endless in the small county. Many students graduate with over a 3.0 average, with some even inching close to numbers like 5.0. Arlington has sent numerous students to colleges like Princeton, Yale, and Harvard, and has raised notable names like Sandra Bullock, Katie Couric, and many CEOs of companies as prominent as Hilton Hotels. Though this seems great on the surface, and all children and teens should thank their parents for raising them in one of the greatest counties in America, there is one huge downside. It seems to be one of the most competitive environments in the nation. Because so many people from Arlington are so successful, it creates pressure on students to live up to the skyrocketing expectations of parents, teachers, and even peers. This creates a huge strain between peer relationships among teens, as they are all competing to get in to the same colleges and have the brightest futures. As a 17 year old girl, this has been a huge struggle for me over the years. But, here are the tips I use to face it, and I hope they will help you as well.

1.    1.  DON’T CARE ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE SAY OR THINK ABOUT YOU. I cannot stress this enough. When I finally came to terms with the fact that I needed to let go of people’s judgments of me and focus on what I thought of myself, I did better in all aspects of my life including school, sports, and social aspects. A positive self image is more important than any image another person has of you. If someone insults your grades, just remember that you are working as hard as you can and not everyone works at the same pace. If someone insults how good you are at a sport, just remember you’re already better than them since they’re wasting their time talking about you. If someone insults an activity you enjoy, remind yourself that their opinion is invalid, as they have not lived in your shoes and experienced it. In four years, you won’t even remember these opinions, so don’t worry about them now.

2.   \2. There is a college or a future for everyone. You do not need to go to the big name schools to be happy. There are 9000 universities in the world. I can guarantee you there is one out there that fits your skill set, interests, likes, and dislikes, no matter who has or hasn’t heard of it. Furthermore, if college is not something you see yourself doing, then don’t feel bad about that decision. College may not be for everyone. If you have a plan, follow through to the best of your ability. And, no matter what…keep your options open.

3.   3. The possibilities are endless. This is crucial to remember when you are living in such a competitive atmosphere. Because Arlington is both small and competitive, it is sometimes easy to convince yourself you want to do exactly what 50 other people are doing. Oftentimes, people don’t notice that this is actually what creates the competition! If you want to do something that no one else in Arlington is doing, don’t worry about being an outcast. In fact, doing something that is catered to your interests decreases the constant competition!

4.   4. Surround yourself with people who push, but don’t pry. It is extremely positive to surround yourself with people who will push you to do your best. Whether it is a friend who is very equal to you academically, athletically, or otherwise, it can be very valuable to have friends push you to do your best. Friendly competition is the best competition! However, make sure these friends don’t pry. You don’t need to share every single grade and test score. This only stresses out everyone involved. Encourage each other to succeed, but don’t try and intrude on someone else’s success.

5.   5.  Engage in activities that mean something to you. This is so key to both high school and future success. Being engaged in things you are passionate about will not only take away the common stress that all teens face, but if you’re doing something you enjoy, you will be happy…and that’s the best thing a teenager can be. Just because someone else isn’t doing something doesn’t mean that you can’t.

6.    6.  Remember that there is life after high school. I know that the issues you may be facing now probably seem like the end of the world. Everyone has days where they think that nothing can get better. Personally, this is a big issue for me. Remember that it is okay to feel like this. It’s even okay to break down and cry. But the most important thing you can do is pick yourself back up, sit down, and think. Remind yourself over and over that there is life after high school. The rumors people are starting about you will be forgotten over the weekend, the constant competition will be over in just a few years, and soon you’ll be out in the real world with none of these worries.

7.    7.  Don’t be too open, but don’t be too sketchy. This is also key in a competitive environment. You should not go around, as I said before, stating your test scores and grades. This will stress out both you and the people who are hearing it, creating a lose-lose situation. At the same time, it also could be problematic if you are too “sketchy” when someone is trying to create competition between you (i.e. asking about test scores, grades, performance in athletics, etc.). Your best bet is to say something like “I don’t really remember” or “I’m not 100% sure, but I think I feel good about it”. This lets go of a problem that could turn in to something much bigger if it is dragged on.

8.   8.   Reserve judgment. Treat others how you want to be treated, plain and simple. If you’re not constantly judging others, others will most likely reserve their judgments of you.

9.   9.   Kill them with kindness. There is nothing more bothersome to a “bully” or uber-competitive person than someone who they can’t say anything bad about. Don’t give anyone anything to talk about, and you will be left out of the constant competition and the things that come with it like bad mouthing. These are only your peers for four more years, or however many years you have left. It won’t kill you to be nice, no matter how much you can’t stand them! Don’t let them realize they can get to you. Or even better…just don’t let anyone get to you! Being kind and courteous will make you and everyone around you happier.

1010.   Learn to be independent. This is more than just a tip to overcome the struggles of a competitive environment. This is a life skill. Find a job, dump the bad influences in your life, and be determined and focus. YOU are the most important person in YOUR life. Don’t let anyone else threaten that.

Posted: Jul 12, 2013 by Rachel Robertson

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