Annie Lane: Highly critical high schooler looking to change her ways

Published 5:39 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

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Dear Annie: I’m a 16-year-old girl and currently a sophomore in high school. High school is OK, but one thing I’ve noticed is that I’m really judgmental of others in my school and tend to bring them down in my head. For example, if I see a girl wearing revealing clothing, I’ll call her a “slut” or a “whore” inside my head, or if I see a boy wearing pajamas, slides or Crocs, I’ll call them “lazy” and “sloppy.”

I also have relatively high standards when it comes to boyfriends. Most of my standards have to do with clothing and shoes. Usually, from what I see, a lot of kids wear pajamas, Crocs or slides, and I hate the way that looks! That’s why I’ll never wear them.

Even though I’ve never been in a relationship before, when it comes to them, I’ll judge a person by the way they look, and if they don’t match my standards, then I won’t give them a chance. There’s this senior who was talking to me, and since he didn’t match my standards, I didn’t want to be seen with him around school. Even though we were friends, he was sending mixed signals about maybe wanting more. We don’t talk now because of his mixed signals, which I called him out on.

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I’m one of those people who knows what they don’t want rather than what they do want. I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with me, but I guess I’m so used to being the way I am, it’s hard for me to stop being this way. I’ve been constantly beating myself up over the fact that I’m judgmental and don’t give people a chance, but I feel as if nothing’s working for me. And I do want a relationship, but I feel like if I don’t change, I won’t be able to achieve that aspect of life.

What should I do? 

— Judgmental Teenager

Dear Judgmental Teen: To start, show yourself some grace. Being a teenager is difficult; you’re just starting to really embark on the journey of life, figuring out who you are and growing into that person. Be gentle with yourself.

Now, in the same vein, you absolutely need to practice affording this same grace to those around you. You seem to put a lot of emphasis on external beauty. Remember that not everything of value can be seen. Get to know a person beyond their outfit or other materialistic qualities before you make your mind up about them.

Your peers are experiencing the same difficulties, self-doubt and insecurities you are. They don’t have it all together, either. Maybe in their journey of self-discovery, they’re experimenting with makeup, different hairstyles or types of clothes and shoes. Just because people do, say or act in ways you wouldn’t doesn’t make them wrong or less than. It simply means you are different from one another, which is a very special thing. You’d be surprised what your friendships and relationships can look like when you decide to act out of love and acceptance, and give people the benefit of the doubt.

Finally, remember that you’re not alone. Oftentimes, we feel overwhelmed and defeated when we’re trying to do something all on our own, and perhaps that’s why you feel “nothing’s working.” Try talking with your school’s guidance counselor, a trusted teacher, a friend, family member or therapist about how you’re feeling. Your burdens will feel much easier to shoulder if you have loved ones helping to lighten your load.

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