High school is indeed not like Troy and Gabriella made it out to be.
At first, High School Musical began as a movie three-year-old me would carelessly sing and dance to in the middle of my living room while my parents plugged their ears due to my inability to carry a tune. Now, it has become my security blanket and mentor during my adolescence, helping me through my journey of self-love.
As a teenage girl navigating the world, I found myself constantly surrounded by society’s insanely high expectations which led my confidence and self-image to plummet. Rock bottom came when my daily routine was consumed by trying to reach an impossible standard of “perfection” or hysterically crying when I felt I could never attain that standard. Searching for an escape from reality, I frequently found myself binging the trilogy with snacks in hand. While Troy Bolton fought his internal conflict of whether to pursue his true passion or stick to the status quo, I found my solution to overcoming my demons.
Step One: “Get’cha Head in the Game.” I had to acknowledge the toxic mindset I had created and begin to embrace a mindful attitude. Easier said than done, especially when you spent most days berating your appearance. Positive affirmations such as “I am beautiful” and “I am enough” flooded my mirror written upon sticky notes. Whenever I had a negative thought about my appearance, I acknowledged it and read my positive affirmations. If I ever felt overwhelmed by my thoughts, journaling served as an outlet to release the negativity and clear my mind.
Step Two: “Breaking Free.” Social media had begun to consume my life; I wasted endless hours scrolling looking at other’s lives and comparing them to mine. These influencers and celebrities were posting a false reality that showcased a highlight reel of their life with perfect filters and lighting. By taking a month-long hiatus, I grew more appreciative of my life and displayed less judgment toward myself. I realized life was not a competition. Everyone brings a unique value and perspective to the world. My insecurities and imperfections are what set me apart and contribute to the world’s diversity.
Step Three: “Start of Something New.” True beauty comes from within and consists of your personality, intellect, and heart. I dedicated my time to activities that developed my true beauty. Through hobbies and extracurriculars, I challenged myself intellectually and socially. Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone developed a newfound confidence that radiated externally and forced me to grow beyond my insecurities.
Step Four: “We’re All in This Together.” Every day presented a challenge, and it felt easy to revert to my prior routine. Therapy provided a safe space for me to discuss my problems and I recognized I wasn’t alone. Millions of others struggle with their own daily battles, and a support system is needed to keep going. By surrounding myself with uplifting peers, I realized I am stronger than I know, I am more loved than I feel, and I’m doing better than I think.
Although my high school experience did not lead to finding my one true love or expressing my feelings through song and dance, it did lead to a period of personal growth and a greater understanding of myself. By developing self-love, I have become more comfortable with bad days. I have learned to find positivity in all experiences and have begun to utilize any opportunities to develop as a person.