Most people tend to make their speeches about helping others, serving your community and being kind to your peers. Honestly, as much as this does matter, being there for yourself is the single most important thing you can do to live a happy, successful life.
Until two years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. Honestly. I was at the bottom of all of my classes, I was going through my first breakup (which I know sounds dumb but at the time it felt like the end of the world), I had no ambitions or goals and I had zero confidence. And this wasn’t anything new, I had been unhappy for a while. But I was also really angry and didn’t care about anyone else other than myself.
Ironically, I realized my behaviour was a consequence of insecurities and self-loathing. At one point, I remember sitting in my bed, mascara streaming down my face for the fifth time that week, crying over some boy or some bad grade. I don't know how or what happened, but I distinctly remember a small voice inside my head saying, “Enough. Other people do not dictate your emotions, and your grades do not dictate who you are. You are more than your failures and rejections. Get up, and prove everyone wrong.”
The more time I spent with myself, the more I realized that I was becoming my own best friend. And as I was becoming this, I began genuinely wanting to create the absolute best reality for myself, and started doing things that served this desire. I began to exercise, read, work and volunteer almost every day. I actually began to forget about proving others wrong and simply focused on proving myself right.
Taking the time to do what I loved is what made me realize that I wanted to pursue a career in journalism. I love to travel and write, and my close friends and teachers will know that I can ask up to about a million questions a day. I loved all of these things before, but now that I cared about my future, and took the time alone to understand what drove me. I was able to turn those hobbies into goals.
Since then, every decision I’ve made, both in and outside of school, has been in pursuit of this goal. I worked tirelessly and sacrificed way more than I realized, boosted my average by 30 percent in all of my classes, applied myself in all areas of student life, and most importantly, I continued to practice self-love. This is so important, because when you love yourself fully, every single thing you do will be in service of your highest good and potential. You will want to create the best possible reality for yourself, and you will consistently do things that ensure this.
Most of the time, a lack of motivation or drive is fueled by self-doubt. So believe me when I tell you that self-love was what boosted my average, self-love is what got me exercising every day, self love is what allowed me to put myself out there without the fear of rejection or failure weighing on my back.
It’s like what we learned in Econ class: “If you want your business to grow, you need to invest in it.” You need to show up for yourself and put in the hard work. There will be sweat and there will be tears, and sometimes there will be days when you feel like there is no growth at all. But one day, you will look back at your old self, who put in little to no effort in the things you now care so much about, and you will see just how far you’ve come.
I am here today to show you all that there is hope for finding yourself. I am also here to show you that the only person who can pick yourself up is YOU. You are responsible for your growth, just as you are responsible for your failures. You are in control of your life, and there are things you can do to make this world a better place for yourself, so stop denying that.
Before I end, I’m going to give you some advice: pick your goal, something that really matters to you, something that you care about, more than anyone can realize; something that drives you, motivates you, something that lights even the faintest spark in you. Maybe it’s getting in shape, getting a better grade, being accepted into a university, improving in your sport, whatever. But from here on out, make absolutely every single decision you make in pursuit of that goal. Fix your attitude and mindset to match how someone who has already acquired that goal would act. Use your time wisely and dedicate it to your progress. Because that is how you practice self love, by believing in and consistently working towards your highest potential.
So choose to love and invest in yourself, because without risks, there are no rewards.