School has been going on for about a month. For most, a new school year can be the beginning of something larger than expected. For me personally, the beginning of a school year (especially my freshman year) resulted in an extreme change in my personality and style. Both literally and figuratively, my style made an extreme change and I began to stand out more than everyone else in my class level. I wore thrifted clothes before people made it a trend. I wore clunky, sparkly sandals made popular by Spice-girl type fashionistas in the 90s. And, I did my hair in funky ways. This new style was accompanied by a new fear of talking to others, due to my unique looks.

I’ve heard many parents express concern and fear of their children not being able to communicate and make friends once they enter a new grade or school. Having gone through a similar situation, I now know what to do and how to make true friends. Whether you digest the information I write and relay it onto your children, or you just sit your kids in front of the screen and have them read it themselves, these pieces of advice are ones that I wish I had heard when I was dealing with these things myself.

Kids will stare at you if you look different. But, believe me, you want to be different.

Being the same as everyone else has gotten no-one anywhere in life, trust me. As I walked down the halls wearing a silk tank top over a turtle-neck, I passed dozens of girls wearing leggings and big sweatshirts. Don’t get me wrong, I too adorn those comfy clothes when I’m not feeling like trying, but wearing my unique style to school daily is definitely not “normal”. It took me a very long time to understand that these stares and smirky remarks weren’t of disgust of my looks, but however they were just from repressed jealousy that I could express myself through my clothing. When I was on the receiving end of the smirks, it made me feel that I couldn’t go up to anyone to introduce myself out of fear that they would spit in my face and think of me as lowly. However, once I realized that these people were just un-sure of their styles and personality as a blossoming tween, I was much more confident and decided to approach the same people who were scoffing at me. Never be afraid to go up to the same people who seem to be making fun of you. Once you prove them wrong and hold the upper-hand, they consistently seem to back down and are forced to confront themselves.

Sometimes, the people who you seem to have nothing in common with are the ones who become your best friends.

Being able to go up to people who seem to be polar opposites of you and strike up a conversation is an extremely difficult skill to get right, but once you build up the fear and have that initial conversation, it is easy to find yourself becoming good or great friends with people you never thought you would connect with. Personally, I decided to walk up to a girl wearing cropped lulu lemon leggings and a matching headband during the first week of middle school. I had been terrified to approach a single student, and I had just stuck with my elementary school friends. Walking up to this student with an extremely different aesthetic than my own and getting the guts to compliment her hair and begin a conversation turned out to be one of the most important and smart decisions that I’ve made in my lifetime. This student turned out to be my best friend of many years, and it all started because I built up the courage to introduce myself. Never be afraid to make a strong first impression and put yourself out there!