More Than Good Enough

More Than Good Enough

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

More Than Good Enough

He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.

~Raymond Hull

It seems like the second you step into middle school, you get judged. Not by other people, but instead by yourself. It’s like a constant buzzing going on in your head — an endless circle of thoughts composed of questions for yourself like, “How does my hair look?” or maybe, “Would answering this history question make me look like a snob?” and the always persistent, “Am I good enough?”

I made the bulk of my friends during the first month of school. I always talked to a wide group of personalities, so I knew people who listened to music that screamed at you, people who wore heels bigger than their feet, people who listened to hip hop (which I am much more inclined to listen to, although I never told anyone), and ones who looked like they walked straight out of one of those teen novels, fully equipped with tubes of lip gloss and pink purses.

Then I knew a boy — his name was Brian. He almost always had his earphones placed firmly in his ears (but heard and responded to everything I said), wore what he called “vintage shoes,” and was an active member of the Boy Scouts. He was the guy who was different from everyone else. I thought people’s stares would faze him, but they didn’t. In fact, Brian welcomed negative comments and simply questioned others about the way they lead their own lives. Something about him always made me feel nervous but oddly at ease: Brian never judged me or said anything about the way I looked or what I said. Looking back, it made me nervous because I wasn’t used to it.

When I wasn’t with Brian, I was constantly trying to be like the people I would speak to. My grades started to slip, the loud music I listened to started to give me headaches, and I was spending the little money I had on clothes and shoes. In short, my life was a complete mess. It was clear I had caved into the pressure of middle school. It was like I was in a hole and I just kept digging.

One day, somewhere in the middle of the third month of school, I was sitting behind Brian in Algebra class. I had just gotten back a polynomial test with a big red sixty-eight percent scrawled across the top. That test was the worst grade I had gotten in at least five years. I was usually such a good student — I did not understand what was happening to my grades.

Before I had the chance to shove the paper in my bag so no one would see it, Brian turned around with a neutral expression, a one hundred percent test in his hand.

“That’s because you focus too much attention on what other people think about you,” he said to me, gesturing towards my not-so-stellar test. “For someone so smart, you act like such an idiot when it comes to other people.” I wasn’t even sure how to respond.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“It means that you never act like yourself. I always see you change the song you’re listening to when certain people walk by. And you never answer questions in class that I’m sure you know.”

“That’s not true,” I lied.

“Yes, it is. Just stop caring about what people think. Don’t try to change yourself; you’re just fine the way you are when you talk to me,” he said before turning around to face the blackboard.

I could feel my mouth hanging wide open, but I couldn’t concentrate long enough to close it. Had Brian just told me that I shouldn’t try to fit in? I thought this was middle school, where people had to make friends if they wanted to make it through high school. Yet there Brian was, sitting comfortably in his own little world, with perfect grades and a collected life. And then there was me — breaking down on the inside, horrible grades, and a generally miserable life. I must have been missing something.

I realized that Brian was right. It was time for me to listen to the music I wanted to listen to, dress the way I wanted to dress, and to take control of my middle school life regardless of what my other classmates thought of me. I realized that if you’re not happy with yourself, you can’t have a happy middle school experience. So I took Brian’s advice and started to act like myself, and I noticed that I was more than good enough. Finally.

~Jackson Beard

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