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High-School Junior Experiencing Slump
Q: I am a 16 year old female and experiencing the "junior slump". I have for 2 and 1/2 years pulled off a 3.97 or higher GPA. I am tired of trying hard while other people I know are having fun with their "exciting" group of friends. I feel I have worked for so long I deserve a break. When I give myself a break I do not fully enjoy myself because my "all girl" group of friends are not leaders. They all follow my lead, I'm not saying that is bad, but it becomes frustrating sometimes. How can I stay motivated while my free time is devoted to hanging out with a group of friends I do not even enjoy?
A: I think more than a typical high school "junior slump" is going on. I think you are questioning all aspects of your life and seeing that they are not providing you with much excitement and pleasure. You have achieved a consistently high G.P.A. but don't appear to be getting much of a sense of self-worth or accomplishment from being an academic achiever. You look at other kids who are having fun with their group of "exciting" friends while you feel stuck with a group of girlfriends who depend on you for direction.
If your academic success has been driven by your wanting to get good grades and a high class rank rather than by a desire to become a more learned, educated person then I am pleased that your discontent has arisen. Maybe you've been devoting all this to time getting great grades because that's what your family expected of you. Maybe you've allowed yourself to "settle" for being an unwilling leader of a group of girls because it's easier than dealing with the possible disappointment of not fitting in with these more "exciting" kids you spoke of.
I don't think that you need to stop doing well in school or ditch these girlfriends to feel better about your life. But I do think that you need to question why you feel so burdened and disappointed by the school and social life you are leading. You need to identify what activities, academic and social pursuits would bring you a good feeling about yourself. Trying hard at anything will not bring you down as long as it's something that matters to you. Blaming these girls for not being exciting or leaders is off the point and unfair. They are who they are and you either accept that or stop thinking in a condescending way toward them.
If a person your age really examines what's going on under her obvious frustration and disappointment, she has a great chance to become who she really wants to be -- not who she feels compelled to be by others. It might help you to sort some of these feelings out with an adult who you value and trust or a therapist. I'm not saying you need therapy but that sometimes a couple of conversations with a good counselor can bring things into better focus and provide you with the support and optimism to make good life changes.
Thanks for writing. I'm betting that your life will be better in all aspects if you keep asking the right questions of yourself and get some support.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.