Teen Talk: Lesson for teens: Life is unfair, so deal -- and learn -- from it

03/19/2013 12:00 AM

03/18/2013 4:53 PM

DEAR TEENAGERS: There is a very simple phrase that can make your life much more peaceful if you learn to accept it (not just hear it).

I'm sure I evoked a few eye rolls from teens thinking, "What can you tell me that will honestly make my life any easier?"

Here it goes: Life is not fair.

Teenagers face issues of unfairness all the time. Some young people choose to focus on the unjustness of the situation and allow themselves to get stuck being angry. Others rise up from it wiser and stronger people better prepared for adulthood.

One area that I hear about a lot in my office is that some kids do hardly any studying and get all A's, while other students study hard only to get B's or C's.

It's frustrating, it's upsetting and, yes, it's unfair.

I hear from kids that their friends who didn't know about certain tests ace them, while they may have studied, made flash cards, taken practice tests, or met with a tutor and then do less than expected.

Moments like this, as painful and disappointing as they may, can be wonderful preparation for becoming an adult. The fact that you have to learn how to work hard for something, give it your all, focus on a goal and really care about your future will only make you a better and smarter person.

Students who learn to work hard in high school and challenge themselves to do better can become successful adults who know the value of determination and perseverance. Students who work hard will value their grades, their education and their future.

Another area of unfairness I hear about often is the college acceptance process. How do two kids with almost equal GPAs and fairly close test scores sometimes get different results when applying to colleges?

It happens all the time. Frustrating and upsetting? Yes. Unfair? Absolutely. A measure of their future success? Not at all.

Some students get so caught up in the disappointment of not getting into a particular college that they forget to celebrate the ones for which they are accepted.

Life is about rejections – whether it be from friends, people you like, running for school office, or applying for jobs. You get knocked down all the time. But you need to learn to get up, brush yourself off, learn from any mistakes and move on.

It's a process. It's a journey. It's a struggle.

Patients of mine working through the college acceptance process often hear me repeat, "You will land where you are supposed to."

It's a little bit about luck and a lot about blind faith.

Often, teenagers are devastated when they don't get into their dream school and are forced to go somewhere else. But four years later, and a handful of lifelong friendships made or meeting their future spouse, they realize they landed where they were supposed to.

The unfairness or the rejection they experienced brought them to the people they now can no longer imagine living without. Unfairness can often be a gift.

Teenagers are experts at comparing their lives with their friends. Someone always has a better car, a bigger room, a more fashionable wardrobe or a better body.

Some people have natural athletic talents and others do not. Some teenagers pick up a foreign language with ease and others struggle. Some teens have parents who are happily married and others experience divorce or unhappiness at home.

It's all unfair.

And yet, you can't let this define you. Or stop you. Or make you give up on getting better.

Use this as motivation. Use the inequity to focus on controlling the things you have control over and letting go of the things you do not. Use the feelings of unfairness to appreciate the gifts, talents or choices you do have. Learn to be glad for the success of others and stop comparing your life to theirs. Learn what the word "satisfied" means.

The sooner you realize life is not fair, the sooner you will find happiness.

Life will throw you curveballs and try to push you back from the plate. Expect the inequities. Expect the struggles. Empower yourself to handle what comes your way. Stop looking for fairness. Start developing your character and working to become the person you want to be.

Write to Kelly Richardson at Teen Talk, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15880, Sacramento, CA 95852, or email krichardson@sacbee.com


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