To many teenagers living in the world of high school, drama is a constant, pain in the you-know-what that every student faces. Whether it comes in the shape of family or friends or “enemies,” the stress of grades and exams, the overly-exaggerated loathing for teachers— every high schooler goes through it. And while breaking up with your best friend does seem an earth-shattering, end-of-the-world thing, ten years from now you can look back on it and laugh. Who knows— maybe you will be friends again in the future.

Drama, however, is not the subject of today’s article. It is the struggle before the drama that has come to my attention as the most painful part of life in high school. Ladies— and gentlemen, if this applies to you— the approval of your peers is not a guide to life. You do not need to look, act, or speak in a certain way just to fit in; you do not need to grovel for anyone’s attention— boy or girl— or live up to anyone else’s expectations other than your own. That boyfriend/girlfriend/friend who shames you or puts you down doesn’t deserve you. This sounds like a common lecture that most smothering mothers (“smothers,” as my favorite show The Goldbergs calls them) will give you, but it’s true. High school is just the beginning of discovering who you are as a person; the rest of the definition of “me” comes later in life.

Your worth cannot be given to you by any one person, family or otherwise. Your expectations, whether high or low, are your own. You are not labeled by money, race, religion, or color. No matter who you are, you are worth it.