Dear Straight Talk: I’m 16, hoping for a fresh start at a new high school after leaving my old one because I was being bullied. I’m pretty small for a guy and not very athletic. I mostly seemed to make friends with girls at my other school, which made everyone think I was gay, even though I’m not. Being picked on made me socially awkward at school, though I’m not socially awkward ordinarily and wasn’t before high school. I’m paranoid about being a target at the new school. What should I do to start off on the right foot? — “Gary” in California
Sarah, 16, Monclova, Ohio: People can be so mean. The boys soccer team started a rumor that I’m lesbian because I’ve never been kissed. I was really hurt at first, but I decided not to let it ruin my high school experience and I’m much happier now.
Going to a new school is scary, but don’t go in thinking people will be mean! Just be your confident self, and they will see that!
Carlos, 18, Fairfax, Va.: I also have slightly more female friends than guy friends. When I started high school I knew I needed to change some qualities about myself. Before, I used to let people say whatever they wanted and laugh it off. So I said to myself, “no more.”
Make friends with people you know are nice. If someone does make fun of you, don’t let it bother you (or at least don’t show it). Instead stand strong and assert yourself.
Chris, 25, Washington, D.C.: Introduce yourself and remember people’s names. If you don’t do sports, get involved with a group or club, even a study group.
People are attracted to those who are fun and happy. You can project this behavior by simply smiling and keeping your attitude light and buoyant. The trick is realizing that everyone is feeling a lot like you.
Christina, 20, Marysville: Be yourself. Don’t let people change how you would normally be. Make friends by talking with people, opening up (when the time is right), and forgetting those who bring you down. Join a club, go to games, get involved with student council. You have a brand new opportunity, use it to your advantage! Just stay true to your morals.
Dear “Gary”: Please know, whether you are popular, bullied, or somewhere between, your core “self” is worthy, unique and important. People who know this get through anything.
Congratulations on putting yourself in a healthier situation — that shows a high degree of self-worth. Take what works of the panelists’ suggestions and create a happier high school experience! — Lauren
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