"Be your best self! Be your best self! Be your best self!"

Last year, I presented the Be Your Best Self program to 352 young children, and each presentation ended with them cheering this phrase. I gave them examples of how they could be their best selves, I answered countless questions about the program’s message, and I wrote essays about how I tried to be my best self in my everyday life. Only now, after almost two semesters of college, do I realize how important the five elements of the Be Your Best Self program actually are and what they really mean.
It’s easy to explain to young children that being healthy means eating fruits and vegetables or that being responsible means doing their homework and their chores.  But what about us, the high school and college students who are balancing every aspect of our busy lives?  I’m sure you’ve learned to clean up after yourself a long time ago. You don’t need anyone to remind you to study for those big exams. So how can the message of the “Be Your Best Self” program apply to us as young women who are preparing to make our way in the world?
Be Healthy…Yes, eating food that is good for you is important, and so is washing your hands, but health means taking care of every little aspect of the wonderful creation that is YOU!  Be kind to your body by what you put into it and what you say to yourself. Be conscious of when you allow yourself to believe that you aren’t good enough…and convince yourself otherwise. Have you ever told yourself that YOU are AMAZING? No? Well, you should start doing that because it’s true. Be aware of your stress and find healthy ways to manage it. Exercise is an excellent way to help yourself feel better! Do not allow yourself to sacrifice sleep in order to accomplish everything on your to-do list. Drink plenty of water, because it’s very easy to forget to do this. Just be kind to yourself.
Be Involved…but not in everything. Part of growing up is discovering the things that bring us the most joy. At college, I have learned that it is impossible to be involved in everything you want to do and still manage a full class schedule, work, time with friends, and sleep.  Choose the things that interest you rather than the activities that will look good on a résumé. If you include nothing that you enjoy in your schedule, then you might start to regret being so busy. Try to find a healthy balance between groups that help you develop leadership and those activities that you enjoy. It’s better to become strongly involved in a few select groups than it is to spread your time thinly between ten different ones.
Be Studious. I may be biased because I LOVE to learn, but being studious is not about memorizing information to write it on a test and then forgetting it. Nor is it locking yourself in your room with your books to make sure you get all A’s. Being studious means committing yourself to learning because you know it will help you grow. If you think of being studious as a source of personal growth, then asking questions, finding ways to learn more, and being interested in the material you’re learning so that you can go beyond classroom lecture might come more easily.
Be Ambitious. As young women, we sometimes feel pulled in many different directions.  Being ambitious means setting your sights on something, even if you don’t know exactly what it is yet. I’m a strong advocate of the fact that having unanswered questions or uncertainties is a good thing…and it is! But find something that motivates you.  Never let anyone tell you that your dreams are too big. Never discourage yourself from having those dreams because you’re afraid of them. Be ambitious. Push yourself a little harder. Go above and beyond what is required. Set your sights high, and then work on building the foundation beneath your dreams. You might have to fail seven times before your path to success becomes clear, but unless you get up and start walking again, you’ll never be able to follow that path.
Be Responsible. Part of being mature is realizing that your decisions don’t only affect you; they also affect a lot of people who may be depending on you. Telling young students that they should turn their homework in on time is a good example, but it’s not realistic for us.  For young women our age, being responsible means thinking about the consequences of our decisions before we make them. Being responsible means allowing yourself time to complete everything you have to do. It means not taking on more than you can handle because you are human and can’t possibly do everything. It means being able to say “no” in the first place rather than having to back out when you realize at the last minute that you can’t complete something. Being responsible involves managing your time, making your own decisions, and learning from your mistakes.
So yes, the message of the Be Your Best Self program applies to young women in high school and college. Yes, the five elements are challenging, but the results will be so worth it!
Sarah Fuller is a college freshman at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania majoring in Early Childhood Education & Special Education. Originally from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, Sarah was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Pennsylvania for 2013. Learn more about Sarah here!

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