Kids - Why it's a good thing to be uncool at school

Aged 11, I was given a bowl cut, some daps, a shiny purple and green shell-suit coat, and a shapeless pleated skirt. I was then sent off for my first day of secondary school.

I came home, played Lego with my sisters, and did a 1km run time trial around the block. 3.25. Not bad.

Looking on point aged 13

When other kids started hanging around in Wembdon Park on Friday nights, I went swimming. I may not have done much swimming, (sadly there was no Centre of Excellence where I grew up), but at least it kept me on the right path.

At lunch time we would do athletics club. I would run laps around the field whilst the older kids made harmless but silly remarks, especially by the trees where they smoked. I ran faster past that bit and ignored them. Despite my bowl cut, I got away from bullying because I could run faster than they could (so earned some respect), but also I simply didn't care about them. They can only affect you if you care. And I knew they weren't the sort of people to aspire to.

I am so glad I was a bit of a misfit, though I did resent it at times. Had I gone to the park (I kind of wanted to), had I been allowed high heels, had I listened to the jeers as I did my running and decided to join the smoking gang instead, had I spent my time shopping for the right clothes and the right haircut, had I been affected by the dirty looks from the local athletics club teenagers as I pretended to be a squirrel on my own (don't ask), I wouldn't be any different, and I would have achieved zilch. That shaped me. I became independent.

Differences are what make us interesting. Differences set us apart and let us achieve great things in specialist areas. The only thing is with differences is - hardly anyone else is like you. Don't be afraid of that. It's hard to believe but you'll have to trust me: any nasty comments you get are simply a reflection of those people and their own insecurities - not you.

Think about what you want. Work hard for it. It won't always be straightforward, but it's better to different, and guess what? You'll soon realise that as an adult carving out your own path in life, you'll be looked up to by your peers, rather than down on.

You are young, and there will be comments and taunts, but when you look back in a few years, I guarantee you'll be proud that you didn't follow the crowd. For where are those ringleaders now?


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