High school sticks with us forever. Essentially, researchers are discovering that our self-image gets set in high school – and no matter what happens after that – that’s pretty much how we see ourselves for the rest of our lives. That would mean, I still see myself as a beanpole marching-band-geek.
For example, economists have long known that a person’s height has a correlation to their earning power. Taller guys tend to earn more because they give off an air of authority. But it’s not a man’s ADULT height that affects his earnings – it’s his height at age 16.
And the same thing is true with weight. Sociologists found that people who were a healthy weight in high school have higher self-esteem as adults – even if they grew up and became obese during adulthood.
So why does our self-image get rooted in high school? It’s all down to the way our brain develops. The timeframe of high school is when the areas that have to do with risk, reasoning, and controlling impulses are solidifying. And as all these areas of the brain start gelling, our personality and self-image get locked in place.
Laurence Steinberg is a developmental psychologist. And he says, high school is the time when we’re trying to define ourselves – but it’s also when we experience the most social pressure and fear. We’re extremely sensitive to the impressions of others. So if we get labeled as a jock, a geek, a princess, or a freak – those labels stick with us. We believe them and they become imbedded in our self-image.
So, for better or for worse, there’s a part of us that will always be in high school.