By Stephanie Marshall, Toronto based Master Alignment Coach

30 Years After High School Graduation

I went to my 30-year high school reunion a few weeks ago. It was surprisingly delightful and intimate considering the Zoom venue. Maybe that’s because on Zoom people couldn’t break off into groups and talk to the same people all night, and also, it was all women. People didn’t just stick to sharing curated lists of achievements, they shared things that matter. We talked about real things and listened to each other. It felt like everyone was the same as in high school, but with more of the best of themselves shining through. 

What Were You Like in High School?

North American pop culture mythologizes the high school experience. And most people have very firm notions of how they were perceived in high school. The thing is, I’ve observed that often these notions are wrong.

For example, I was coaching a brilliant and interesting woman I went to high school with (we lost touch for 25 years in between then and now) and she said to me in passing “…but Steph, in high school, everyone thought I was weird”.  Usually, I don’t have the data to confirm or disprove the stories my clients tell me, but in this case, I knew that her facts were off. I replied, “Actually, I was there and we didn’t all think you were weird”. To this day she doesn’t believe me even though it has now become a joke and my story has been independently verified by multiple people who were in high school with us.

After the reunion, I spent some time digging into all of my thoughts and feelings trying to excavate anything that I’ve been holding on to since high school (yes, investigating my thoughts is an occupational hazard). What do I think that everyone thought about me?

I found some stuff lurking in my subconscious.

Before I share what I found I should tell you something. I was one of the reunion coordinators for our grade, and I was unofficially kind of the MC of the event. Also, I spent about 15 years after university out of touch with everyone but I’ve since stumbled into reconnecting with quite a few of the women. I count some as close friends. Furthermore, so many women from my year have been supportive and have come out to Kensignton Market to see my band play or have supported my coaching business. Weirdly, if we look at the different friend groups and individuals from our year, it’s possible that in 2021 I’m the most interconnected of all.

But, in sharing the space with my high school class, I felt a familiar tug. A feeling from long ago. A reminder of something that I learned to believe about myself in high school. Nothing overly dramatic, but it’s interesting that these thoughts feel factual:

1. “I don’t totally fit in here”

2. “I’m not up to the traditional gold standard here”

I guess that just like my classmate who believed that everyone thought she was weird in high school, I had been carrying around some assumptions about what people thought of me too. And like her, I’ve made these assumptions work for me, but maybe it’s time to re-examine them. Let’s.

First of all, if I’m MC’ing this event and interconnected with so many people WTF does “fitting in” even mean? Ridiculous? That said, I think that holding this subconscious belief motivated me to ensure that everyone on the call felt heard and included.

Second, about that “gold standard”, many women on that call did their homework consistently in high school. They made logical choices and are running banks, law firms, and households with multiple well-scheduled children. They have built creative empires and are working around the world. A disproportionate amount of them have been featured on the cover of the school magazine. And I still feel like the one who might not do the homework, doesn’t always follow the logical plan, and just isn’t Branksome magazine material.

This self-image has both served me well because I’m now so comfortable taking the unexpected path, and I easily recognize in others when they feel like the outsider. I have a pretty awesome life on all fronts. But am I holding back somewhere if I subconsciously believe that I’m not up to “Branksome Gold Standard”, whatever that is, or the type of person to cover the magazine.

Now I’m curious. (I love to geek out about this stuff).

I work with people on identifying their assumptions and shifting their beliefs every day and I’ve seen firsthand the huge impact small thought shifts can have. So what if instead of just accepting what my “teen mean-girl inner-critic” told me all those years ago I decided to consciously shift my subconscious beliefs? What if I believed this instead:

“I can fit in anywhere and I strive to make others feel welcome.”

“I’m up to whatever Gold Standard I choose”

What would that change? Where else would my assumptions begin to shift? What other subconscious thoughts might reveal themselves? This could be interesting.

And I promise to report back after the next reunion.

If you’re curious about what subconscious thoughts are still impacting you or how to change them to something that serves you, or if you’re just curious about coaching, let’s have a conversation!

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