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Back to School Pep Talk! 8 Tips for a Confident & Successful Year
By Rachel Simmons,
Author of The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence

It's that time again. By now, you've probably back to school shopped, fashion show angsted over your outfit and even heard that first bell ring. I've been getting lots of emails from girls stressing about the first week, so I'm sharing some advice to keep in mind as you relearn to wake up at the crack, detox from 24-7 access to all things digital and bid tearful farewells to spaghetti straps and those cute little running shorts you were wearing all summer.

Kay, here we go.

Don't expect your friends to be perfect. Because, well, they won't be. If you hold your friends to impossible expectations, not only will they for sure disappoint you, but it will feel way harsher when they do. Batters get three strikes. Your friends need some, too. Be forgiving. That doesn't mean being a doormat. Just give people a little room to screw up. It's classy. Trust me.

Don't make assumptions about how your friends feel. If someone seems weird or cold or otherwise unusual, just ask what's up. Don't decide they hate you or are ignoring you unless you're 100% for sure that's what's going on. You will spare yourself a whole bucket of drama by just asking, "Are you okay?" or "Are we cool? You seem a little distant."

Apologize when you really mean it. Otherwise, bite your tongue. If you constantly apologize to people, even when you're not at fault, be careful. You can easily send the message that you'll take the heat for other people. If you never apologize, you're sending the message that you think you're better than others and don't take your friendships seriously. How do you know when a real apology is called for? Do you regret what you did? Did your actions hurt someone? Yeah, then now would be a good time.

Remember what you're grateful for. This one helps me a lot. If you're having a really bad day, just stop and think of one thing in your life you're lucky to have. Maybe it's your parents, maybe it's your dog, maybe it's your incredible talent for ice fishing . . . whatever it is, just stop and go, "I am lucky to have it. Life is not totally a mess."

Smile. Okay, I admit it, this one's slightly out there. But I read it in this cool book and I tried it and it worked. Just smile and you feel better. Plus, people prefer this face of yours to that one you sometimes show that looks like this.

Take a risk. No, not that kind. Or this kind. I mean, take a chance and put yourself out there. Raise your hand when you're not sure of the answer. Make eye contact with that cutie you've had your eye on. Ask a person you think is cool to be a partner on a project. Sit -- gasp -- at a new lunch table (okay, okay, calm down. I won't make you do that). But seriously, no guts, no glory, girlfriend. You do the same thing over and over again, you'll get the same thing. When school starts, the window for change opens. Now's the time to try something different before everyone gets all crusty and set in their ways.

Take care of YOU. I don't care how much work you have tonight. If you need to watch Glee, do it. You deserve an hour to yourself! When I was in high school, I was obsessed with this show called Thirtysomething. It was on Tuesday nights at 10. I could seriously have the biggest test of my life the next day, bombs could be falling outside, and I was on the couch watching it. Who cares about DVR and Hulu? If it's going to give you some peace right now, go for it. And bee tee dubs, try not to waste all your downtime online. It's just not nearly as satisfying.

Dance. Dance. Did I say dance?
Turn it up and just let it go. It's the best stress release ever. My personal favorites to go nuts to: Walking on Sunshine, Say Hey (I Love You) and a whole slew of stuff by Janet Jackson. (Yeah, I'm old. So?) If you don't like to dance, move your body in some way. Run, walk, stretch, skate, cartwheel. You get my drift. No matter how bummed I am, getting my heart rate up always makes me feel better.

Bottom line is this: Take care of you and your girls (and guys, and also the animals), be true to yourself and know when it's time to take a nap. Remember: the rest is still Unwritten. Happy back to school!

© 2010 Rachel Simmons
, author of The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence

Author Bio
Rachel Simmons
is the author of New York Times bestseller Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. She is the founding director of the Girls' Leadership Institute. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

For more information please visit www.rachelsimmons.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.