The Important Life Lessons We Learned From 'The Hunger Games'

by Ashley Fern

"The Hunger Games" has undeniably taken the world by storm, first by the novels and then by the films. The fact that this series targeted a younger audience has not deterred people of all ages, both men and women, from diving right into the storyline. They feel connected to the characters as if they knew them on a personal level.

When Katniss sacrificed herself for her sister, it pulled at our heartstrings; after the announcement that two victors could win the overall games, we felt hope for Katniss and Peeta; when Rue’s district began the uprising, we felt pride for the underdog.

The underlying meaning behind the interactions present in "The Hunger Games" taught us valuable lessons and ones that can be applied to any and all aspects of life.

Family is everything to us and it's everything to Katniss as well. This is the foundational principle of the series. In anticipation of the newest installment, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," we are going to look back to the first film and the most valuable lessons we took from it.

Sacrifice is the foundation of maturity

As soon as Katniss’s younger sister Primrose has her name called, Katniss knows what she must do. She is more than aware that her sister will never survive the Hunger Games. As her older sister, she must volunteer as tribute to save her life. Katniss’s childhood as she knows it is over and she is forced to grow up as soon as she steps foot upon the stage.

You need to know when to stand your ground and when to concede in life. All relationships revolve around sacrifice. Whether they are personal friendships, family relations or intimate relationships -- this fact remains constant. You need to show others how important they are to you and by compromising on your wants and desires, it really shows them how much you value them.

Self-sufficiency will ensure your survival

Food is more than limited in District 12, forcing Katniss to illegally hunt in the woods. If not for this, her family would have no chance of survival. Her ability to fend for herself is what will ensure the longevity of her family line.

At the end of the day, your survival is contingent upon yourself. You need to realize what it is that you personally need in order to strive and to prosper. What works for one person may not (and most likely will not) work for you. As much as it’s nice and comforting to go through life with a partner, this is never a guarantee. The only guarantee in life is you and the knowledge you’ve gathered over time.

There’s nothing wrong with getting a little bit of help

Peeta saved Katniss when she was younger by throwing her burnt bread from his bakery when she was starving.

For some reason, people think that asking for help is a sign of weakness. This can be linked back to societal pressures of perfectionism. The belief that you should be able to survive while only depending on yourself is both unrealistic and unnecessary.

Having this mindset will only prevent you from reaching your goals. Look at the reality of your situation: Do you really need help? Is the only thing preventing you from asking for help your own ego? No matter how embarrassed you are about asking for help, sometimes it’s necessary.

Sometimes you really just need a drink

This is something Haymitch caught on to a long time ago as he’s sipping on booze in essentially every scene he is in.

There is a well-known quote: "Know when to give up and have a margarita." Sometimes life just gets stressful -- you’ve done all that you can manage to do and still you are frustrated.

At this point, instead of getting increasingly angry, have a drink! Or two or 15! Whatever you need to relax, just do it. This doesn’t need to be a literal drink, just any activity that will alleviate your stress: may that be a yoga class, reading a book or smoking some weed. Everyone needs to have a go-to to relieve anxiety.

In order to survive, you must get people to like you

As Haymitch tells Katniss, “You really wanna know how to stay alive? You get people to like you. Oh! Not what you were expecting? Well, when you're in the middle of the games, and you're starving or freezing, some water, a knife or even some matches can mean the difference between life and death. And those things only come from sponsors, and to get sponsors, you have to make people like you.”

This does not mean that every single person has to like you, but you do need somewhat of a support system. If people don’t like you, they will seek to undermine your efforts in any situation. It is definitely in your best interest to have admirers, whether this is in your social circle or at your office. Having haters does mean you are doing something right, but only if that comes hand-in-hand with people encouraging you.

Exposure can kill as easily as a knife

In preparation for the Hunger Games, tributes are encouraged to train and improve their basic survival skills in addition to combat skills. It is explained to them that there is a greater chance of them perishing due to natural causes than in direct battle.

A physical attack is not the only thing that can kill you, but rather too much comfort can silently kill you. Life is unpredictable and you never know what is coming next. Never ever get too comfortable; always be ready to change.

When you feel complacent, then you are in repeat mode, doing things you already know and not learning anything new. When you’re young, it’s important never to get comfortable. You need to keep pushing yourself outside of your social comfort zone and try new things.

Arrogance can become a big problem

This little bit of advice (or more so a warning) Haymitch offers Katniss is one that can be applied to anyone’s life.

Confidence is key in any and all aspects of life, this is no surprise. However, there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. It’s vital to be sure of yourself and your values, but when they become overbearing, some level of arrogance is likely to emerge. That trait is not an admirable one and will actually deter people from associating with you. Be careful of how you assert yourself before you scare people away.

Perception is everything

Katniss and Peeta begin by faking a romance to encourage sponsors to send them life-saving items. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not since the perception these two give off creates the illusion that they are in fact in love.

What people perceive is usually what they believe, and this is based on what they hear, see and think. The way people view you and the way you present yourself is the impression you will leave behind. As you go about the business of carrying out your life, people will make judgments about your appearance, personality and capabilities.

If you don’t like the way your life is playing out, you can always take charge of your own perception of reality. You are in control of your story. Not everyone in life is a top performer, but we all have the ability to give off that impression.

Stay true to who you are until the very end

Peeta explains to Katniss the night before the Hunger Games, “If I die I still want to be me.” Just because the government is seeking control of everything and everyone, he is not standing for it. Despite being forced into the arena, he wants his character to remain intact.

If you sacrifice your individuality, you will risk losing your identity. At the end of the day, isn’t it most important to stay true to your values and beliefs? Don’t conform to someone else’s idea if it is not something you believe in. People will respect you a hell of a lot more if you are confident in your motives and beliefs.

Alliances are important even if they are temporary

Katniss is well aware of the fact that there will only be one victor of the Hunger Games, but that doesn’t stop her from forming an alliance with fellow competitor Rue.

In life, you are going to face a variety of situations that may be better navigated with another person. People come and go in life, that’s just the natural cycle. The people you meet can simply serve a purpose for the time they are there. Take people for what they are worth and what they can offer in particular situations.

Good luck getting tickets opening weekend, may the odds be ever in your favor.

Top photo credit: The Hunger Games