mother with daughter thinking back to teenage life lessons
Inspiration,  Lifestyle

10 Things I Would Tell My Teenage Self

If I had a time machine and could send myself back to any point in time, it’d be high school. If I knew then what I know now, things would be so different. It’s not that I have regrets — it’s just a little bit of my current wisdom would have made things a lot easier. I wouldn’t have cared so much about what everyone thought of me. I wouldn’t have worried needlessly about things that never came to pass or my looks. And I definitely wouldn’t have made some of the same fashion choices. Unfortunately, high school is both a minefield of social angst and insecurities, and the most formative, vulnerable period for female self-esteem.

The reality is that the saying “high school is never over” is actually true. Whether you’re 15 or 50, the feelings of teenage unrequited crushes, embarrassments, rejections, and societal pressures never fully fade. Don’t get me wrong — we all grow and evolve, and there’s so much to savor in high school. But if we all carried the following truths with us from an earlier age, we’d know how to curb some of these feelings and realize what really matters sooner rather than later.

And I know I’m saying these are things I’d tell my teenage self, but to be honest, I’d say these things to anyone I know because some truths are just timeless.

Timeless Advice for Young Women

teenage girls one resting her head on another
  1. Stop trying to fit in.  Wanting to fit in and be accepted by our peer group is normal.  The human psyche is built to seek acceptance and validation from others.  There’s a reason “acceptance” is part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs! But what you didn’t know back then is that not everyone will “get” you and that’s okay.  Not all people will be your people. Find those who accept you for who you are and forget those who don’t. Figure out who genuinely wants the best for you, and stick with them. When you bend over backward to please others or blend in, you end up losing sight of who you are.
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others because more often than not, you will usually come up short. I compared myself so much to the popular kids, the wealthy kids, the smart kids, you name it. These same comparisons just turn into more adult versions later on about jobs, kids, marriages, etc. There’s always a reason to envy someone if that’s what you’re looking for, whether you’re young or old. But the truth is that nothing is ever as it seems and the grass is not always greener on the other side.  And believe it or not, there are always people who will look at you and envy something of yours.
  3. He’s not the only one.  That boy who broke your heart, remember him? Remember the tear-filled nights, the long pathetic “dear diary” entries, how you thought you’d never get over him and meet anyone else?  Well, you did, didn’t you? There is plenty of metaphorical fish in the proverbial sea. No guy is the only one. And if he’s not into you, then move on and find one who is. Oh, and don’t just set your sights on the cute boy who has no substance.  Give the nerdy guy a chance. Looks fade, but a good heart and character last forever.
  4. Don’t judge those who are different. Don’t exclude others.  This isn’t just a shout-out to the mean girls and the bullies — it’s also for the do-nothings and the bystanders.  Anyone who was a little different or wasn’t part of the majority group knows the pain of being isolated and rejected.  Learn to accept differences in others and not to judge people who don’t fit in the mold society has created for them.
  5. You don’t have to know what you’re gonna do the rest of your life.  I’m always amazed that as young teenagers we are supposed to go to college with a major already selected.  How are we supposed to have that figured out? As an adult, we may still not know what we want to do when we grow up.  And by the way, we can change our minds. We don’t have to be stuck in a career choice that doesn’t feel right. Explore your interests and don’t forget to find your passion. That will always lead you to the answer.
  6. Problems that seem huge probably aren’t.  The things you worry about usually don’t matter.  Think back to five, ten years ago? What worried you that most?  Do you even remember? Probably not. That’s because worrying about the future or about what might be usually is a waste of energy.  Most of what we worry about never happens. As a matter of fact, you may have heard the quote that says, “if it won’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend 5 minutes worrying about it.”  Most problems are tiny problems and they usually sort themselves out. Stop stressing. Stop worrying. Stay grounded.
  7. Don’t be pressured to do anything you don’t want to do. This goes for sex, drugs or alcohol, bullying, pranks, or even going somewhere you don’t want to go to. Don’t go along to get along. The root of peer pressure is really just a need to control, and a need to fit in. Don’t be the person who forces something into something, or the person who’s forced into something. Be confident enough in what’s right for you, not others. Always look out for yourself because no one else ever will as much as you can.
  8. Cultivate meaningful and mindful friendships with your girlfriends.  Maintaining friendships is like tending a garden. You must prioritize time, honesty, kindness, forgiveness, and compassion. Let go of the petty drama and recognize who your girls are, your true blue, your ride or die.  Remember that your girlfriends are the family you choose. If you’re lucky enough, they will be your lifelong support group who will be there through your breakups, marriages, babies, you name it. There’s nothing quite like having people by your side who have been with you through it all.
  9. Don’t act stupid to impress that boy or anyone else. Be proud of your intelligence and own all that you have to offer. The trope of the girl who dumbs herself down to make guys feel more confident is so outdated. If he can’t appreciate your brains, he’s got bigger problems that you can even foresee.  
  10. Love yourself.  Women are so hard on themselves and often forget to practice self-care, self-acceptance, and self-love.  It doesn’t help that society is constantly telling us how we should look, act and feel ever since we’re little kids playing with dolls.  Loving yourself is getting past all the negative thoughts you put in your head and breaking free of those barriers.  Loving yourself means accepting your imperfections and flaws and focusing on your strengths and positive qualities. Knowing that you are worthy of being loved and respected and that you won’t accept any less from anyone, including yourself. Treat yourself like your own best friend.

Become the Best Version of Yourself

african-american girl in a garden

Evolving and becoming self-aware is the only way of freeing yourself of the limiting beliefs that imprinted themselves in high school.  Your present life is not dictated by your past experiences but rather, shaped by them. Your high school years don’t need to define who you are because you can choose how you move forward. Letting go of the baggage of those tumultuous adolescent years can free you up to be the best version of yourself.

Don’t you wish you would have known that back then? That you are in control of your own life and purpose and that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your decisions choices, goals and dreams?

So give your inner teenager a hug and tell her she did the best she could under the minefield of social experiment called high school.  Give that girl a high five and now go on and adult for it’s time to be your most authentic self-empowered self!

Erin Love Thomas is the founder and managing editor of This Side of Happy. As a relationship blogger, Erin helps readers find, nurture, and sustain healthy relationships. Erin's desire is that everyone finds the love and happiness they seek.