Dames for Dreams

Advice I would give to my younger self…

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Dames for Dreams is a fabulous organisation of women who are dedicated to building self-esteem by empowering other girls and women through inspiration, motivation and education. They are also focused on spreading awareness of body positivity and anti-bullying and are partnered with Pin-ups Against Bullying.

For more information on Dames for Dreams visit the Facebook page www.facebook.com/DamesforDreamsCommunity or the website http://www.damesfordreams.org

Dames for Dreams; Know them, Be them and Raise them

#powerofshe

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We as women of the world have lived, we have laughed, we have lost. We are older and we are wiser. Having lived a number of years filled with happy, sad, emotional, traumatic and sometimes crazy experiences we want to go back and give advice to our 16 year old selves about what we believe is important in regards to what truly matters.

By doing so, we hope to be able to inspire and empower the younger generation of girls by sharing our stories. We want to show the difference between what we felt was important at 16 and what actually is important.

We want to show that whatever experiences you are going through, you are strong, you can overcome it and there is so much more to life than worrying about your weight, looks or whether you are good enough. We want you to embrace life and realise that you are beautiful, you are capable of achieving whatever you want out of life and the world is your oyster.

For some of us, it took years to love and appreciate ourselves. We hope our words are of some inspiration because loving and appreciating yourself is important. You are not defined by other people’s opinions of you and you are not defined by cruel, hurtful and bullying experiences.

*disclaimer – The photos below have been submitted by the individual participants for the sole purpose of being used for this blog feature. All rights are reserved to the original owner* 

Ashlea, 27 – “If I could tell my 16  year old self anything it would be to not worry about what  people have to say about you…everyone ALWAYS has an opinion on well…EVERYTHING and you don’t need to be the “most” anything or the “least” anything to REALLY feel good about yourself. Just take a second to realise, people who will like you will like you because you are you, and people who dislike you…they’ll find any way to do it regardless but that in no way means they’re right – their opinion is not the be all and end all, infact if anything your own opinion of yourself will get you places or hold you back…so make it a good opinion because chances are the good things you think are the ones that’re real, not the hateful ones you tell yourself when you’re alone. I wish I knew at 16 that the things that matter most include myself. You won’t feel satisfied in life if you always have to hide away in fear of what somebody thinks of you, fear won’t make great memories – it helps you learn sure, but what really matters in the grandscheme of things is that you make the most out of everything. People will try to beat you down and take things that’re rightfully yours  and that shows something about their character not yours so stay strong because you can do this, and you’re so much better than this. My 16 year old self picture…with the scribble on the face is generally how I felt whenever I seen a full body picture of myself. I scribbled out my face because I was ashamed to be seen in my entirety – It was bad enough showing my ‘fat’ ‘disgusting’ body, let alone the fact I had ‘double chin’ and an ‘ugly face’. All my pictures were generally a close up picture of my face and often cleavage because I felt thats what I had to be to be deemed attractive to anyone and a lot of people made me feel this way too. Myself at 27 – I know there are FAR worse things to have/be than to be ‘fat’ and have a double chin…This is me, I am happy and I wish i knew I could be happy with myself when I was younger rather than being forced to feel my body was a void that I really had a massive dislike for thus took it far from my mind so it was kind of like it didn’t exist.  Every nook and cranny is me…it’s real and its glorious – I just wish I had known that sooner.”

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Carrie-Ann, 30 (www.somethingdefinitelyhappened.com) – “There are so many things I wish I could say to my 16-year-old self, but they all boil down to the same thing – be true to who you are, not who you think people want you to be. Ignore them. Those people who tell you that reading is for losers, that you’re too fat to fancy, or that your forehead is the size of an airplane landing strip are complete knobbers, and really aren’t worth your time. Don’t let their comments become nasty little voices in your head telling you that you’re not good enough. You are. Be kind – as we’ve covered above, people can be cruel. Sometimes, they say things without thinking or make a nasty comment because you’ve had a row, and other times, I’m afraid they’re just mean people. So, make it your job to build others up, not tear them down. It doesn’t matter if no-one else likes it. So, you like history. And spelling. That’s cool. You should never, ever, ever feel as though you have to hide who you are (and that includes deliberately spelling things wrong so you don’t stand out). As a grown up, a large part of your job will be spelling things correctly, and a large part of your social life will revolve around the 1940s and 1950s, so you may as well embrace it now, instead of waiting another ten years. No-one cares what you did in school. Literally no-one I’ve met in my adult life has asked if I was popular at school, and whether I smoked and bunked off at lunchtime or spent all my time in the library. So stop trying to be ‘cool’ and do what makes you happy (and know that if you truly embrace it, all that reading you’ll do while walking to lessons will come in handy, should you ever want to read a book while travelling in London during rush hour). You’re great, just the way you are. I know, it feels like the size of your waist is more important than anything – your GCSEs, what’s happening with Ross & Rachel, Craig David’s next single – but you’re damaging your body with the cycle of starving and bingeing (which, by the way, also makes you rather grumpy and unpleasant to be around). I don’t have any easy answers, but I promise that the people who matter will love, respect and admire you however you look. And why wouldn’t they? You’re intelligent, funny (even if you do love dad jokes), and, when you’re not a walking ball of hormones, you’re very kind. And, just so you know – when you go to university and get a job, everyone will want to know what ideas are in that big, beautiful brain of yours, not what dress size you’re wearing. Wear what you want. Talking of clothes – I know those blue PVC trousers look amazing on your size 8 friend. Her, over there, with the long legs. But just because she has them, doesn’t mean you have to get them too. If you want them because they make you feel amazing, go for it, but never feel like you should wear something just because everyone else is. While we’re talking about clothes – those 1950s dresses you love, but “would never have the confidence to wear”? Try one. You’ll never look back. Talk to the geeky boy in drama – See that boy over there with the glasses and the Pokémon cards? You’re going to marry him. And he is spectacular. He will make you laugh until you cry, does a cracking rendition of the Grease megamix, and makes you go all fizzy inside when you think about him. Most importantly, he’ll love all the things about you that you thought you had to keep hidden, and will actively encourage you to shout about them. He’ll also introduce you to Doctor Who, which – I’m as surprised as you are – will very quickly become one of the loves of your life. He’s far too mature for you right now, of course, but instead of wasting your time with people who are wrong for you (and those who are just plain wrong ‘uns), why not go and say hi, and save yourselves some time? Finally, 16 year old me, you’ve got a turbulent few years coming up (watch out for 2007 and 2009), but I promise it all comes right in the end. Oh, and go give your mum a hug, eh? I know you love her, she knows you love her, but it doesn’t hurt to show it once in a while.”

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April, 36 – “Dear 16 year old me, I’m almost 37 now, so listen up! You aren’t skinny, pale, and ugly. You do not deserve the nickname Skelator. You are a young woman with a slim build, flawless ivory skin and you are pretty. Here’s the secret I’d like you to understand; those people who picked on you were just unhappy with their own bodies! Yes, that’s right, the tall girl with the red hair you loved so much? She hated it. She loved your light brown colour and wished she could swap. The girl with 34 DD boobs, she wanted your little 32 B pair. The girl plastered in make up? She wanted your clear skin. Instead of being upset when you are called out on your body, compliment the bully. Tell them you like their eyes, hair, figure or style. And believe in yourself. You eventually feel comfortable in your skin and embrace your features. You end up rather happy with your lot. From your older self.”

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Michelle, 44 (www.facebook.com/VintageEyeMag) – “I guess the thing I would say is ‘don’t worry everything is going to be fine, but don’t expect anything big before 40!’ I think I would also say that what I should have done is followed my dreams when I was 20 but at the time I had a mortgage and I was serving on the ambulance service too so life was pretty hard in lots of ways. I always think life gets better as you get older or at least it has the ability to get better – I didn’t really ‘find myself’ until I was passed 40 – I had lost my job due to ill health and so it was then I started my own business and the magazine. And another thing I would say, even when you’re old, you’re never passed it!”

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Spooky Fat Babe (www.donutsanddissent.com) – “When I was 16, I was dealing with a lot of personal trauma. It wasn’t easy, & I wasn’t happy. I tried to kill myself. I felt ugly & unlovable. If I could go back and tell myself things, I’d say: Stop trying to force toxic relationships in your life to work. You don’t need to have a cookie cutter, perfect suburban life to be a valuable person. Enjoy being single, stop jumping from bad relationship to bad relationship. You WILL find so much love in your life. Stay vegan. Put yourself first more and stop apologizing for your feelings. Fat and beauty aren’t mutually exclusive. I wish I could’ve seen a glimpse into just how perfect my future would be. I wouldn’t have tried suicide.”

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Tanya (www.secretplussizegoddess.com) – “Being asked to write a blog post giving advice to my 16 year old self has been in itself very tricky. Obviously no-one can turn back time, and certainly there are a few things I would do very differently. However, like a chain, you can’t get rid of one link without losing some of the others. Its  been a long while since I was 16. In fact, 25 long years and a lot has certainly happened in that time. I’ve had a career, become a wife, become a mother and now my children have “flown the nest” and like one big circle, it is now my time again. When I was 16, I had one massive dream and that was to become a courier. Now, for many of you that means the delivery driver who drops your parcels off, but back in the day, before plane travel was affordable to all, there were thousands of coach companies that drove all over Europe to holiday destinations. These coaches always had a travel courier onboard. Someone to help, show you the sights, take you to the most popular places and help with language barriers. As a child, I went on several of these holidays to the Costa Brava. 36 Hours on a coach, with an overnight stop in France. On one of them, the courier took me under her wing. I was about 8 or 9, and I immediately knew that is what I wanted to do with my life. She took me around Paris, spoke the language, we ate the local food and I fell in love with what I thought was a glamourous, wonderful, exciting job. So, I geared my studies, and my classes to that. I took Geography, French and German. I passed all my GCSE’s and went onto College to study Travel and Tourism. I started Italian lessons and excelled in my college classes. Then it happened…at the age of 16 and a half, I met a man and fell in love. Within months were were engaged, buying a house and planning a wedding. I finished College at 18 and  decided travelling all over Europe every week would not be conducive for a relationship. So I gave up the idea of the job I had spent nearly 10 years pursuing. Thankfully, I did go into the travel  industry and cultivated my German, traveled to different places and saw the sights, just in a different way. I went on to become a Mother, changed careers and watched my children grow and leave the nest.  This means the time I have now is my own, for new adventures.  And You are never too old for new adventures! Now, as I have said, I can’t change somethings without losing others. If I hadn’t fallen in love, then I wouldn’t have my amazing children. On the flip side, I might have had a career that I absolutely loved. Or I could have hated it! Who knows, and certainly I wouldn’t change the way things happened. What I would change is me giving up that dream so easily. I could have given the job a go. For a few years. If our Love was strong enough, it would have survived. If it hadn’t survived, then it wasn’t the everlasting kind of love. But I will never know. No-one asked me to give up on my dream. I did it without even giving it much thought. I never even took into consideration all the hours and years I had put into studying, and learning. The extra tuition, the revision, the studying an Atlas, the learning Capital Cities. What I guess I am saying is that you should never give up on your dreams so easily. If you want something badly enough, then you can achieve it. Whether that is to be a hairdresser, or an astrophysicist, it is within your grasp. More people than ever are going to University. The World is literally your oyster, and there are so many opportunities out there. Technology is travelling at alarming rates, and the World has become a much smaller place thanks to the phones, tablets, laptops and other mediums that we can all access. If you have a dream, go out there. Reach for it and get it. It might be the best thing you ever did. But you will never know if you don’t try. Don’t let anyone or anything make you think that you can’t achieve it. Or ask you to give it up. Once an opportunity is missed, it is difficult if not unlikely to get that chance again. Life is too short to live with regrets. For many years I regretted my size and my looks. I detested them. I was a fat and unhappy person. I went on drastic diets and lost weight, yet even smaller I was terribly unhappy. I just didn’t like me! I let my size stop me from taking part in life. I would sit on the sidelines and watch others having fun, bowling, in the pub, learning to dance, desperately wanting to join in, but too self conscious to do so. That all changed around two years ago when I decided that life was too short, and I had wasted too much of mine not taking part and living it to the fullest. I now do everything I want to. I don’t let anything hold me back, and I have had more fun, more experiences and adventures that I ever thought I would have. It really has been an amazing couple of years, and I intend for it to only get better and better. I have catwalk modelled, wore a bikini, learnt to dance, taken sign language lessons, had a photoshoot in my underwear for a lingerie company website, sung karaoke,  started my own blog and been involved in advertising campaign for a large fashion company. All because I said yes when the opportunity came my way. As I previously said, I can’t regret the decision I made, in not reaching for my dream. I have a most wonderful family that I am so thankful for. I would never think about giving that up, in order to have a career. Thankfully, I am now at that age where I am having those adventures of my own, The World, is again becoming my oyster and I am taking every chance and opportunity. Make sure you make the choices you need to, in order to succeed in your hopes and dreams.”

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Miss Curved Nerd, 24 (www.misscurvednerd.com) – “If I could go back and tell my 16 year old self anything , it would definitely be something to do with loving who you are and not changing a single thing about yourself, just to please others. I was a lot smaller back then compared to today, but I was always teased for being fat. Stupidly, I listened to my bullies and it lead to a life of depression,self harm and low self esteem. No one should spend their time hating the way they look because it takes the focus away from the good things in life. I would also tell myself that life does get better – it may have seemed like the world was against me growing up, but now I’m happier knowing that I’ve achieved so much and come so far as a person. I’ve grown to accept my body and accept myself and it’s lead me to do great things – like inspire others through the Miss Curved Nerd website to love their bodies.”

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Heidi, 40 (www.facebook.com/BeauBombshell75) – “I’m writing this to my teen self…Heidi, yes your mum gave you a name that would give people a reason to poke fun at you, hi de hi, etc I know how much it used to distress you when kids used to follow you around saying it all the time. Remember being self -conscious of not having fashionable clothes and pocket money because mum and dad struggled? But despite that you, aged 13 got yourself a job so you could buy make up?? That took courage and determination even though you felt it was unfair! Now, you were extremely bright at school and the first year at secondary school you were enthusiastic and keen getting straight A’s but that’s when the bullying started..the boys calling you an ugly dog and ginger nut, the girls calling you worse names..the fact you didn’t have branded clothes or trainers so you were called names for that, the girls pushing you around, that time a boy chased you and spat in your face…you grew up hating who you were. Crying every day because you were afraid of what the day would bring, being set up by so called friends to get beaten up for their entertainment. You dyed your hair (people pay good money now to have ginger hair you know!) being used by men as you got older because you were getting “attention”. Let me tell you girl you were worth more than you thought, you may have failed to get the exam grades you wanted because you had enough of school and the bullying so you let your grades slip, but look what you have achieved now! You are a confident, popular lady with values and strength. You are qualified in all sorts of things as you have a passion to learn, you have women and men contacting you to say what an awesome inspiration you are. You help victims of PTSD when they are struggling with life. You have three gorgeous children who are well balanced and hard working…Just like you. I just wish you had known all those years ago how strong you would become and accept that not everybody is going to like you which is perfectly okay, and that you don’t need acceptance to feel empowered. You are and always have been an amazingly strong person and those important to you are proud of all you have achieved and overcome. And I bet you never dreamed you would become a pin up model published internationally! Love Your future self and alter ego Beau Bombshell (your model name)”wp-1453123398964.jpeg

mindsetforlifeltd, 22 (www.mindsetforlife.co.uk) – “Dear 16 year old me, You are perfect just the way you are. You do not need to go on a diet, despite what your teachers are telling you because I’m going to tell you a secret – adults aren’t always right! You do not need to lose weight and you are NOT fat so when that teacher calls you out in front of your friends, it is her who should be feeling the shame, not you. You are beautiful and I know you can’t see that yet but don’t worry, very soon you will! I know you are very insecure in your friendships and that’s ok because those girls aren’t meant to be your friends. Your true friends will find you in the next year and those people are going to be your friends for life! These people will be there for you the next time you go into hospital, which means yes – unfortunately you go back into hospital. There is nothing that you could’ve done to prevent it so please don’t spend any more time living in fear because next time you go into hospital, your friends won’t abandon you. You will feel more loved than you’ve ever been before so your worst nightmare of having to rebuild your life again will never happen. Not having slept with a boy and not having kissed anyone also doesn’t make you any less of a person so don’t let those girls treat you that way just because you are more inexperienced. Books are cool, studying is cool and trust me, everything you are learning will help you build an incredible career in 5 years time. Keep your dreams alive because you have a powerful voice that hasn’t been discovered yet. Spend less time worrying about university, everything works out better than you could have imagined. I love you, 22 year old Michelle”

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Cassie, 36 – “Dear Cass, Viewing life from 36 there are a few things I need to tell you…you are stronger and more beautiful than you can ever imagine. Even though you don’t believe it yet. You are not as invisible as you think and everyone walking around you in these halls are dealing with some heavy stuff. Nobody has a perfect life right now. So don’t feel so isolated. You will be faced with the best and worst life has to offer. And you will triumph! TRUST ME! The hardest time ever will start soon so follow you heart not your head. (your 16 your head is stupid) but you heart is made of gold. And don’t break your rule about taking back an ex. You do that once and it is the only thing in life you regret. Be confident young lady and quit giving a rats ass about what people think of you. It will hold you back for years. In your 20’s you will experience a life changing loss. WATCH YOUR BROTHER. This is the beginning of the end unless someone gets involved! And last but not least when you feel you need to let curtain people go in order to save your own soul (you will later know what I am talking about) do it. Don’t feel bad or hesitate. Love yourself and know at 36 life isn’t perfect but the blessing you have you wouldn’t change for the world. You have built yourself a nice life! Believe it! Love, Me!”

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Angela, 31 – “Sorry, your mum is right, you will only ever be able to count the number of true friends you have on one hand. But your friends will never define you, and neither will your job. It is your experiences that make you who you are. True love is marrying your best friend! Whether or not you have a good day will never be dependent on your hair. One day you’ll throw it on top of your head, every day, without a care – because hair doesn’t make you happy. Acne doesn’t last forever, try not to let it get you down. Love your body unconditionally, it makes miracles! And those little miracles will bring you the greatest joy you could ever know. Enjoy the journey, it is a beautiful life, for which you are very grateful…shared with your best friend.”

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Kahula Lui, 38 (https://psitslingerie.wordpress.com) – “When I was sixteen my life was not easy. Heck all the years of high school were brutal. So bad that I think it was the worse time of my life since it took me until my twenties to be able to find myself and I could write a book but, I will keep it short. Most of what was going on had to do with my body, my socioeconomic status, my race, family disownment, persuasion, and teenage rebellion. My mother raised me herself, she did not work, she received public assistance, she was mentally ill, and I am of Samoan decent in which even to this day some do not know what that is. What happened to me in my teenage years really set the precedence for what type of person I became. Still being a teenager really affects me till this day. I had to stop believing in grudges and start believing in forgiveness. During my time in the early nineties teenagers were already having babies. It became so bad where I was from that they made a school for teenage pregnant mothers. It was a confusing time for me, I was not even sexually active at this age so I was already being slut shamed due to rumors. Reason why I do not slut shame women to this day. During this time, I would have told myself that it is okay to be a virgin and that it was not going to do me any favors being sexually active during this time, since I was already the brunt of slut shaming since the age of thirteen. It just did not make my life any better. Even though my mother loved me I guess I was trying to look for love and acceptance elsewhere. Of course for most teenagers looks seems to be an important play in being accepted. If I could go back and tell myself at sixteen about my looks, I would have said you are great the way you are. In high school I was considered fat and my teeth were terrible. Plus, little did I understand that I was not fat but, I was actually developing into a woman. My body was fully developed by the time I was sixteen but, not in a Playboy Playmate sort of way. My breasts were small, my belly protruded, and my butt stuck out. It was a pear shaped body at best. My two front teeth were not fixed properly as I had bonds placed when I was a child. This was the year my mother had them fixed so things got better. Although I struggle with accepting my body but, it is way better than it was as I try to embrace it. As for my teeth when I was eighteen I got braces but, the color is still an issue for me. You cannot just buy teeth whiteners when you have bonds. Telling myself at sixteen that I should not fear anyone or anything and stop beating myself for my talents. There were graphic violent and sexual things that happened during high school that are too much to discuss here. Most of it had to do with hearsay. My mother did right by putting me into counseling but, once I turned sixteen that was the time I quit doing anything and everything that was good for me or that I was good at. My mother did not drive and I was afraid of using public transit in fear of getting beat up again. Sometimes I would take different and longer ways just to avoid people. It was also the time that I wanted to rebel from school. From the age of eight I played the violin but, with everything else going on being called a nerd was too much more so I quit that my sophomore year. Getting passed being sixteen was not stress free. The pressure of figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, people reminding you what is wrong and right, and the torture of wondering why you are not accepted can make your break you. It was not until I graduated from high school and met my husband that things changed. He was not from my hometown let alone my state and had different ways of thinking. If it was not for him, I would not have broken away from all that negativity. Things might not get better in life but, you might learn how to deal with things differently. Being bullied seems to be a lifelong lesson. It is really important to talk to your peers instead of holding it in like I did, such as your parents, family, your teachers, or guidance counselor. With all this being said, I wish I would have told myself at sixteen that you are only this age once, time will pass, focus on those who care about you, and you will get through it.”

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Bobbi Lynn, 45 (https://www.facebook.com/bablybluemn) – “Dear 16-year-old self, You are a beautiful, kind, and intelligent young lady. Cultivate gratitude in your life. Say ‘thank you’ to Mom and Dad when they compliment you instead of rolling your eyes. One day they will be gone; and you will miss their voices more than anything. Don’t worry so much about not fitting in. You will have many friends who love you. Eat your vegetables. One day you will battle cancer and win. Every morning when you look in the mirror and say ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m grateful to be alive’. And lastly, you have a great smile. Use it.”

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Ana, 32 (www.powertoprevail.co) – “Dear 16 Year Old Me, I see the way you always turn to the side to hide your body. There’s no need for that, you were built the way for a purpose specifically for you. You don’t know what that is yet and that’s ok just take care of yourself because someone else is going to rely on you completely. I see the way you cover up your body because you don’t believe the real you is living up to everyone’s standards and expectations. They’re standards aren’t based on reality and they have no concern for you. They want to keep you wanting the items on their shelves because loving yourself isn’t profitable. You have your own path to follow and following anyone else’s will never bring you the fulfillment that you will eventually find on your own. I know you will find this to be true because you will learn to listen to your heart. Until then, keep your head up darling and get ready to change the world. I love you, 32 Year Old Me”

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Emily, 27 (www.facebook.com/TheOnlyVintageDoll) – “My name is Emily, I just turned 27 years old. I’m a single mother of two boys, a professional pinup model, Internet personality, YouTuber, and I have a full time job. When I was 16 I never would have thought in a million years my life would be where it is today. I never thought I would be divorced or a strong image for women to look up to. I never thought I would be a single mother or a pinup model. It’s crazy the turns our lives make depending on our choices. I can honestly say I haven’t always made the best choices but due to the situations I was put in at such a young age I think I handled the best my young heart and mind could. I grew up in a very sheltered home. I was homeschooled my whole life, had zero friends, and spent most of my time involved in studying make up and fashion. I met my ex husband in the last few months of my 16th year. Our relationship lasted nine years. In that nine years I experienced many forms of abuse. Control, manipulation, mental and verbal abuse, infidelity, soul crushing heartbreak constantly. I allowed someone to come into my life and 100% steal and dictate who I was, what I did, who I was allowed to be around, where I was allowed to go. My self worth was beat into the ground and I was constantly alone. I became a mother young and thought it would fix my relationship but only a short year after was the first time I discovered my husbands affair, which was being carried on in our home, around my child and while I was struggling through a miscarriage, alone. For almost a decade from the age of 16-23 I made excuses, I defended, I ignored, I cried, I hurt and I thought there was nothing else for me in this world because that is what my innocent mind had been trained to think by someone I loved and lived for. Looking back now I just want to scream. What are you doing!! You don’t deserve this!! Yell at him!! Defend yourself!! Tell him to get lost and you deserve better! Stop letting him use you and hurt you!! Stop letting him get away with such horrible behavior!! Say something!! I almost don’t even know who that girl was. She doesn’t feel like me anymore because she isn’t me. If I could give my 16 year old self some advice it would be to realize how much you are worth and to never allow anyone to devalue that. That you deserve the love and appreciation you put in to be given back to you. That you shouldn’t settle for less or robe treated poorly because you think it’s your soul responsibility to make something work. I would tell myself that sometimes you have to be brave and allow yourself to hurt and cry and embrace those emotions so you can get better and move on to what your life is meant for. I would tell me that you need to stop doubting yourself and realize that you are strong and capable of anything you want in life and to never let anyone tell you different. Life is going to be hard and you are going to face things that literally feel like they are going to suck the life right out of you but you are going to be ok and you are going to make it. That you are going to be judged for things you have no control over like your body type, your image, your personality, and you can’t let any of it break you because only you control your future and how you live it, not others. You have to stop saying “I can’t” and realize that you can and you don’t need anyone else to prove that but you. Stop living for others and live for yourself. Live for your children and enjoy the life you are given. Let go of negative and hate and don’t hold onto it. Learn to love and never let that go. When we are young we see things so differently. I feel like my 16 year old self walked in pure innocence and love and didn’t realize how it could be manipulated to be used against her. Sometimes we just have to walk out our choices and let the pieces fall were they may and then after take what’s left and make a better life out of it. 16 year old me was clueless and just a baby and now I feel like she had grown into this woman who has this image of strength but is still working to have the level of strength others see in her. I think to many of us grow into adults holding our youth against us. You can’t live like that. No matter what you go through that is hard or painful it will only be your future if you let it. You can’t live as a victim but you can take your past experiences and turn them into something that fuels your life in a better direction and make yourself a survivor. You have to rise above things and move on. You have to use your pain as a tool to build a road of success and keep moving forward. 16 is only a year in your life. It isn’t forever. Remember that when you are making your choices. Choices are important and dictate our future. Poor choices will happen and you can’t stop that and you can’t take it back but what you can to is take responsibility for the choices you made, learn from them and take control of what’s to come for you. I promise you are going to make it, you just can’t stop believing in yourself. The day you give up on yourself is the day your future ends.”

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Beth, 31 (https://lipstickandpetticoats.wordpress.com) – “I can’t believe it’s almost half my lifetime ago that I turned 16! If I could talk to my 16 year old self the main thing I would tell myself is that you are perfect just as you are. You don’t need to change yourself to be liked, anyone who thinks you need to change isn’t worth knowing. If only you had the self confidence to see that you are an intelligent, caring young woman, and you can achieve great things in life. Stay at college and earn some qualifications, you are only young once and you should make the most of it. Don’t get that first dodgy tattoo because you think it’s cool, or the second! Put a bit more thought into it. Love yourself and the way look. You may be a size 12 but ignore the school bullies, this doesn’t make you a whale! Embrace your crazy curly hair because one day after babies and far too much straightening those curls won’t be there anymore. The world is your oyster, explore it, find out who you want to be, but please don’t just follow the crowd, who in the end aren’t even your true friends.”

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Courtnie, 28 (www.facebook.com/Bellatrixuk) – “Wow I really imagined what I would say if I good go back and have one conversation with myself at 16 and I genuinely feel this could’ve changed a lot of experiences for me! Not that I regret any of them, not one because they made me the person I am today! If I could tell my 16 year old self anything it would be this: ‘People act out of either fear or love, their actions reflect their inner insecurities and experiences. So with this in mind, think before you act, listen before you speak, be considerate but don’t ever mistake other people’s insecurities as your own! Be mindful to people’s feelings and don’t concern yourself with people that don’t have your best intentions at heart and above all, regret nothing you’re doing great!!'”

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Zoey, 27 – “If I could tell my 16 year old self anything it would be; Grief passes.
Whether being bullied at home or at school, losing family or a friend, things simply coming to an organic forming of division; there is nothing you cannot survive. It’s okay to feel sad but it’s also okay to let go of the pain just enough to start living again. To reach for the stars and know that each wound can heal; inside and out. I don’t have a photo of me aged 16 as I was going through a life changing event, with no family support which lead me to leave school in order to focus on this matter…I hope my advice helps someone…anyone…”

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Jillian, 34 (www.facebook.com/vitavonfoose) – “To my 16 year old rad self, STOP! Stop obsessing over your clothing and people you will never speak to you again after high school. Who cares what they think, honestly. You’re going to grow up wearing ripped band tee’s, live in leggings and never leave the house without red lipstick. You live your life with yourself and you need to make yourself happy before anyone else. Seriously, concentrate and study hard-It’s really going to matter in the end when it comes time to pay rent. You’ll be happier. Go to college and follow thru on your word. ALWAYS.
Please don’t date the ‘bad boy’ type-they’re not going far in life, TRUST ME (I’ve Facebooked stalked) they may be cute now but give it 10-15 years. Take that nerdy kid to prom, wear something amazing and dance the night away. It will be worth it.  Also, that kid that just broke your heart (the one who is constantly on his BMX bike) your going to end up marrying him one day so…don’t be an ass. In case you’re wondering-Yes, he still rides that BMX bike. Read as many books as you can and volunteer every time you get the chance. Don’t be lazy. Love –  Your 34 year old rad self. p.s you grew up awesome once you realized there’s more to life than NKOTB. Also don’t give your mom such a hard time-she’s going to end up being your best friend.”

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Julie, 38 – “If I could send my 16 year old self a message, what would I say? By the time I was 16, I was on a downward swirl that would come close to ending my life. After being picked on and bullied most of my life, I had finally found a group of friends that became my tribe. The misunderstood understood me, accepted me, befriended me. The days of constant bullying were finally starting to dissipate. But at home, things had been falling apart for a long time. My mom and I hadn’t gotten along in years. I started drinking around the same time my mom shared her intent to leave my father. By the end of my 15th year, my parents were divorced and my mom had moved me and my sisters a thousand miles away to the Midwest. I was ripped away from my home, my dad, my school, my friends and the ocean. The angst between my mom and I continued to grow. She stood for everything that disgusted me, just an ugly person. I hated her. She told me things about my dad I never should have known as his daughter. She berated him in front of my sisters, who were younger than me, and reprimanded me for defending him. By the time I completed my sophomore year at the age of 16, I had spent most of those months drunk, stoned and starving myself. My weight was down to 100 pounds and every time a doctor warned my mom about the dangers of anorexia, she changed my doctor. On the 4th of July, I bought myself a one-way ticket back to California and disappeared while my family was out watching the fireworks. While couch surfing over summer vacation, I met a bad boy. Long dark hair, leather jacket, old enough to drive, old enough to buy alcohol. But while I was in California, my health continued to decline and my best friend was left with no choice but to tell her mom, who called my dad to come pick me up and take me to the ER. I went home with my dad and continued my relationship with my 24 year-old boyfriend. My friends pleaded with me to stay away from him, warning that a 24 year-old man only wants one thing from a 16 year-old virgin. We had talked about sex, but I had said I wasn’t sure if I was ready and that I needed more time. After hanging out with friends one night, we were walking back to his car when he grabbed my hand and said he wanted to show me something. A condo in the complex was for sale and he had discovered the slider was unlocked. He pulled me inside and we started making out. He started pressuring me to have sex with him again. I said I wasn’t ready and asked him to take me home, but he kept kissing me. Being ill and weighing no more than a large child, he pinned me down with ease. With my hair trapped under my shoulders so that I couldn’t even move my head, he stole what was left of my soul. When he was done taking from me what a girlfriend “should give”, he acted like everything was fine. He told me there was toilet paper in the bathroom if I needed to clean up and then he took me home. I quietly snuck into my dad’s house and down the hall to the bathroom where I took a shower until I drained the water heater, quietly sobbing on the shower floor, quietly vomiting down the shower drain. Days later, I was forced to return to my mom’s where things only got worse. When I didn’t get my period on time, I went to the health department to have my STD panel and pregnancy tests done anonymously. They came back negative, but at 3 months post-rape I still wasn’t menstruating. I couldn’t sleep, plagued by flashback nightmares, I would wake up gasping for breath and sweating. I slept with an empty garbage can by my bed so that I could throw up into it when I woke up in a panicked fit, with his face burned into my eyelids. I started cutting and self-piercing. I kept drinking and started experimenting with drugs. I ran away multiple times, only to be returned home to my legal guardian. I fantasized about death and would later go on to try and take my own life. I cut my hair off. I stopped eating. I wanted to die. At one point when my weight was hovering around 90 pounds, my new doctor told me I was going to die if I continued to lose anymore weight. I had started counseling and finally confided to my therapist that I had been raped when I was in California and with that confession, I began the healing process with him by my side. There is no doubt in my mind that man saved my life. But the first step towards my recovery, started within me. I had to find the last bit of will left in me to live, to hope that life as an adult would be more fulfilling than my heartbreaking adolescence. Life did not get easier. I would continue to self-sabotage for many years, never fully believing I deserved any better. Fast forward 22 years and I now the mother of two boys, survived a physically and emotionally abusive relationship, conquered my battle with depression and anxiety and loved and lost and loved again. I am now 38. I had a boyfriend tell me last year that my laugh lines make me more beautiful. I had to pause and smile. I have finally reached a point in my life where I am happy. Something shifted in me. I came to realize that life isn’t about a destination, it’s about the journey, about what you learn and who you meet along the way. I learned that if I constantly say “I will be happy when…” that I will never be happy. And with this lesson, I learned to let the negative people in my life fall away. I have two great kids that are home with me, safe and healthy. I have a job I love. I am more often single than not and I have no problem with that because – I love me! I have come to accept my body and have blossomed with the comfort I find in my own skin. I have a rich life full compassionate, beautiful, confident friends that have become a great source of strength, kindness, motivation and laughter. I have a good relationship with one sister and my dad. Not much has changed in my relationship with my mom, other than me being able to take 2 huge steps away from such a toxic person in my life. Blood is not always thicker than water. Now the only time I think about my trauma at 16 is when I hear the word “rape” or a man lays me down on top of my hair. They say everything happens for a reason. What good could possibly come out of me being raped? That question was answered 3 years ago when I met a new friend who confided in me that she had recently been raped. We would stay up for hours talking and texting when she couldn’t sleep. Through my pain and healing, I was able to help another woman through her’s. So my message to my 16 year old self: Hang on tight girl, it’s going be one hell of a crazy ride, but you are going to come out strong, beautiful and loved on the other side. You will be ok.”

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Katrine, 28 (https://www.facebook.com/KatrinePinup) – “I made a life changing decision when i was 16. A decision that would prove to have huge consequences for my adult life and the choices I’ve made since then. All the way up through my childhood, I was bullied. I went through 3 different schools in hopes that another setting would make it stop. Unfortunately I lived in a small city where everyone knew each other and the bullying continued.  I was an easy target because I let it get to me, I cried and got upset which would make the bullying accelerate.  My first boyfriend turned out to be a bet and my self esteem was non existing. I believed that I was the problem. That I possessed something that made me incapable of being loved, that I was too ugly and fat for anyone to find me appealing. That’s what I had been told. It all changed when I was 16 and met this guy and this is where I made the horrible decision. He was older than me and had a car which made it all seem so cool at the time. He was doing drugs and had faced some criminal charges but I had never been loved like he loved me!  In my mind I knew he was no good for me,  but I had a voice inside telling me that i would never find a guy that would care for me the way he did. That I was  getting more than I deserved and that I should be lucky to even have a guy who wanted to be with me. This is why I decided to be with him. He moved into my apartment and slowly the relationship changed. He took over my thoughts and my actions but it all happened too slow for me to realize. He protected me like no other, at least that’s what he told me when he was controlling my whereabouts and who to talk to. He loved me more than any man ever would, that’s what he told me when he pointed out my flaws as they were to blame for his violence. He accidentally lost my extra key which led to him deciding when I should stay or go since I didn’t get to have the key.  I lost control of my life and I let it happen. I had even started doing drugs with him. It takes strength and courage to get out of an abusive relationship and I didn’t have neither! On my 19th birthday, I decided to come clean to my parents. I moved into a crisis center after climbing out the kitchen window and down a tree when he was out. I stayed there for 3 weeks dealing with anxiety and depression and I’ve been struggling ever since to get my self esteem up to where it should be. It’s been almost 9 years now and I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined that I would be where I am today. I am now a nurse at an intensive care unit and I’ve made a carrier of being a vintage model with over 20.000 international followers which to me is crazy! I allowed myself to get the help that I needed and I fought to get back on top! I wish I had known this when I was 16. That I decide the rest of my life and that I am capable of turning things around. Never loose trust in yourself and never let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. It’s never too late and you are worth the fight!”

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Christi, (Founder, President and CEO of Dames for Dreams – https://www.facebook.com/DamesforDreams) – “A note to my 16 year old self: I wish I could leave you a bunch of advice to protect you or keep you from going through all of the trials & tribulations, that are going to be painful. The truth is you are required to go through each and every single one of them to become the woman I am today. The next 20 years are all necessary to mold you into the woman you were created to be. What I can say is ‘With all of my heart I believe that the fear of being inadequate isn’t at all our biggest fear. I think that our deepest despair,what we are afraid of most, is that we are powerful beyond our comprehension. We possess a light within us that is far more frightening than the darkness. We think to ourselves Who am I to think that I am powerful? I would be foolish to claim that I am brilliant, talented, gorgeous & unstoppable.’ The absolute truth is that you are fooling yourself that you are not.You are a child of greatness. You were created from greatness for greatness. You playing like you are small doesn’t serve your purpose for the world around us. There is nothing enlightened by dimming your light so that others won’t feel insecure around you. We are all made to shine, as all children do. We were created with the purpose to manifest the glory of greatness that is within us. This greatness isn’t just for the selected, it is in everyone. When we claim our own light and allow it to shine bright we unconsciously give permission to those witnessing to do the same. As we become liberated from our own anxiety, our presence automatically liberates others. In closing keep in mind kiddo that for every ounce of bad there is just as equal good. Respectfully your future self Christi Michelle.”

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Jane – “Dear Jane, Don’t panic flower, it’s just me…you from the future. Don’t get all back to the future on me I’m just dropping you a line or two because I think it will help you. I can see you have just got your school photo back and you hate it, please don’t be too upset. Everyone has that one school photo they look back on and wonder ‘what was I thinking?’. Believe me when I say black hair doesn’t suit your skin tone, I’m not criticising but this is the reason you hate the photo. You will never go that dark again but you do suit auburn and mid-brown, in fact that gives you a real warmth which matches your gentle soul and kindness. I know you also think you are too fat, probably because of the negative comments you get, try and rise above these comments I know it’s hard but they are really not worth the headspace. You are overweight but this is because you overeat and don’t exercise, the good thing is you can change this which you go onto do and find you have a love of running and fitness classes. This is where you meet friends for life, you will support each other and they don’t judge you. You will learn to love yourself as you are despite not being skinny. You will become skinny at some point however, this does not make you happy in face this is when you are most miserable. I’m not going to tell you much about this as you need to do it to learn never to allow yourself back to that awful place. I know that you are feeling low and really hate yourself at the moment, this won’t pass for a while yet. You are grieving as you have just lost nana, this is why you are comfort eating. Try not to worry about this much, thank god for wide legged combat trousers ( gotta love all saints) being in fashion. You will come through this and you DO lose your excess weight naturally whe  gou start college. This is because you are walking a lot more and lugging a ton of art folders and equipment to college on the bus! College is a welcome disraction and where your artistic nature flourishes, go for it my love. Trust me, you find happiness but you have some utter shite to delve through first. When you get there though, it’s totally worth it! Take care sweetheart, Love and kisses Jane xxxxx”

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Vanessa, 41 – “Dear 16 year old me, Now that you are 41, there are a few things I would like you to go. 1, relax its not as bad as you think, what ever happens you will work through it as you are so strong and beautiful; 2, Live your life for you, don’t let others rule what you think you should do, no matter what choice you make it will be right for you; 3, Do not listen to what others say about your height, weight or intelligence. You are a beautiful, smart confidant young lady, who wills one day do amazing things; 4, Do NOT, I repeat Do NOT, let anyone pressure you into doing things you do not feel comfortable doing. You have the right to say no, and you are in charge what happens to you body. Most importantly No matter where life takes you, you will do amazing things and become a strong, amazing woman. You will have wonderful people involved in your life and find the person who will make you the most happy, You! Love your future self.”

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Michelle (https://www.facebook.com/MeL.BombshellMel.SirenMeloddess)- “The Things I have learned since the age of 16. Self esteem is created by thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Where do we developed most of these which are usually harmful to our well being? The Media! There is great news though, self esteem, self image, and self worth isn’t something that is fixed but changed! As I grow older I realize that change, adapting, and learning from mistakes is a never ending journey! Don’t get discouraged just yet…low self esteem is a thinking disorder. If we don’t change our negative thoughts, self doubts and faulty assumptions it can lead to self defeating behavior, depression which in some cases lead us down a road to drugs, suicide, self harm, bad health, and possibly regrets in participating in sexual actives we later regret. Depression is a slippery slope that can deep-root itself so deep inside you and can act like a passenger through adulthood. Now that I have addressed the issue, you’re probably wondering who I am and what do I know about any of these kinds of issues. My name is Michelle (MeL) and after moving from Boise, Idaho to Wichita, KS at the age of around fifteen that’s when the start of my preteen, middle school years began. Before the move I was a happy, outgoing, over achiever with a personality some know as being a “ham”. In my now new home town where personalities, language, and behaviors were foreign to me I struggled with some culture shock. I slowly clammed up and faded away from my true self because of the differences I was labeled as weird, strange, and just out there with an eccentric personality. That lovable, I can do anything attitude, that fueled the fire and cast that sparkle in my eyes went dim over time. Being too kind was also a weakness that created painful moments due to being taken advantage of, manipulated, and pushed around. After struggling to find a balance over a years time I had become part of the so called “cool” crowd. That came with a price itself due to skipping classes, drinking, boys and developing a bad attitude. My grades began to decline and having this new active social life just exposed me to more bullying and drama. I wasn’t happy and I soon decided that the pressure trying to hold on to the things I loved (honors classes, theater, singing, dancing, art, and kindness) vs. being accepted and being “popular”. I gave up trying to measure up to an imaginary status and the competition between the “hot girls”. I was called derogatory names, I was flat chested, I was super short and I had muscular figure which wasn’t viewed as “girly”. This overwhelming feeling drove me to make the choice to drop out just after the first semester of sophomore year to give up the hostile environment and pursue my education by testing out and making a “B line” towards college. Outside of school I would attend local casting calls and model searches but it was always the same response, “She is cute but she is just too short.” Rejection became familiar to me. Creating the assumption in my head that I would never be a model. Not having enough money I knew I would also never have a singing career or be able to travel and do big auditions for shows and that was that. I poured all my energy and focus into school and busied myself with volunteering, being vice president of the student government and new student orientation and working for a high class photography studio (FYI I have now graduated from three different programs and still continue to take classes because I love learning). Yes, in the middle of it all I thought I was happy. My eyes started to open to the world of possibilities, I was becoming aware of my self worth and my potential began to blossom. Yet if you recall what I mentioned earlier, without focus to my inner self I never actually changed the way I thought about myself, I only distracted myself by staying busy just to quite my thoughts. I fell into a few abusive relationships, gave birth to my son, and was always moving back into my mom’s after horrible separations. At that time I was forced to finally face my inner demons in a healthy way. Learning to stand up for yourself, your opinions, values, and beliefs are VERY important! It’s crucial! Be proud of them. That was my first step and my advice to you; admit the depression, low self esteem and negative thinking about your body image, become aware of it. Stand your ground on personal values, likes, morals, ideas, interests, dreams and learn to be assertive! Why, because you are worth it! Change takes time, how much… it’s not measurable, everyone is different! Difference is what makes this world amazing! Everyone excels at different things. Give yourself credit! Try new things (if you fail, so what!). find what you enjoy! Personally I do NOT believe you have to to choose one thing to do in your life. I truly believe you can choose a multitude of interests and are never required to settle for just one subject or area. Learn to accept compliments, recognize the things you can change and the things you can’t! Accept who you are, you have a purpose and a reason. Find what you love, what you care about, what you’re best at and make contributions to the world. You will grow and learn to love your genuine self and others will too. Teasing and bullying will continue whether you do something too well or do something not well enough…. It doesn’t matter! People will always find a way or reason to put others down…Everyone of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, gender etc. all go through it! You are not alone! Here are a few Celebrities that were also harassed, teased and bullied in school and look at them now: Tyra Banks- for having a big forehead, being too tall called a bean pole, and called the ugly duckling. Jackie Chan- for being too scared to defend himself. Jessica Alba- for being awkward, having buck teeth, and a Texas accent. Madonna- for being too hairy they called her “Harry Monster”. Avril Lavigne- for big glasses, her hair, her tom boy clothes and her teeth nick named her “Vampire Lady”. Kate Winslet- for her weight they called her “Flubber”. There are many more but I think you get the idea. Try focusing on what is going well, change the verbiage in your head from something negative to a positive. How you think is ALL UP TO YOU! Change your thoughts, change your feelings! Aim for effort not perfection. My experience and advice is to say that all these things take time and some days I myself have to refocus my negative thoughts. Look at me now…since I believed in myself I have now been published in over 12 things, modeled for Ford, Harley Davidson, recorded music, made my own TV show, performed my own burlesque and contortion shows, and so much more! I am using all my experience and status to mentor others and teach as well as motive and influence others because you and do and be anything you want to and there is a place in this world for everyone! xoxox Michelle P. (MeL)”
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Kimmie, (Cherrie Poppins) – “I grew up in a very fundamental independent  baptist church. My ambitions in life weren’t much(finish school, maybe go to college, get married, and have kids). I have done so much more than I thought I ever would. I’ve meet my childhood star Lucy Lawless (she played Xena), done so much traveling, been in several local commercials, and several magazines. I never dreamed I would ever do so much with my life and have a positive impact on anyone’s life ever. It’s quite humbling for me to think about. I am comfortable with who I have become as a person and dance to beat of my own drum.”
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Lisa, 32 – “When I spotted this campaign via the wonderful Miss Evelyn Jo, I felt completed to write. My 16 year old self was in a somewhat different situation to many young girls – I was pregnant with my first child. Scared and very naive, I wish now that I could have sat myself down and taken advice from the now 32 year old me. In the years before becoming pregnant with my now incredible, clever 15 year old daughter, my body began to change dramatically. My genes dictated that I would indeed be following in the footsteps of most other women in my family and gave me an hour glass figure with a sizeable chest, big hips and hobbit-like height. I  became very self conscious about the way I was developing into womanhood. People reacted differently to me. Boys began to make advances and some girls got competitive. I started resenting my new figure. I laughed off crude comments and suggestions, thinking that’s what nice girls should do. Giggle, be polite and take it as a compliment despite feeling uncomfortable and intimidated. As a confident thirtysomething, this makes me rage for my teenage self. I think deep down, I was subconsciously rebelling against the lack of control over my own body and began attempting to take ownership in a childish manner. I dyed my hair every colour in the rainbow. I got several visible body piercings and tattoos. In hindsight, I was desperate to show the world that I was not just a pretty little blonde girl and my teenage emotions couldn’t find a way to express this any other way. When I discovered I was pregnant aged just 16, my body went through more changes. I actually enjoyed watching my tummy swell as the months passed, feeling the new life grow inside me . Due to a medical emergency, I ended up having a Caesarean section after several days of labour. When I first saw my scars, I cried. I felt like I was ‘ruined’. As I healed, I avoided mirrors, refused to let anyone see. When I gave birth to Lucie almost four years later, I ended up having the same issues and yet more surgery. I was disgusted at the ugly purple marks left on my skin. The stretch marks that now sat themselves proudly on my thighs and chest. The once toned tummy that was now less that flat.  In time, I started to give my body the respect it deserved. More so, I started to like my body. I like my curves and find that they lend themselves perfectly to the pin up and vintage style I adore. I like my eyes and their unique colour that I used to be a bit embarrassed about. Of course there are bits that aren’t my favourite but I’m learning to skim past these and focus on the better parts instead. I’ve even come to terms with my scars. In time, they’ve faded and remind me of an important event in my life. I started getting tattooed to reflect my personally and decorate my body, not out of some confused rebellion as I did in my teen years. So what would I say to 16 year old Lisa now? We’re taught that liking yourself is egotistical and ugly. Say it! Talk about the parts you love more, take compliments with a smile and not scoffing: “You must be blind!!” (as I did for so long) You’re actually pretty clever too which will confuse people at times. What do mean your fairly attractive, funny and intelligent? How can this possibly be?! *insert more sarcasm here* STOP using the words: “I’m fat” I am very much a believer in being healthy and taking care of your body from that angle but fat? No. What a dirty word. Be proud of your body, your curves and all. Do not let anybody shame you or bully you into being something that you are not. Demand respect whilst being polite. You deserve it. Be kind to each other. If you like someone’s outfit or style, tell them. Compliment people – especially other women – often. Let’s stop the put downs, the pressure to look ‘perfect’ and negative attitudes towards each other. Build each other up and most of all, stop being afraid to be yourself!!”

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Viv – “I don’t have any pictures of myself at 16. What would advice would I give? I’d say it’s ok to be scared, to be angry and feel lost. It’s ok to want to be a child and not have to take on the responsibilities that adults put on your shoulders. When other girls my age were out having fun, I was facing court, and sending a man to prison for child abuse. I would tell me not to worry about my grades dropping, that it wasn’t the massive deal I thought it was. I would tell me not to care if I wasn’t thin enough, three years of punishing my body was enough, it was time to accept that I couldn’t halt the hands of time and waste away. Most of all, I would tell me to grab my gorgeous sister and take her dancing in the rain, walk bare foot through the grass, to laugh and to smile until our hearts would burst and our cheeks would ache. She supports me through everything, she’s my best friend. I would tell me not to be ashamed of my past, to let it go, to take the professionals up on the help they offered, so I wouldn’t still be in pain today. I would tell me that I had withstood bullies, cowards and the worst type of people that walked the earth, but I was a survivor, and that I should let the blame and the guilt lie where it deserved to lie, at the feet of those who prey on people weaker than them. Maybe then I would be stronger today. But mainly I’d tell me to forgive myself, for never feeling good enough, for never feeling strong enough, as there was nothing to forgive. I was a child, and should have been permitted to be one.”

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Suzy (www.ladyretro.co.uk) – “Dear 16 year old Sue, You are brilliant, you look fantastic and you are quirky. You really suit the unique style of clothing you wear despite what looks people may give to you. People are afraid of being different, so you are showing confidence already at just sixteen. You may wear very dark eyeliner but thats a good thing, you’re skin is lovely and you don’t need all that makeup like the ‘cool’ girls at school. NEWS FLASH: YOU ARE NOT FAT!! and you have a great figure, stop worrying about your arms and thighs, you have a lovely body shape, so carry on as you are. Keep being yourself, rainbows and cute Japanese, Vegetarian slogan T’shirts and enjoy life being you. Do not change yourself to fit in with the “cool kids” because in just a few years you are part of such a better group of alternative cool kids who like you as you. Your future is fantastic, travelling and great friends and supportive family. P.S Don’t get the black dragon tattoo on your thigh, mum will ground you for ages (since you are underage afterall, naughty naughty) Stop forgetting to wear your retainer and remember that Wheels and Dollbaby pencil pink dress you borrowed from Joanne?, well search for Collectif clothing or look when you visit London, you will love it.”

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And finally me…

Jo, 32 – “Dear 16 year old me…at the age of 32 I finally started to love and accept myself. This means 16 years of self doubt, second guessing myself, worrying that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t have the perfect figure and that I wasn’t lovable. 16 years of living that way is a long time! You didn’t go to college at 16, you went into full time employment because at 16 you didn’t know what you wanted to do. You didn’t have a passion. But now, at 32 I look back and realise it wasn’t such a big deal. You have a vast working experience on your resume including working at ITV for the soap Emmerdale. Not bad for someone who thought not going to college would be a downfall. At 32, I finally discovered my passion and that was wanting to help others and be the role model (outside of family) that I needed when I was younger. At 32, I finally realised that my weight did not define me and I should not feel inferior to other people just because I was not a certain size. I wish you had known this at 16. The pictures below are the difference between being 16 and 32. At 16 you were shy and spent a lot of time trying to find yourself in the world and you had no confidence. Remember being a waitress? You would hear ladies in the restaurant comment on your slim frame. They would remark on how you must be anorexic and how your hips stuck out. You weren’t anorexic. You ate and you liked food. You still do and you are open to finally trying new dishes! Those comments upset you and no wonder. You started to cover up and not show your figure for fear of comments you might receive. Remember when you went to the doctors for a check up with the nurse who told you that aged 16 and despite your “slim frame” you needed to be careful with your diet as you were creeping up to being “overweight” on the BMI scale. I now realise at 32 that the BMI scale is not to be fully believed, each of us are different, nobody is the same! You were confused. You had gone from receiving comments about being “anorexic” to now being told you were on the way to being “overweight”. You went from enjoying your food and eating to put on weight to being fearful that you would be overweight! How dangerous the words of others can be. You then battled for 16 years with fad diets, pushing yourself on the exercise bike, doing 50 lengths three times a week at the swimming pool, missing meals, denying yourself treats, feeling so miserable and depressed if a certain size no longer fit you. You weren’t aware that the clothing industry and the media were full of bullshit! You weren’t aware that certain sizes varied depending on which shop you bought them in! Living this way was all due to the opinions of others. It was like you had to have a perfect figure but who is to say what perfect is?! You were starting to be happy with yourself and love yourself until others voiced their opinions. You would deny your happiness to please others. You believed you had to have a perfect body to wear a bikini. So you would not wear one. You would not splash around in the sea because you worried about what others would say about you. Then when you returned home you had regrets that you did not take time to splash in the sea and when would you have the chance again?! You spent many years like this. Denying yourself fun and happiness all because of others, all because of something so ‘trivial’ as your clothes size.  All those wasted years worrying and not allowing yourself to embrace such things because of the opinions of others. How much time you wasted. Time can never be bought back. I wish that you had the attitude I have now. You wouldn’t have denied yourself a variety of things. Life is too short. You have to embrace it. Live it. Love it. Do not waste years of your life. You are not able to get that time back. There is so much more to life than the label in your clothes, fad diets and staying with people who suck the happiness out of you…your shape or size does not define you and do not settle for the lowest of the low just because he makes you feel you are worthless. Opinions of you are not always valid. You need to embrace each day. At 32 I now finally do this. I live it. I love it. Everyday might not be good but there is something good to be found in every day. And I am going to find it and enjoy myself whilst doing so. I wish you had this mentality at 16…”

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