I wrote this article for Wear Your Voice. The link to the article is below where you can also subscribe to their website –
At 16, I couldn’t wait to be an adult. I wanted to be taken seriously and I couldn’t wait to “grow up,” have my own place and have a career.
The past 17 years have flown by in the blink of an eye. Now I am older and somewhat wiser. But there are things I wish I had known at 16 that might have helped me while growing up:
1. You are more than the size of your clothes.
At age 16 there was just as much peer pressure to have the perfect figure as there is today. I am from the pre-social media generation with all of its body shaming and trolling. But I still felt pressured to lose weight, deny myself food, over-exercise and stress about the size of my clothes. I wish I’d known that there was more to life than wanting to be accepted for how I looked. Knowing this at age 16 would have prevented many years of not feeling body-confident.
2. You are only young once.
Adults were right: don’t grow up too fast! Life flashes by in the blink of an eye and you cannot get the time back. Many times, I was told to embrace being young. I was told that it wasn’t all fun and games when it came to the responsibility of bills, employment and running a household. I wish I had embraced living at home more, enjoying family meals and trips out rather than thinking I was “too old” to participate.
3. Be kind.
I was a grumpy, hormonal, temperamental typical teenager. I still remember those harsh words I uttered to my parents as I stomped up the stairs and slammed my bedroom door. In my teenage angst I could be quite cruel, cutting and hurtful. If I remember these outbursts, I wonder if my parents remember them too.
4. Love your family.
You only have one family and life is short. Nobody is guaranteed a tomorrow. Love those around you, spend time with them, respect them, ask them questions, make memories and tell them you appreciate them. Smile in family photos. Go shopping with your mum. Look after your brother. Listen to your dad when he gives you words of advice. One day you will look back and wish you’d spent more time getting to know the family members who are no longer here.
5. Love yourself.
You are perfect just as you are. You are beautiful. You are not ugly. You are not too fat or too thin. Love yourself. Respect yourself. Do not allow yourself to think negative thoughts. Do not listen to negative comments from others. Speak about yourself confidently and positively. This does not make you arrogant. You know your own worth; do not sell yourself short.
6. Don’t follow the crowd.
Do not say “yes” to others when you are really saying “no” to yourself just so you will be accepted. You do not have to change yourself to fit in with society. Peer pressure is something you will experience throughout your whole life – give in to it at 16, and you will give in for the rest of your life. Stand your ground and stand up for what is right. Do not people-please. Do not tiptoe around people to be liked. As you get older and realize you don’t need drama, your social circle will become smaller. Surround yourself with people who love your light and add to it! Find supportive friends and people who encourage — not discourage.
7. Don’t give up on your passion.
My passions were writing, baking, horse riding, painting and reading. Some of those I have since returned to, but 17 years of not doing what you once really loved and enjoyed is a long time! Stay true to yourself and what makes you happy. Your passion can be a hobby, a possible career or something you do in your downtime. Do not lose sight of what makes you feel complete, what makes you creative and where you express yourself. If you are lucky to find your passion in life and can earn a living from it, then that is something worth holding onto!
8. Your salary doesn’t necessarily define you.
I remember when I was 16, my peers would talk about having a career where their salary would make them able to buy a fancy car, they would own a mansion and they would be rich. They would talk about only wearing expensive brands, only shopping at certain stores and refusing to work for a small salary. They believed that this would make them look successful. This is not realistic! While it is perfectly acceptable to have dreams and goals, your dreams and goals do not have to be based on how much money you earn. You can contribute to and be successful in society through many kinds of work.
Over the years, I have realized that working crazy hours for a decent salary is not what life is about. Life is about happiness, love, laughter and doing what you enjoy. I gave up a 40-hour-a-week city job that had a 15-to-20-hour-a-week commute on top. I also gave up a pretty decent salary along with it so I could work nearer home. I have taken a pay cut. But when you are able to spend more time with family and doing what you enjoy, can you really put a price on happiness?
9. Take care of the pennies.
“Take care of the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.” I always remember hearing this when I was younger, and I never really understand the terminology behind it. Yes, it can relate to finances. Save for a rainy day, save for your future, save for your dream vacation, etc. But it can also be translated as, “taking care of the little things will amount to big things.” Take care of yourself, your skin, your body, your health. You will be thankful for it later in life.
10. If he is mean to you, it isn’t because he likes you.
We are told as young girls that if a boy is mean to you, it is because he likes you. This is terrible advice! Respect yourself. Do not stay with an abusive partner because you would feel like a failure if you left. You are not a failure. You would be inspirational to many other girls and women in a similar situation. Do not allow yourself to be worn down until you feel as though you are worthless. You are worth more. You deserve more. Domestic abuse is not okay. It is not love! You are not defined by being in a relationship. You can be a strong and independent woman. Do not jump into a relationship because you are scared of being on your own.