When I look back at myself when I was 18, it’s actually pretty shocking just how naïve I was. I’m not sure I would have it any other way, but there are a few things that I wish younger me knew so that she didn’t get quite so hurt trying to muddle through her days.
That’s the benefit of hindsight – it only comes through lived experience, and at the tender age of 18 I didn’t have very much of that.
I arguably had a reasonably sheltered upbringing. Although I tragically lost a family member before their time, and witnessed the breakdown of my parents’ marriage in my teenage years, there was nothing much else that emotionally challenged me.
So if I could write to that eager, curious, bright, kind, and insecure 18 year old, these are the 5 things I would tell her:
Believe in Yourself
You’re far more intelligent, adaptable and talented than you give yourself credit for.
Try to stop comparing yourself to others; your friends at dance class, friends at school, and your siblings. You’re not the same as they are, you’re uniquely you, and that’s amazing.
If you carry on comparing, it will not only negatively affect your self belief now, it will carry on affecting you in the future.
Have the courage to just do you.
I started with this, as it’s a biggie that I wish I’d taken on board at a much younger age. I’ve let (and continue to let) my lack of self-belief hold me back from opportunities that I would have been perfect for. Or, it’s held me back from starting a project that I’m passionate about (like this blog) sooner.
If you’re struggling with comparison, I highly recommend The Comparison Cure by Lucy Sheridan. I’m working through it at the moment, and gaining so much from it.
Don’t Do Things Just To Please Other People
Just because someone else thinks something is right for you, it doesn’t mean that it is.
Get to know yourself; what you like and what you want out of life. Don’t feel pressured to do things that you don’t want to or agree with.
When I was 18 I had dreams of being a drummer, and wanted to move to down to London with a friend to try my chances at session drumming or getting into a band. It might not have worked, but I wanted to give it a go.
Instead, I was talked out of that and into going to University. I don’t necessarily regret it, but I often wonder what would have happened if I had done what I really wanted to do.
In adult life the people pleasing things I’ve done have mainly centered around social events. I’ve said yes to drinks out with acquaintances for fear they would think I was rude, rather than staying at home curled up with a good book, like the introvert in me really wanted. This has resulted in me feeling exhausted a lot of the time.
In the last few years I’ve definitely become a lot better at setting boundaries. If I’m tired, or not having a great mental health day, I’ll say so. I won’t worry about cancelling plans because those that I’m cancelling them with are good enough friends that they’ll understand anyway.
Your Body Doesn’t Define You
Your dress size isn’t a measure of how beautiful or desirable you are.
Don’t let any one manipulate you into feeling worthless by body shaming you.
Your body is strong and capable no matter what size or shape it is.
Oh how I wish my 18 year old self had realised this sooner. Growing up at a time when size zero was seen as the ideal body shape, and taking dance classes from such a young age, meant I very much bought into the idea that thin equals beautiful. It’s sad that I wasted so much time and energy feeling unhappy with how I looked and working so hard to change it.
As I’ve covered in more detail in one of my earlier posts, I let my ex manipulate me into feeling very insecure about my body purely by the amount of times he would tell me I was fat. It ruined my self-confidence.
Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m finally learning to appreciate the body that I see in the mirror more and more. I’m thankful for everything that it allows me to do, and that it’s fit and healthy.
Don’t Be Afraid To Speak Up
Your opinion matters. Don’t be afraid to share it.
You are intelligent and knowledgeable enough, and people will listen.
This links back to lack of self belief, and for a long time in meetings, and even in relationships, I was afraid to speak up for ‘getting it wrong’, being mocked or being shouted at.
Being at the stage of my career that I am, I have found myself recently in more meetings with senior managers. I’m more confident in getting my point across because I go in prepared. That, and I know that I have the experience to back up what I’m saying.
I’m also at a point in my life now where I’m not afraid to speak up about things I’m passionate about, because I know it’s important. It’s just a shame that my 18 year old self didn’t have the confidence or conviction to.
Trust Your Instincts
If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
If you gut tells you something, act on it. It’s the universe nudging you onto the right path.
This is definitely something I wish I’d known about sooner because it could have lead me out of some awkward or difficult situations.
I dated guys that I knew weren’t really right for me from the off, but stayed with them anyway because I was desperate for the attention. When I would inevitably end up getting hurt, it only worked to further dent my confidence.
On the flip side, in my late twenties, at roughly the same time I decided to end my marriage, I also made the gut decision to leave my job. I didn’t have another job to go to.
Literally everyone I knew thought I was crazy, but I made it work. The time I spent temping gave me the experience which lead me to the position I’m in now. It was also the fresh start I so desperately needed.
Would you tell your younger self these same things? What else do you think she would need to know? Tell me in the comments
Featured image from Unsplash
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