Being a teenager is complicated, you’re not a child anymore, but you’re not an adult either, and you *hopefully* don’t have any huge responsibilities just yet (if you do, I have so much respect for you). People like to be flippant or joke about teenagers, especially teenage girls, and it doesn’t help when it’s already a hugely tricky time. There’s puberty, secondary school, first love, figuring out who you are, and the expectation that you know what you want when you leave school.
Of course, we all have a great perspective on being a teen, when our time in teen-land is done! This isn’t really much use to us when we’re in our 20s or 30s or beyond, as we’re now trying to figure out those years instead.
All we can do with the information we have, is to pass it on to current teens, and hope that maybe some of the information will help, even if you’re not ready to hear it yet (that’s okay!).
So, here are 10 things I wish someone told me when I was a teen:
Being a teenager is HARD
It doesn’t matter what is going on, the odds are already stacked against you with the aforementioned puberty and pressure from school, and relationships. Whether you face hardship in your teens from grief, illness or heartbreak or you’re just trying to figure it all out, it can feel super heavy and complicated. I know you probably already know this, but it’s on the list because I want you to cut yourself some slack. Go easy on yourself, there’s enough tough stuff doing on, you don’t need to be tough on yourself.
Don’t let anyone tell you the thing you care about is dumb
Teenage girls are especially used to defending the things they like, whether it’s makeup, pop culture, TikTok or just about any other interest. Don’t let anyone tell you that the thing you enjoy is dumb. If it makes you happy, if it isn’t hurting anyone, then do it, and don’t feel the need to defend it. If someone makes fun of it, tell them, ‘well I enjoy it and it makes me happy,’ no one can take that away from you.
You are beautiful, I promise
Where to even begin with your teen years and body image? Social media has made body image issues so much more complicated, thanks to filters, editing and hugely unrealistic standards set by people of influence. When you are older, you will look back on your teens and realise just how beautiful you were. I promise. Start loving the way you look today.
Beauty standards change, don’t wait for it to be your body
You might dislike the way you look because of beauty standards. These are generally set out by big companies who want to make money off of your insecurities. Once you realise that that’s what it is, you can start loving the way you look. Imagine if the way you look right now, is exactly what was ‘in’. Imagine how much you’d love your look then. Why wait for that to happen when you have the power to love yourself right now?
You don’t have to have it all figured out
It’s great to see people being vocal online about what they care about, who they are and what they believe in, but it’s okay if you’re not doing that. It can be so hard to figure everything about, whether it’s what you want to do after school, what your personal style is, who your friends are and what you do for fun. It’s okay to say ‘I don’t know.’ You really don’t have to have it all figured out.
You can change your mind about things
Even if you do think you feel a certain way about something, it’s okay to change your mind. Always thought you were sure about what you wanted to be after school? It’s fine to realise that dream no longer suits you. Feel a certain way about politics or pop culture, it’s fine to learn more about something and change your mind. We are always adapting, well past our teen years, so this decade is not for knowing it all.
You’re allowed to make mistakes
You’re taking your first steps into adulthood during your teens, and that will result in some mistakes. That’s okay. You may do things you wish you didn’t or say something you regret, but you’re allowed to. Your teen years are about dipping your toes into things, seeing what fits, and doing things differently the second time around. It’s about learning lessons and taking those lessons to help you become who you’re meant to be. Mistakes are like Scout badges, you collect them and learn from them and become a better person as a result. So go easy on yourself for the mistakes you’ll make over the next few years, I promise, everyone makes them.
You *will* ‘understand when you’re older’, but you’re entitled to your feelings now
You might hear a parent, teacher or another adult say something along these lines, and you might hate to hear it. ‘You’ll understand when you’re older’ can come across as patronising, as if to say, how could your teen brain even comprehend this big adult thing. But that’s not to say your feelings aren’t totally valid and understandable right now. You might change how you feel, or maybe you won’t, you might learn from a situation and understand it better when you learn more, but maybe you won’t. Your feelings right now, are totally important and while you may understand when you’re older, the things you feel and the way you think now, is okay too, and you still deserve respect.
Fights with your parents are normal, and they’re not always right
This might be an unpopular one with parents, but they don’t always do everything right all the time. You owe your parents a certain level of respect and kindness, but they owe it to you too. Fighting is totally normal and part of growing up in a house with your grown-ups, it doesn’t mean they hate you and it doesn’t mean you’re wrong either, it’s just about figuring out how to navigate your relationship as you continue to grow.
And while they’re not perfect, they do love you
Parents might make mistakes, there is no guidebook on how to raise a teen and sometimes, it can be complicated too. You’re growing up and figuring yourself out, and they’re trying to figure it out along with you. While they might not always be perfect, they do love you, no matter how much you might bicker.
Don’t do things you don’t want to
Peer pressure is something teens are always warned about. But it’s not just about saying no to alcohol or staying out late, it’s about comfort at all times. If you don’t want to kiss someone, please don’t do it just because everyone else has kissed someone already. If you don’t want to go out on a Saturday night, don’t feel like there is something wrong with you or that you’re missing out, I promise there will be other times when you do want to do things and they will feel so much better when you really want them.