On Sunday 15th March 2020, I shared a question on Instagram to my 602 followers (yes, I am quite proud of that). The question was “If you could tell your teenage self one thing, what would it be?”. I was pretty happy with the amount of responses I received and at how open and vulnerable people made themselves to provide me with these answers. I put out a message with the question that said that I wanted to share and discuss these with the young people that I work with. But it made me think, were they being helpful or did they themselves want to engage in conversations about things that had troubled them?
Anyway, I wanted to share with you the common themes to people’s responses and how as a teenager you should understand and utilise them in your daily lives. Some I’m sure will instantly resonate with you and others you may not understand yet, and that is okay too.
Your happiness comes first. The conversation around promoting positive mental health has definitely improved over the last few years but are we just talking or are we acting? We know that happiness comes first but do we always prioritise it? There is so much pressure for everyone in life especially teenagers. As a teenager you are figuring yourself out, your friendships, goals in life, sexuality, religion, hobbies and all whilst you have school work and pressures of knowing what you want to do next year, when you go to sixth form/college, university or work. Telling you to put your happiness first sounds simple but in actual fact it’s so complicated. How do you even know what makes YOU happy? I think this one is more about self-care than actual happiness. Surround yourself with people that love and care for you. Do things that give you that warm fuzzy feeling in your stomach. Make sure you are excited and proud of the decisions that you make. And finally, think about yourself, your mood and your peace of mind when you make all the other decisions about life.
You don’t have to fit in. Let’s be real, everyone is going to have something to say to you and about you. It doesn’t matter if you think you blend in or not, you probably don’t in someone’s eyes so why don’t you stand out for all the right reasons! Some of the advice that came through my DMs was about investing in your ‘uncool’ hobbies and not giving up just because people thought it was weird. Others were about people’s ‘out of the ordinary’ opinions or looks – but we will get to that separately. Keep reading!
Love your looks. Do you know how many other girls with long brown hair I have been told I look like? A LOT! “Didn’t I see you yesterday?” “No, that was my colleague” or “Are you two sisters?” “No, I don’t even know her”. Now if you actually look at us, you would know that we are not the same people, or sisters, or even look similar. Why am I ranting about this? Because NO ONE looks into your features, the ‘flaws’ that you’ve self-labelled, the tiny chip in your tooth, the freckle that is slightly bigger than the rest. No one looks into these like you do! We know it’s harder for the teenagers today because the models that I saw were just in magazines or on TV, NOT the random girl from Dagenham on her Instagram. It seems EVERYONE looks so perfect and SOOO similar these days, but they really don’t. You might not look like the ‘norm’ but that will probably be your strength.
Hard work pays off. This one seems a little insensitive right now with exams and grades being a bit up in the air but I promise you it is true in the long run. Some people have things easy, really easy, but to do better and to be better, EVERYONE needs to work hard. It can be easy or by luck that something falls into place, some people are luckier than others. If you want to be the best, do the best and have the best, then you need to work hard. Also, appreciate that everyone’s hard work and success comes in different shapes and sizes. We all have our own pace and pathway and that is perfectly fine – remember, everyone is different.
Be grateful. This message came up a lot when people were responding to me. Be grateful of your family, your friends, your individuality, your belongings, generally your life. Social media has really made it hard for us to be grateful for what we have because we see someone out there with something better than us literally all day every day. But is it really better? Remember that people post the great stuff online, the perfect times, the edited selfies, don’t believe it all. Social distancing probably means a lot more time on the Internet for everyone. We need to make sure we take a step back, and a moment to just be grateful of what we have and are. Being grateful is way more than just of the people and things around us, it’s of what we ourselves are – our mind & body.
Time heals. There were a few other common themes in peoples answers, I thought the ‘time heals’ phrase summed it all up. As a teenager there are a lot of things out of your control and whilst that is completely normal and happening to all other teenagers, it can still be a little tricky and frustrating at times. Right now, your priorities might not be in line with your happiness or your inner wants and needs but that’s just how it is. The people that you go to school with, might not ‘get you’ but you’re stuck with them for now. I get it, we get it, every adult gets it because they know it – whether they tell you or they don’t. The main advice for this bit is that, however tough it is or it feels, it does get better eventually!
I could keep going and going with this post but this is just our advice, a group of 20-something year olds. Our advice is based on our experiences, NOT YOURS. Disclosure – please do not use this post to reformat your life or re-evaluate all of your thoughts. Use it knowing that everyone has different opinions, experiences, life situations and regrets. Remember these top 6 points and then go out (after isolation period), make your own choices, have your own experiences and make healthy (and safe) mistakes!
Youth Engagement Manager.