Ten things I wish I’d known when I was a teenager – part 3

Hi – I’m back with part 3, the final countdown 🙂  (Find part 1 here, and part 2 here)

First, a quick report on my experience with my Five Day Tell-Yourself-You’re-Amazing Challenge.

Okay – so the first day was a buzz, the next few days moremeh, up-and-down, good-and-bad kind of days. Normal life. I didn’t remember allthe time to keep up to the challenge, and I’m not sure if I was any more productive—(maybe? Slightly?)—but I do think the challenge helped keep me in a better frame of mind than normal. I have done this kind of exercise before, and it’s not a cure-all, but I’ve found that telling myself regularly that I’m doing great and that life is actually pretty amazing works a load better than constantly nagging myself to work harder, and forgetting to appreciate the good  things. Try it yourself – see what you think!

Now for the rest of my list:

6. It’s okay to ask for help


I was the college student and co-worker who wouldn’t ask questions, in case they made me look stupid, or because I thought I wassupposed to know already. Duh! I’d advise my younger self to just ask. It makeslife so much easier, and you know what? The people you ask are almost alwayshappy to explain and share their knowledge. It’s called connecting with people,and it makes the world a richer place.

And sometimes you need more than that. If you are in a dark place, if you’re struggling with mental health issues, if you’re dealing with addictions or eating disorders, if you’re self-harming, or if you’re in an unhealthy relationship – any of those things – then please ask for help.

Talk to someone you can trust. Some things you can’t deal with on your own. Getting help is the strongest, wisest, kindest thing you can do for yourself. And your seeking help will help those around you too.

I’ve been there. I’d tell my younger self, the dark times pass, and surviving them makes you a stronger, wiser human being. Surviving them is part of what makes you amazing.

7. It’s okay not to know


See above. And it’s also okay not to know who you are yet,not to know to know what you want in life. It’s all part of the adventure. Look around you, try different things. Kinda like clothes shopping. Some things won’t fit. Some things will. Keep trying. And enjoy!!

8. It’s okay to be different (or what the hell is normal anyway?)


I always wanted to be normal and fit in. Growing up in a small town in Yorkshire in the 60s and 70s, with a Latvian dad and a mum from the south of England, I always felt the outsider.

My best friend when I was growing up, until about the age of 7, was an African-American girl whose dad worked at a local army base. At thetime, I never thought it odd she had different colour skin to me. She went to adifferent school to me and I don’t know if she suffered from racist comments –it wasn’t something I was aware of. But I know now that my own discomfort atbeing an outsider would be as nothing compared to someone of a different ethnicbackground, or someone with physical or mental challenges, or someone who identifiedas LGBT.

There are always strong pressures from society and from our peer groups to conform to certain norms. It takes courage to stand out from the crowd. I lacked that courage – as a child I did everything I could to fit in. That’s a survival tactic most children use, and it’s very understandable. But if conforming means limiting yourself, not staying true to yourself, or not staying true to your ideals, then it may be time to think again.

Nowadays I don’t mind being a bit different to the norm—whatever that is. And I love diversity, in all its forms. I’m excited, and privileged, to interact with people from many different backgrounds in my work. If everyone was the same, the world would be a grey and uniform place. It would be like a restaurant that only serves porridge. I enjoy porridge occasionally, but every day, for every meal? No, thank you.

So, I’d tell my younger self there’s no need to try and be the same as everyone else. What is normal anyway? We’re all part of the human race. Diversity is beauty. And the human spirit unites us all.

9. Good friends are worth more than diamonds


The best friends are the ones you can relax with, laugh with, be yourself with. The ones you support you when you’re down, and who you can share the fun times with. Cherish those friends. They are the true riches of this world.

10. Be excellent to yourself!


Learning to love yourself is the biggest gift you can give yourself. It’s the most healing and empowering thing you’ll ever do. And sometimes one of the hardest.

One of the most helpful concepts I’ve learned over the years is the idea that within each of us is a little child who’s sometimes confused and scared. That little you needs your love and protection.  Whenever you’re feeling unhappy or out of sorts, it’s that little you asking you for help.

Learning to care for my little me was my key to happiness. Now I check in with her regularly, especially when I’m feeling low. I know to be extra kind and gentle with myself at those times.

In my experience, you can’t have true compassion for others until you learn to have compassion for yourself. You could start with your inner child. If you close your eyes, you can visualise that little you. Reach out to them. Ask them how they’re doing. If they’re not happy, why not? Reassure them. Have a conversation with them. Ask them what they’d love to do.

Sometimes your little you may want things that aren’trealistic. You can explain that to them.  You can make deals with your little you – we’ll do this first and then we can have some fun. Your main aim is for your little you to feel listened to and supported.

If you did that every day – what difference could that make to your life?

Sometimes there are people in our lives who try to put us down. Maybe you grew up with someone like that, someone who told you were stupid or ugly or not good enough. And your inner child may have believed those lies. Children have no defence. Their picture of the world is what they what they learn from others. They may learn to believe in a distorted picture of the world, and of themselves.

By nurturing your little you, you can help restore a morebalanced picture of the world and of yourself. Remember – you are amazing!!

So—there you have it. My top ten tips to my teen self.

I’m still learning and growing and making mistakes. Posting this is a little scary for me, because part of me will always be that shy little girl who’d rather hide away and not be noticed. But I’m going to take my own advice, (see part 2) and say yes to the things I find a little scary. It’s how we grow.

What did you do this week/this month/this year that was a little scary?  I’d love to hear.

And–I’d love to hear which, if any, of my top ten tips resonated with you? Or, do you have any tips you’d love to tell your younger self?

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