Being a teenager can come with a lot of new changes.
And those changes come with problems we have to learn how to solve. Of course, it’s difficult to navigate that time without the knowledge or experience of someone older. It’s usually when we’ve aged a bit and can look back on the problems we faced as a teenager that we see what advice we needed at the time. But then again, it’s those exact problems and difficulties that taught us the lessons we needed to learn.
So if we could go back in time and give those lessons to ourselves before the frustrations and the pain, it seems like we’d be able to skip over a lot of that, right?
Here are thirteen lessons I’d tell my teenage self if I could go back and have a conversation with them.
Of course, whether or not I’d really listen and take my own advice is a whole nother story…
But for now, here’s what I’d tell my teenage self:
Your body is the vessel through which you experience life. Its moods and feelings affect you, so take good care of it. Exercise regularly, whether that’s going to the gym or finding an active hobby like dancing, sports, rock climbing, or ice skating. Whatever gets your body moving, do it. You’re not invincible forever and aging is coming. One day you’ll be thirty, then fifty, then eighty, and you want to give your future self the best possible chance to thrive and stay healthy.
Drink water. More than you think.
Hydration is key to keeping your skin youthful and your brain functioning at its best. Drink lots of water in the morning and keep drinking it throughout the day. If you’re feeling a negative emotion about something, drink water and see if that doesn’t fix your problem. And no, soda doesn’t count.
Make healthy eating choices.
Drinking water is a great start, but you’ve also got to manage the food you put in your body. Bingeing on candy and fast food every day is not only going to cause you to gain unnecessary weight, but it’s bad for your health, your teeth, and your mood. Again, if you’re experiencing sadness, frustration, or anger, consider what you ate that day. Did you eat a healthy, balanced diet? Did you get enough protein, carbs, and fat? The key to consistent contentment lies in your habits, and the food you eat plays a huge role in that.
Analyze your emotions, don’t just let them control you.
You are not your emotions. You may experience extreme negative feelings, like sadness, anger, or frustration. But just because you have strong emotions doesn’t mean you have to be tossed around by the waves of those feelings. Learn to analyze what you feel. Consider why you’re feeling them. Did you drink enough water today? Did you eat the right amount of food today? Did you exercise? Or is something truly wrong that needs to be addressed? Take the time to learn how to process and deal with emotions, don’t just let them control you.
Be authentically you.
Learn to listen to your inner compass and don’t try to convince yourself you’re someone you’re not just because you think your life would be easier that way. It won’t be. There will always be people who disagree with you. That’s okay. You have to follow your honest judgements and that may mean letting certain people and things go. Make authentic choices even if others may not understand or think you’re making a mistake. Their opinion doesn’t matter.
Take more risks.
Don’t take the kind of risks that will get you hurt, but the kind of risks that could end up improving your life if they pan out. Put yourself out there. Do the “weird” thing. It’s better to have a difficult conversation now and be honest than to hold it inside and hope it goes away. It’s also better to make a fool of yourself trying to improve your life than it is to stay stagnant waiting for someone else to come along and improve it for you. Heads up: they never will.
Ask yourself if you’re doing something because it makes you happy or because it strokes your ego?
There’s a difference between doing something because it will improve your life and bring you happiness, and doing something because you want to be better than others or want to make yourself feel self-important. Evaluate your decisions and make sure you’re doing them for the right reasons. Heading down the path of doing something to make you feel better than others is a surefire way to find yourself doing something you hate and growing resentful. Choose the path that genuinely lights you up and you won’t have to artificially bolster your pride.
Make a good first impression.
The first time you meet someone is an important moment. Everyone deserves to get the best version of you. So make a good first impression — be overly kind and welcoming to people you meet for the first time. They’ll remember you and you won’t have to spend time convincing them later that you’re a good person. Plus, making friends quickly is a skill that will help make life less lonely and stressful in the long run.
Live every day at your best.
The present is all you have to work with, so make it good. Don’t get too caught up thinking so much about the past or the future. The past is gone, learn from it and move on. The future is being built at this very moment, so make it count. Spending too much time outside of the present moment causes unnecessary stress and anxiety about your past actions and future plans. Give your all to the present and watch as your life becomes so much richer.
Build a community.
Traveling the world is nice, but it’s more important to create paradise where you are. Find your tribe and make friends that make your current location the best it can be. Good friends are extremely valuable. They not only make life less lonely, but you can help each other get through difficult times and improve both of your lives. The friends who cut you down and make you feel less about yourselves? Get rid of those ones. Focus on the ones who make you a better person.
The Rules Don’t Matter.
They really don’t. Sure, you should generally follow them. Don’t run a red light. But you should also learn to look at rules with a critical eye. Decide for yourself if there’s a reasonable explanation for following the rule or if the rules are actually holding you back. Following the rules should be an active decision. Don’t just blindly follow what everyone tells you to do. That’s a quick road to hindering yourself from your true potential.
Learn about money.
Become financially literate as early as possible. Start learning about what it’s going to take to retire right now, before you’ve wasted money on things you definitely didn’t have to waste money on. Whenever possible, buy the cheapest and highest quality item you can afford. Only spend a lot of money on items that will last you a long time, and don’t just buy a bunch of cheap low-quality items that will wear out and need to be replaced over and over again. Budget your expenses and hold yourself to that budget. Get a credit card and start improving your credit score. You need money to survive, so make sure you know how to manage it. You can’t rely on other people to help you with your own finances forever.
You are capable.
You have got this. I know there’s a million more successful or happy or rich or whatever people out there, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left for you. You have the power to create the life you want. It’s not like the life you want is going to get used up by other people. In fact, there are also millions of people out there less competent than you doing what you wish you could do. So don’t prejudge your own abilities. Go out there and do the thing. I promise you can handle almost anything that comes your way.
Now I’m sure that in another ten years I’ll have another thirteen lessons to teach myself. But, of course, the only way to learn those lessons is to keep going forward and learn them as I go. One lesson at a time.