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Things I'd Tell My Teen Self

Saturday, 6 May 2017
reflection personal mental health things I'd tell my teenage self

I've come a long way since I was a kid in high school. I've grown drastically over the years, with the last two being some of my most important for personal development. I never liked school that much, and I never particularly valued being a teen (although I've never wanted to get older, either!).

Whilst I have some good memories of being a teenager - trips every Thursday into town for a McDonald's; when my cute guy pal chummed me up to work on my art project at the end of the day; sunny days spent having a laugh on the beach even though it was freezing -, I primarily see a lot of bad, and usually just try to not think about my younger self. There was nothing wrong with her - she was fundamentally a good person - but I can't stand to think now of so many of the people she associated with, of the drama she put up with or of the people she trusted. In her last year or so there, high school became a very different, very dark place for my younger self.

So, here's what I'd tell my teenage self.

THE MIRROR LIES

I've talked about my struggle with the mirror, the scales, and self-acceptance in a separate post, Size 8 Skinny Jeans, but to sum up, I spent most of my teen years being a size eight and hating my 'huge' bum and 'ginormous' thighs. I wouldn't go out in shorts without black tights or expose my upper arms. I hid my body under mostly baggy clothing or at least several layers - vests, t-shirts and hoodies - because I was ashamed of it. I'm now more often than not a size 12 - my bum and thighs really are huge now - and I'm much more comfortable and confident in my body. Whilst most teens struggle with their body and appearance, and it takes a long time to be comfortable in oneself, I'd definitely give my younger self a gentle reminder that the mirror lies, and that the things I'm seeing aren't what's actually there. Even if I was a size 12 at age 16, who cares?

STOP COUNTING YOUR FLAWS

Once depression hit, not that long before I turned seventeen, I spent so much time counting up my flaws. I made lists of why people didn't like me, and why nobody would love me. I cut into my skin that I was 'damaged' and 'destroyed' because I'd had my heart broken in the past and I'd never be the same again. 

I didn't look at heartbreak and life devastation as things that would help me develop as a person, cement my assertive streak and no-nonsense approach as basic parts of my personality (that coincidentally would eventually attract people to me ), and I didn't think that these things would make me a stronger person. I spent most of my time believing I was dying from the inside-out, and whilst this is obviously the lies being fed to me by the little demons inside my head and heart, I would definitely give teenage me a comforting hand-squeeze and tell her it gets better and that she should start counting her talents and positive traits instead. I'd help her get the list started until she was comfortable enough to carry it on herself, then encourage her to stick it on her mirror, under her pillow and carry it everywhere with her. 

YOU ARE TALENTED, BUT YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IT

I wrote all the time, I drew, I painted, I made my art journals. I do everything I do now, but I had even less confidence in myself. It can be hard for non-creatives to grasp the concept that everything we do we put our heart and soul into, even if may look like/mean nothing to them. I worked my ass off, staying up way past midnight on a school night just to work on my novels because it was always late at night that my real creativity kicked in and I'd be on a real writing roll. I'd ignore my parents protests that I go to bed, and just stay up, keeping mega quiet so they wouldn't give me too much grief. Even now, at 23, I still find it hard to show my novels and poetry, and I play down my love of tattoo flash-like art that I make by labelling them my 'doodles' so people are aware I know I'm not amazing at art! I would encourage my younger self to just realise that actually, she's a lot better at the things she does than she might think, and that she needs to believe in herself and her talents a bit more. She doesn't have to share what she doesn't want to, but she should consider not being so hard on herself about what's less than perfect and embrace that creativity is all about imperfections, sometimes failing, and yes, being your own harshest critic - but also your own biggest fan.

SEX, KISSES AND BOYS MEAN NOTHING

As I mentioned before in my Mental Health & Relationships post, I've never felt the pressure of being single. Back when my friends were getting drunk and giving blow jobs, I was still fantasising about holding the hand of and going on bike rides with one of my guy friends at the time, who was also my biggest crush, and getting excited that he let me borrow his Jack Wills' hoodie on a particularly cold and miserable night. I never felt any pressure but I knew that to some people in my group of 'friends' that I was the biggest loser for chasing a boy who saw me as no more than a pal, and for getting giddy over his hugs and the fact that he let me in on his deeper feelings, rather than informing my pals how big his dick was. I suppose I would just tell my younger self that she did that all well and that she was on the right path. At the time as I was grappling intently with my depression, I wanted a companion to hold my hand and tell me it would be OK, rather than a lover to have drunk sex with, and whilst I have made a lot of mistakes in regards to sex and relationships in the past (read: I hate regretting things but I regret about 99% of sex/relationships/flings/whatever's I've had). I would still rather it that way than be pressured into fucking someone I didn't like at 14/15. 

HIGH SCHOOL IS A VERY SMALL PLACE IN A VERY BIG WORLD

Those people that say "high school is the best years of your life" are seriously mistaken and have obviously never been a teen in a school with 300 other 16-year-old's. High school was vicious and bitchy, and nobody really took any prisoners. I was fairly regularly the centre of rumours and drama due to the fact that I fancied "popular" boys and I often made it my mission to not let it get to me, meaning I bit back at whoever tried to take a shot. Alternatively I took the high road and scowled my way through the day - which was apparently unappealing to people too (such sad). 

The world gets a lot bigger once you leave the four walls of high school behind, and I wish younger me found that out that much earlier than she did. Everything was so stupid and petty in high school, and nothing really mattered much. My depression wasn't caused by the drama or rumours - although I feel that to an extent it was exacerbated by this - and I didn't care about whether people liked me or not, so who really cared what went on there? I wish younger me knew that there was so much more waiting for her after she left and that she only had to survive a year trapped there, and then she'd be free. Maybe that would've eased her mind just a little bit.

SHED YOURSELF OF TWO-FACED BITCHES, STAT

Friends have come and gone from my life with a frequency that some people may find worrying or disturbing. There are people I've hung out with for a couple of months and then never spoken to again. For me, that's just how it is. I'm not good at keeping up friends as I enjoy spending lots of time alone, and I was never good at being tolerant. If I spend too much time with people I can find myself becoming bored and irritable, and it's not often that I come back from that. I know it makes me sound like a dick, and I'd like to think I've gotten better with this over the years, but I'm still a bit shit at it sometimes. I've also had a lot of trouble in the past with making friends with people where feelings have entered the relationship and spoiled it. Since the assault, this is something I've stayed way clear of. 

Back in high school I basically had one group of friends for most of my time there. It did change a few times over the years, mostly with new people entering the group, and for the most part it was fine. Enter fifth year, and when my mindset began to change and spiral downwards, the snarky responses, the constant laughs at my expense and a pair of particular bitches had just become too much. I wish I'd known then that my friends were not real friends. Most may not have been making the snarky remarks but they certainly  weren't fighting in my corner either and instead were making plans for parties and holidays I wasn't invited to. I wish my teenage self had dropped those shitty friendships and faced up to being better alone, but sadly she didn't and I think that only made her mental health worse. I was glad the 'friendships' dissolved when I left high school for sixth year. 

YOUR HEARTBREAK WILL HEAL

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Losing friendships is shit (I'm defo not talking about those above though, haha) and being rejected by a boy for the first time is awful. But younger me is so much stronger than she gives herself credit for and she'll over it, and in a few years time, she'll forget about it. She'll forget the faces, forget the names, forget the pain of being abandoned by the best friend she'd cherished since she was in nursery and forget the way he shattered her heart and her world. She'll grow up, she'll go through a lot of shit, and she'll still come out better for it. She'll find a man who isn't perfect by any means, but supports whatever she chooses to do and loves her even though she's a bit crazy mood-wise.

Tbh, teenage me has a fair bit to look forward to. 

I think that's where I'll leave this post - what would you tell your teenage self?

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