EDITORS NOTE: I have a lot of memories from my teenage years. One of them has seemed to become a recurrent subject to mind. I want to share in hopes that maybe one girl might take some insight to what I have to say or at least a little appreciation. If you have any feedback or something you would like to share, please do not hesitate in communicating with me through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through any of my social media pages.
If I could go back in time and see myself, I would see a really awkward girl with some serious soul searching. I wouldn’t tell her how to live her life, what she needs to wear, or who she needs to be hanging out with. The main thing I would say to her: “Don’t try to grow up too fast”.
I remember being 17 and arguing with my parents, because of course I knew sooo much more than they ever did. I had convinced myself that I could be out on my own in a heartbeat. I could support myself and would not need anyone to help me. Now, here I am at 25, and some days I reminisce how good and easy I had it. I didn’t have bills and the only thing I had to worry about was if my friends and I would ever get caught making beer runs at the gas station! Looking back I didn’t have a clue about the number of times I probably could have died, got pregnant, or a number of other foolish decisions.
I do not have any regrets of the life I have and am living. I would not be the person I am now if I hadn’t done what all I did. Never the less, if I would get the chance to do things differently it would be this:
• Value and respect yourself inside and out and I seriously mean your body and your soul
• “NO” is ALWAYS an option and saying it does not make you uncool
• Having time with you makes it so much easier to become okay with who you are
• Boys are great but they are not your savior and you are not theirs
• Show appreciation to the ones who raised you
I’m not saying any of these points are the cure for all our problems or that it’s too late to go back and try to follow these. I am saying that my younger years would have held a lot less damage and hurt if I would have learned some of these lessons then instead of now.
I know many of you might be thinking, “Okay, duh. Of course I value myself! What does that even mean?”
I looked up the definition of value and in subject with ourselves I found value is defined as:
“A person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.”
Looking at my younger self and defining my value, I realized I didn’t hold much value to me. When you break the definition of value apart and ask, “What is important to me and my life? What is an acceptable standard of my behavior? What is an acceptable standard for others behavior towards me?”
I really found some things weren’t very acceptable. I’m also realizing that it never really occurred in my mind to even define my expectations when I was younger. Looking back ( even into more current parts of my life), if I could have learned the value of respecting myself and having others meet a higher standard of respecting me, a lot of hardship would have been avoided. If I had this kind of solid foundation then, so much would probably be different now. If this has caught your attention, the best advice I could give in working towards valuing yourself is taking appreciation to your body.
Take care of what is yours! Hygiene, nutrition, and exercise of course are essentials. Those three components will literally make you physically feel better. It doesn’t take an athlete to go outside for some sunshine or to eat some greens. If it’s important to you and what you value, you will take priority in taking these steps.
My other advice (and I know I’m preparing some eye rolls but try to hear me out!) is to control yourself from sex, alcohol and drugs. If you are reading this in hope to feel better about yourself, those things you think make you feel good are probably some of the things pushing you down further. I’m not going to lecture you about what you already know. But I want to give you some insight on the now versus then.
Then, I didn’t think twice about a lot of things. Even into my early 20’s I was still finding out the harsh realities. Currently I struggle in forgiving some of them.
Looking back now, I realize how young so many of my friends were when they got pregnant or got someone pregnant. They are wonderful parents, but to watch the struggle they went or are going through so young can be hard sometimes. I see the struggle the single mom or dad has trying to explain to their kid why their significant other isn’t around, and/or where they are. Then I see the struggle of the couple who are trying to do the right thing, but their hearts are somewhere else.
The crowd I was with then have now gone to rehab, is in rehab, or is constantly struggling for sobriety day by day. I am so proud for those who are fighting the daily urge, but wonder how I didn’t become one of them?
Let’s look at the realization that 1 in 10 women will test positive for an STI. It just so happened the guy I had dated for years made a mistake one night with one. All is forgiven and all is fine, but what if it was something detrimental; something incurable? (Note: he never had a symptom).
I still struggle with my first year of college wrestling and how I could’ve been so successful. Instead, I consumed myself in cutting weight wrong, constantly losing, and trying to find esteem and comfort in sleeping with guys that didn’t care about me. (By the way: If you think your life is secret, it’s not. People know even if they don’t tell you). For years after I have struggled with the way I ate, and how I was treated because I became used to it. Boundaries became unset and illness was my best friend. Looking back now, if I would have set the standard for myself then, I could probably have avoided unhealthy relationships, kidney stones, and a two week hospital visit for MRSA. (I have scars that will never let me forget).
My point in all of these examples is the fact that I had no value to myself; no respect in myself. If you struggle with the same, know it’s not too late to find that, especially if you’re a teen. The pressure to make change is hard. You might have to change who you hang out with. You might have to open up and tell someone things that are really embarrassing. However, if you choose the right people to talk to and get help to be a better you from, it’s not so embarrassing. They’ve probably already “been there, done that”. The more I open up, the more I have found others who have been like me, or understand how I have felt. Furthermore, it’s like the saying goes: “You become the people you surround yourself by”. My high school coach always told me to never settle for less. It has taken me a very long time for that to sink in, but I think I am finally realizing what that means, and I hope you do too.