We live in a society that teaches women that whatever they are, they need to be something else. If you’re fat, get skinny. If you’re short, wear heels. If you’re sweet, wear leather pants to get the guy’s attention. It’s amazing to me how often I have to have conversations about twisted beauty standards and people still don’t understand that what we are taught as young women is what makes us understand the world as adults.
I’m sure that most of you that are reading this know a few things about me. In case you don’t, here are the highlights: I am single. I went back to college at 24 and graduated at 27. (That happened because s boy broke my heart and I needed to get the heck out of dodge. More on that later!) I have very little shame in my body. (It has NOT always been that way. That is actually really really new!) It has gotten significantly smaller in the last year (I left Springfield in size 28 jeans and today am in size 18 skinnies). I have Cerebral Palsy and rock a Limp like a rock star. I have social anxiety but, I LOVE people. Above all of these things I really am learning to like myself. That process has taken me a long time and it’s nowhere near done. So, I’ve thought a lot about things I wish someone had told me in order to help this process. So, here it is. Enjoy it.
Ten Things I Wish I Could Tell My Teenaged Self.
1. Mermaids Don’t Have Thigh Gaps. Listen to me, I know that working out and eating well is important. But, it’s not worth your joy. You are not meant to be Barbie doll skinny. You can thank your mother for your hips. You’re beautiful. You’re magic. Eat that cheeseburger if it fuels your happy. There’s lettuce on it, it’s basically a salad.
2. If You Can Count Your Friends On One Hand, That’s Plenty. I sit here at 28 years old and I can still only count maybe five people that I know are my “lifer” friends. The people that have seen me through everything from big moves to break ups. The ones that know my insides. Those are the ones you want focus on. Friendships are a revolving door. People come into your life to teach you things and retreat. If you have any that stick around, keep them!
3. Black Hair Dye Is a BAD Idea. I know how cool, dark and mysterious you think you look. I know how deeply you believe that your new “edge” will get the boys in the bad metal bands to notice you. Here’s the thing. Never change for a man! Not ever. Changing and compromising once you’re in a relationship because you’ve grown in your understanding of them and theirs of you is one thing, but, changing to get noticed is dishonest and dulls the true sparkle of who you are. Don’t do that.
4. It’s Okay To Play Hooky…Sometimes. I was bullied by a girl on the school bus as a junior higher. She was awful. So, one day, I faked sick. When my mom figured it out and sat with me while I cried, she let me take a mental health day. These are only acceptable when you’re truly overwhelmed. But, they’re fun.
5. Tear Up Your “Future Husband Check List”. (PS. I hate that every time I hear someone speak on healthy singleness to young women they encourage you to write these.) Tear it up. Put it in the garbage. Do it. Right now. Because that guy? Doesn’t exist. Parts of him do, sure. But the human version of that guy comes with habits that will make you crazy. Be ready to love the parts that drive you entirely Banana Sandwich. As long as he’s kind and loves you and Jesus, you can keep him.
6. Love is A Strong Word. Someday, a guy will use it to get something he wants from you. Maybe. (This happened to me, just after my teenaged years were over and while I was in bible college!? Really. Sexual Harassment is never okay, since we’re talking about it.) Love isn’t a statement. It’s action. It’s a choice. Be careful.
7. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE! It is unkind to the people that you’re with to be distracted by whatever your social media feeds say. In fact, take a day out of every week to just leave it off. Read Books, listen to music, have real conversations. You’ll thank me later.
8. You Are Not Defined By Your Past. Every boy that you kiss. Every fashion statement you make. Every bad grade. Every mistake doesn’t matter when you’re older. What you do about them does. Taking the time to find the light in these dark places and moving forward without the baggage of shame that people will try to hand you is so important!
9. Be A Decent Person. Be kind to strangers. Be kind to those in and outside of your social circle. The world has enough people that make things a competition. Don’t contribute to the noise.
10. Get Out Of Town! Seriously, go do things. Go see the world. Visit people you love and make new friends. Your life is your adventure and you only get one. GO LIVE IT!
What would you tell your sixteen year old self? I think there are more things I should say, but, these are things she needed to hear the most.