It’s already been a decade since I left the days of calculus homework, frizzy hair, and college applications behind. In most ways, I don’t miss being a teenager. Who would? Between the acne and the awkward prom dates, adolescence is probably the strangest, most confusing phase we go through.
In some ways, though, life was a lot simpler. I had fewer responsibilities, and my biggest worries revolved around who liked me and what I’d be when I “grew up” (still working on that one). I didn’t have any major bills to pay and the only life I was responsible for was my own.
Now it’s a much different story. Even though I still don’t feel like one, I’m definitely an adult now. And there are a few things I’ve learned that I wish I’d known when I was younger.
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Given the opportunity, here are 5 things I’d tell my 15-year-old self:
Don’t worry about what they think.
This was huge for me. I cared so. much. about what people thought of me. Why? What did it matter? When you barely know who you are yourself yet, it’s incredibly easy to get tied up in what others think of you. If you aren’t secure in your identity, you can’t help but rely on others for your security. Take a break from trying to impress others and learn who you are in Christ. Start now. It’s a process, but the freedom you’ll experience is worth it. Spend time with God so He can tell you how valuable you are and how much He loved you before you were even born. (This book is one of my favorite resources for anyone who struggles with insecurity — I’ve read it three times already!)
You still haven’t met some of your best friends yet.
Yes, I know so-and-so is talking behind your back again. I know what’s-her-name called you that. I know it hurts, and I’m sorry. But I promise the sting will subside and you won’t feel wounded by this a few short years from now. You’ve yet to meet some of your best, lifelong friends, so don’t give into the loneliness. In fact, you may even find that the girl who’s calling you names today becomes a good friend in the future. Remember that meanness has a history. No one is mean just for the sake of it, so take heart, stop feeling bad about yourself, and give grace to those who target you for because of their own hurt. Next time someone teases you for being too skinny and tells you to eat a sandwich, tell her you ate four waffles for breakfast and remember she’s just dealing with her own insecurities.
That boy isn’t the end of the world. You’ll get over him.
This one is really hard to believe right now. I remember that feeling, the one that tells you that you won’t survive unless he chooses you and loves you forever. My mom once shared an adage that stuck with me: Sometimes rejection is God’s protection. Sometimes He uses painful things (like rejection) to redirect us when we start down a path that isn’t ideal. Whether that’s comforting right now or not, one day you’ll look back and understand why that relationship didn’t work out. And it won’t hurt anymore, either.
Yes, you ARE beautiful, so stop doubting it.
When was the last time you looked in the mirror and wished your hair was smoother, your skin was clearer, or your nose had a different shape? This morning? Ten minutes ago? I remember wishing I could look like anyone but myself. We all have insecure days, but when you know who you are and what you’re capable of, your happiness won’t depend on your hair. In the last year, I’ve grown, birthed, and nursed a beautiful baby. Yes, I’ve gained weight. I have crow’s feet, laugh lines, and a few gray hairs. But this imperfect body is capable of so much, and I’m thankful for what it can do. This version of me is beautiful, and so are you.
You don’t have to decide on a career right now.
I obsessed over applying to colleges because of the majors I’d have to choose from. Then, once I went to college, I obsessed over choosing one of those majors. After college, I obsessed about graduate school and which classes to take. Now, I’m here. I’ve had some jobs I’ve hated, but all along I’ve been doing what I love: writing. If anything, I wish I’d started sooner instead of trying to fit myself into so many other molds that weren’t right for me. But each job was an experience I needed to get where I am now. There’s no such thing as a straight, easy path to success. You don’t have to decide on a career right now, but when you do, stay as true as possible to what you love. You have your own set of gifts and skills because you’re meant to use them. But don’t worry if you don’t find your “dream job” right away. Finding your professional purpose is a process, so let it happen.
I know that breakup or betrayal might seem like the end of the world right now. I know how insecurity feels. But hang in there. Nestle into those trustworthy friendships. Read some good books. Pursue your favorite hobby, like writing, cooking, music, running, or whatever it may be. Get to know who you really are so you don’t rely on others to tell you who you are. By the time you’re thirty, the things that hurt so much right now won’t even sting anymore.
P.S. Here are a few of my favorite books that I wish I’d had earlier:
So Long, Insecurity by Beth Moore
It’s Ain’t Over…Till It’s Over by Marlo Thomas
Every Thought Captive by Jerusha Clark
Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst
Fierce Faith by Alli Worthington
What advice do you have for your 15-year-old self? I’d love to hear. Let me know in the comments!