I was a teenager not so long ago and I marvel at how much I have changed since those confusing years.
My own experiences as a teenager, and how I responded to them have defined the person I am today. To any teenage girl reading this, I would give five pieces of advice:
1. Don’t let others define your self worth
Your life is so much more than being skinny, beautiful or popular. Focus on building your own character and defining your own long-term goals. Your teenage years are the time to lay the groundwork for your career and work aspirations. It does not cost anything to dream or plan. If you are insecure about your appearance, your popularity or your socio-economic status, remember that your destiny lies in your hands. Channel your challenges into inspiration for the future.
In my case, coming from a frugal family, suffering crippling acne and low self-esteem led me to believe that my passage to success depended on excelling academically and working hard. As I moved through my university years and into an independent career, I built up my confidence and belief in myself. Today I feel that nothing is beyond hard work and dedication.
2. Surround yourself with good people
Whether it is family or friends, surround yourself with those that inspire and motivate you. The most popular, yet shallow girl in the school may appear like a rainbow leading to the pot of gold but if she is not a nice person, she will not make you feel nice about yourself.
Find out what interests you and find others that share those interests. Whether you love to read, paint or love animals, there are many good, worthy people out there who share your passion and can contribute so much more to your life than petty gossip and self doubt. Some of my closest friends are those that I made as a teenager. Our common bonds have stood the test of time and that is invaluable.
3. Become financially savvy
It is never too early to learn the value of money. Start working as early as you can, even if it is only a few hours on the weekends. Not only is the experience worth more than the dollars it earns you, but making your own money will help you understand the value of hard work that goes into every dollar that pays for that jacket you just have to have.
When you are older, perhaps a student struggling with bills, or you want to go on an OE, or you want to buy your first home, being financially savvy, if not totally independent, will set you above your peers and give you that edge you need in today’s world.
There is nothing like a little perspective to understand that despite your difficulties, you are a very fortunate person. The local animal shelter or the disabled students centre at your school are good places to start. They always need volunteers and it is a fantastic way to broaden your horizons and meet new people.
When I was in high school, I got to skip PE because of an injury. I spent my time reading to the students in the disabled class of my school. It was a very very small gesture on my part but the students enjoyed themselves immensely and their carers were grateful for my time.
Last of all, remember to smile. There is nothing more attractive or enticing than a genuine smile. It opens doors to conversations and introductions. Think of all the amazing people and opportunities you miss because you are introverted and shy.
Yes, I know it is hard to force yourself to be outgoing if it does not come naturally to you. But you know what? Practice makes perfect. When your confidence gets you your dream job, or introduces you to the love of your life, you will know what I mean.
Some of these points I have learnt as a teenager myself and some I wish someone had told me when I was a teenager. I hope it helps.