To My Teen Daughter: This Is The Advice I Wish I'd Been Given When I Was Your Age

by Kristy McClain
Originally Published: 
A mother and a daughter smiling for photos
Courtesy of Kristy McClain

Now that you’ve become a teenager, the landscape has changed. I navigated my teen years the best I could and I’m sure plenty well-meaning adults tried to steer me in the right direction but many times their advice didn’t sit well. “Be a good girl.” “Stay away from boys.” “Stop pouting.” “Don’t have sex ’til you get married.” “Listen to your parents.” “Do as you’re told.” “Drink your ovaltine.” Just kidding. It was the ’80s so I was chugging Black Cherry Kool-Aid and Capri Suns.

I understood this well-intentioned advice, but I wasn’t quite sure how or when to apply it. I wanted to know the why behind it all. The responses I often got were “Because I said so.” I’ve been a writer since I could pick up a pen and have been searching for a deeper meaning. To everything. I had to find out the why for myself, and that I did. I’ve learned many lessons along the way. If I would have followed all the advice I received I’m sure my life would have turned out quite differently and utterly dull. Below are some things I wish I would have known a lot sooner. If I could teach you anything, it would be to lean into these things and embrace them with all you have.

Love yourself.

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Sometimes we become so concerned about what others are doing, we lose ourselves. Stay focused on you and your goals and what makes you happy. Everything else will fall into place, I promise. Don’t ever talk negatively to yourself. “Feed the positive, starve the negative.” Negative thoughts spread like wildfire and will destroy your soul. Always talk to yourself like you would a best friend. Be gentle. You teach others how you want to be treated, and if they see you talking down to yourself, they will do the same. I know it’s not right nor is it fair but this is how the world works. And the sooner you accept this, the better.

I remember my mom always telling me, “No matter what happens, hold your head high.” I didn’t quite understand it at the time. Now I do. You’re going to fail in life. You’re going to fall down. Hard. And it’s not going to be easy getting back up but you have no other choice. You will get back up and you will fight all the while holding your head high. Many times you will be the only one fighting for you as not everyone will know your battles but that’s OK. You’re strong and you got this. Lastly, when the fight gets to be a bit too much, ask for help.

Don’t worry about pleasing others.

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This is a losing game. No matter how hard you try, you can’t win. Once again, you will lose yourself trying to please everyone around you. We all know happiness is an inside job and everyone is responsible for their own happiness. You don’t have to bear that burden for others. One day you may wake up and wonder why people aren’t trying to please you as much as you are them. You’ll be exhausted and bitter. And you might stop giving all together because you don’t feel like you’re getting anything in return. In this case, see point number one above, love yourself and seek your own happiness, everything else will flow from there. Put you first, above all else. When I say this I don’t mean be selfish. I mean feed your spiritual well-being and don’t be concerned with what others think of you. Look for validation internally, not externally.

Stand up for yourself and what you believe.

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Don’t ever be afraid to speak your mind on important topics and matters of right and wrong. This world gets extremely noisy at times and everyone will try to speak over you. Don’t forget, you’re just as important as the next person and your opinion matters as much as theirs. Don’t let their loudness hush your spirit. It will also be important for you to educate yourself on matters of politics and social justice. You need to know where you stand on these issues because your values will flow into your relationships and they will define the person you are and what types of people you allow into your life. Never be afraid to speak your mind and don’t allow others to talk over you. Just because you’re quiet doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot to say.

If something doesn’t feel right in your gut, listen to that feeling.

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A lot of times our body will have a physical reaction when something isn’t quite right. Listen to that feeling. Don’t ignore it. And if you don’t know what it’s saying, sit with it a while and it will become clear. When you ignore these feelings, that’s often when life is leading you down a dangerous path. Think of it as your body’s way of protecting you. Your heart may want to argue, but listen to your head and your gut. And if you still aren’t sure what to do, talk to your mom. Chances are I’ve thought about it or been through it myself.

Cheer for other women.

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Times when I’ve felt the worst about myself were when I was putting someone else down. It’s easy for us to hate on other women or to be jealous because they appear to be more this or that. But the truth is we’re all struggling with something. If you could trade places with them tomorrow, you wouldn’t want to anyway. Our journey is our own, and as messy as it gets, there’s beauty all around. You just have to want to see it. The times I was the most successful are when I was cheering on other women. That vibe spreads and gets passed from one person to the next. If you’re having a hard time accepting another female you have to ask yourself, why. Does she have something you don’t? Is she working harder than you? Stop comparing and remind yourself your journey is your own. The more love you throw out into the world, the more it comes back to you.

You are enough.

Above all else, never forget, you are enough. Stop telling yourself you’re too this or too that or not enough of this. That’s a recipe for unhappiness. Shine that beautiful light inside you no matter what anyone else around you is doing. Their battles are their own and not for you to be concerned with. You have so much to offer this world. Don’t ever let anyone destroy that. People will try. They will see the light you’re carrying and they will want a piece of it because they don’t have their own. Don’t ever give it away freely. Stay guarded and set clear boundaries to protect yourself. You have to be your own protector because no one is going to do it for you. You know right from wrong, lean into that, baby, and keep shining!

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