To My Teenage Self

Someone once told me that to work with young people you need to feel close to your teenage self. And as the years go by there is something in me that continues to still feel deeply connected to those developmentally and socially formative years. Those are the years I found hardest. Those are the years with the most painful and difficult memories. Those are the years I felt most isolated and alone.

So, I wanted to write to my teenage self and, in doing so, share with others what I wish I had known then.

Kay, do not be afraid to let people know how you feel. Your friends are everything to you right now and it is ok to yearn their acceptance and approval. But trust that they might surprise you; for every person who doesn’t get it there is another who will be able to hold you in your sadness and reassure you that you are not alone.

Please be kind to yourself. It is ok that you feel overwhelmed at times. Right now, your brain is impulsive, emotion driven and creative. Soaking up the world around you and being impacted and touched in ways that sometimes feel too much. Give yourself time. You are hard-wired right now to feel, feel, feel. In time your pre-frontal cortex (rational / thinking part) will support you more and more to manage overwhelming feelings in ways that are constructive and less destructive. But for now, give yourself a hug and know you are just doing what you can to get by.

Accept that you are disappointed. That you have been let down at times and that you are powerless to change that. It is painful to connect to loss, whether obvious or more subtle. Be brave and let yourself feel it and know it and know that it is ok and does not define who you are or where you will end up.

Do not let others tell you what your self-esteem should look like. You are valuable just because you are; not because of anything you do or say or give. Not because of how you look, what you wear and the number of friends around you. Know your worth from the inside out and not the outside in. And don’t worry if you can’t see your worth right now, it will come.

And finally, trust that you will come out of this. And that when you do you will be able to feel joy and love and peace. Of course, there will be challenges and there will be times that feel hard again. But you will possess experience, self-awareness and resilience and these things will not only keep you safe and hold you steady but also nourish you and enrich your life and in turn the lives of others.