Five years ago, I was sixteen years old. I was in my junior year of high school, getting straight A’s, working until late at night to finish my homework. I had a great group of friends and my first boyfriend. And for the most part, I was really happy.
But I was still sixteen, and as much as sixteen-year-olds think they know, there’s a lot they don’t. I made some poor choices and definitely saw, and treated, myself very differently than I should have. I’m a few years older and wiser now, and – though there’s still a lot to learn – five years later, here are a few things I wish I knew when I was sixteen.
5. Don’t settle //
Recognize your own worth. You are funny, and kind, and smarter than you realize. If a boy tells you to lose weight, dump him. If he doesn’t stand up for you, dump him. If he lies to you, dump him. You are worth more than that. You will find somebody else.
4. School is important, but it should not dictate your life //
School ran my life when I was sixteen. Don’t get me wrong; school is very important, and without working hard, I would never have gotten to where I am today. But I swear, there wasn’t anything I spent more time on or cared about more. To my sixteen-year-old self: don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Just try your best, and make some time to have fun. You’re only sixteen once.
3. There is nothing wrong with you. You are just trying your best //
Love, don’t be so hard on yourself. You may not be the smartest person in the room. You may not be the prettiest. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with you. Show yourself a little love and compassion, and accept your faults and mistakes.
2. Never turn down a chance to hang out with your little brother //
Oh man, this one just breaks my heart; but when your little brother asks to hang out, say yes. Just like you’re getting older, he is, too. You’ll be out of the house before you know it, and your life is going to become a lot more adventurous and international than you realize right now. You have a limited amount of time to hang out with Broseph. Make the most of it.
1. You are really, truly beautiful. Just as you are //
I had the worst self image at sixteen. I truly thought I was one of the most vile creatures on earth. When I look back at pictures of myself then now, I am absolutely shocked.
Sixteen-year-old Sara, you are beautiful. There is no reason to hate yourself for your appearance or your size. Not just because you are fine just as you are – beautiful, lovely just as you are – but also because it doesn’t matter. There are so many more interesting, more valuable things about you than how you look. Focus on your inner beauty. Cultivate a life of kindness. Be someone who makes others feel beautiful.
What I love about exercises like this is that they allow me to reflect on the past, but also often give some insight into my life today. I still struggle with many of the same things with which I did when I was sixteen – self worth, self image, life balance. It’s easier to reflect on the past than to confront your present. But you never know; often, those same pieces of advice are just as applicable now. I know I could definitely be a little easier on myself when it comes to school. I could definitely judge my appearance less harshly. Maybe I’ll try. After all, if that’s what sixteen-year-old Sara deserves, then maybe twenty-one-year-old Sara does, too.
Did any of these connect with you? What do you wish you’d known five years ago?