It's a long time since this picture was taken (a quarter of a century in fact), but if I close my eyes and think back I can still feel the hormones surging through my veins, hear my insecure outpourings whispered to friends on my parents' landline, and experience once more the raw emotion and angst of those challenging years. I've written about it before, in this post entitled Smells Like Cheap Spirits.
Which is why, when invited by young entrepreneur and author Ella Stearn from The Lucky Truth to take part in Project Teen, an initiative designed to support teenage girls through the daily challenges they face, I jumped at the chance.
By supporting this campaign and sharing our #YoudNeverBelieve quotes in this video, (yes that's me confessing to insecurity about my height), the other women and I are saying to teenage girls everywhere: you're not alone....
Which got me thinking "what would I say to my teenage self?" So here goes:
6 Things I'd Say To My Teenage Self
1. Don't dumb yourself down to be cool
You go to a grammar school; you're lucky. Make the most of it. You're among the most intelligent kids in the country (yes, really!). So what's so cool about acting dumb? Messing about in class; winding 'Sir' up to the point of throbbing veins in his temples; driving the poor teachers to drink. And for what? To attract the attention of some spotty-faced little herbert with an attitude who you'll never see again after the next few years. Your intelligence is the most powerful thing you have; don't play it down. You can't go to the doctors for a quick IQ booster injection later on; there's no miracle cure for stupid. Ignore the bullies; keep your head down. This is your chance to absorb knowledge like a sponge. Those popular, rebellious girls poking fun at the geeky, studious ones? Half of them will leave school with a few lame GCSEs and an imminent baby bump. It's the geeks who'll have the last laugh when they get the top jobs and travel the world.
2. The boy who breaks your heart won't matter
Talking of little herberts - that rakish bad boy, the dark-haired one with the curtain hairstyle flopping across his face and the sexy side-eyed glances? Forget him. He'll draw you in, use you up and spit you out. It'll hurt. Learn your lesson and move on. What'll feel like the end of the world for a while will seem pathetic in a year's time. Trust me on this. But don't trust him.
3. Be proud of your USP
Don't be ashamed of your USP. (That's Unique Selling Point, kiddo). Yes, you do have one. Several, in fact. You're a six foot natural blonde with brains, for Christ's sake. Instead of hunching your shoulders and mooching about like Herman Munster, push your shoulders back, stand tall and be proud. When you get a bit older you'll realise what an advantage being tall is. You'll be able to reach stuff, buy alcohol before your mates and see everything at concerts. You're onto a winner.
4. Dream big
Ok, now we've got that straight, let's talk goals. Think of some. Write them down, stay focused and don't let anyone stand in your way. Go to university (you won't, but you should). Live boldly. Have adventures. Travel the world. You'll learn far more by backpacking than you ever will in a musty classroom. School is just a small percentage of your lifespan; there's a big world out there. Who cares if that boy doesn't fancy you? Plenty of others will. Now stop expending energy on some little no-mark and get planning the big stuff. What seems important now will be like a grain of sand on a beach in the great scheme of things. The world is your oyster.
5. Be kind
Be kind. Be kind to everyone. Karma is real; it's a thing. If you pull the legs off a crane fly for the fun of it, be prepared to come back in your next life as a crane fly. Be especially kind to your family. You may moan about your parents not letting you stay out all night and bitch about your little sister stealing your makeup, but they will be there for you no matter what. Until they're not; don't take them for granted.
6. Love yourself
On the subject of kindness, my final point is a big one (I'm almost 41, and it's still a work in progress). You'll probably never master it completely, but you have to keep at it. Ready? Be kind to yourself. That's it. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Believe me, it'll be the hardest one of all. If you can be kind to yourself - tell yourself you're worthy; capable; beautiful - it'll be the best thing you'll ever do. Until you can learn to love yourself, you'll struggle to love anyone else: negative emotions like insecurity and jealousy will tarnish relationships and cloud your judgement. Look after your health and your sanity; take care of your body. It's the only one you'll ever have. Surround yourself with good people. Believe in yourself: if you believe you can or believe you can't - either way you're right. When you finally work out how amazing you are, how precious life is and how little time you have to waste worrying about the small stuff (spoiler alert: it's almost all small stuff), then, and only then, will you discover true happiness.
To support Project Teen and get Ella's book "Yeah Right! A Girl's Guide To Surviving Teens" to the girls that need it most, click here. Please share this post and the videos it contains to raise awareness of the campaign, the issues facing teenage girls and to let them know that we love them, we support them and we have their backs.
This post first appeared on my blog, Life: A Bird's Eye View.