I’ve never met someone who looks back at their teenage years with fondness, nor have I ever met anyone who spent their teenage years thinking they were gorgeous and hilarious and utterly brilliant. I’m pretty sure being 15 is shit for everyone, at least to some extent. But there are a few things that I wish I had known when I was 15, things I wish someone had told me, or things I had been told but that I didn’t listen to. I’ll start with the obvious ones – don’t cut your fringe yourself, it will never work out well for you no matter how many times you try and you’ll look like an idiot. You’ll be 21 before you figure out how to do make up properly, and even then sometimes you’ll end up taking it all off and starting over.
Time spent doing something you love, something that makes you happy, is not wasted time. Sometimes, you just need to take a day or five where you do nothing but watch an entire TV series, or re-read books, or draw. And that’s ok. Self-care is hugely important, and it’s what gets you through a lot of crap. You need to put yourself first sometimes.
Food isn't the enemy, and losing weight won't make anything any better. Not eating won't make you happier or more attractive or better at making friends or more confident. It will make you painfully aware of your body and everything you eat; it will make you constantly uncomfortable and sad; it will give you anxiety and will make you into a shell of a person. It will change the way you think about food to the extent that 6 years from now, you still feel held back by your fear of food and your body. Any feelings of accomplishment are overshadowed completely by the hell it will put you through.
Don't love yourself because a boy tells you that you should. Because that boy will leave and you won't know how or why to love yourself anymore. You will spend an entire summer in your room trying to figure out who you are as an individual, not as part of a couple. And even though you’ll come so far, you’ll still have no clue what you’re doing with your life.
Don't put up with shitty things people do to you because they say they love you. Don't stay with someone who treats your mental health as something that you should work on for their sake rather than your own. Don't have sex when you don't want to, even if he makes you feel like you cannot say no. Don't settle for someone who makes you feel like half a person because you're afraid nobody else would love you. They will. Even if, as I write this, that hasn't exactly happened yet. And if they don't, you always have cats and your friends.
Do more art. Even if you don't think it's very good or if it genuinely isn't very good, keep doing it. Draw everything and don't let an art teacher tell you that you're doing it wrong. Art can't be done wrong. She's just an idiot. Fill notebooks with sketches and doodles and mini masterpieces, even if the person beside you can draw better than you. Remember that art is never finished, you can always go back and change something later, even if it's been years. Paint your emotions without feeling like you should only paint when you're happy. Art is incredibly cathartic when you're sad.
Say no. Say no to friends, family, boyfriends, teachers, everyone when you genuinely can't or don't want to do what they're asking. You can't do everything, and you can't run on the three hours of sleep it would take to be able to do everything. Saying no doesn't make you a bitch and anyone who says so isn't worth your time.
Nothing is sexier than confidence. You're a bamf and a babe, or at least you will be after your ugly duckling phase is over. You may not look the same as the generic media version of what beautiful or sexy is, but that doesn't matter. Don't buy into the 'everyone is beautiful' crap either - what you look like doesn't matter, at least not as much as you'll be told. Don’t be sexy for anyone else but you – you’re entitled to look like you have no more fucks to give when you want to, and then next day be all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Don’t apologise for being outspoken and passionate, particularly about issues surrounding equality. You'll be called every name under the sun, you'll be made feel unsafe at times, and people will treat you differently - some will treat you with more respect, others will say and do things that will cut you to your very core. The former are the people who will be your friends for years, the latter are the ones who you should cut out of your life that very second.
I don’t know for sure that if I had all this advice at 15 I would have listened to it, or how different the last 6 years of my life would have been if I had taken it all in. A lot of these lessons are still being learned – I’m still going to make mistakes, but I’m slightly more comfortable with that than I was a few months ago.
- B xx