Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We’ve all looked back on a situation and wondered how we would behave differently; thought why did I get some upset over that it really wasn’t important. But, actually sitting down and thinking about what you would say to your younger self is an entirely different thing. You need to think about where you are at right now, if the experiences you’ve had have shaped your identity and whether changing things would make it better or worse. Although I largely look back at my adolescence and smile, there are few things I would tell myself to make it a little easier, to have less sleepless nights, less pain and more joy. And what I realise most of all is that the things I want to tell my younger self are the things that make me who I am now, which in turn makes me realise that I’m pretty happy with myself and that is a really great feeling!
1. Don’t strive so hard to fit in
Being different doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and it’s 100% true that it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. The people that truly love you won’t care what you look like, if you wear the wrong clothes or listen to the wrong music. There is no wrong, there are only choices. Choose who you want to be because of the things that are important to you and if that means you don’t fit into the box you’re supposed to that’s fine. There will come a time when there are no boxes, when there are just people and you’ll be much more prepared for that if you’ve always been yourself.
2. Don’t just be what others expect you to be
Yes, you’re clever. Yes, you’re good as science and maths but that doesn’t mean you need to follow that path. You don’t need to become a doctor or a lawyer to be successful and feel fulfilled. Follow the path you choose for yourself, choose to study something you are passionate about and remember that there is always opportunity to change, to embark on a new adventure and try something new. It’s never too late!
3. Be understanding and tolerant of others mistakes
Nobody is perfect and when you expect perfection you are always going to be disappointed. There will be times when the people you love do or say the wrong thing. They will hurt you, they will make you angry, they’ll make you cry, but this doesn’t make them bad people. Be understanding of their mistakes, talk things through and work hard to preserve the relationships that are important to you. Don’t just give up on someone because of one silly mistake.
4. Educate others, don’t be offended
There will be people that don’t understand you, people that are confused just by the very presence of your being. This is probably going to end up in them saying something that may offend you, but it’s important to understand that they don’t mean it to be offensive. You are in a position to educate, to explain to people about what being mixed raced means, so make sure you take advantage of this position. Never shrug off an ignorant comment or get worked up over it, challenge it and educate that person.
5. Don’t be so hard on yourself
You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to go down the wrong path and mess things up. This is ok! Trust me you’re doing fine. Stop comparing yourself to the people around you because they are not you and it’s highly likely that they are feeling the same way you are. Remember that you only see what people want you to see. That popular girl from school may have an Instagram full of exciting photos of her exciting life but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s happy. Stop beating yourself up because you think your life isn’t as good, it is and it will only get better.
6. Don’t rely on anyone else to make you happy
The phrase ‘we are born alone and we die alone’ doesn’t need to be as depressive as it sounds. Nobody is going to make you happy if you are not happy with yourself. It all starts with you! There will be many people that enhance your life, people that you love spending time with, people that make you laugh till you can’t breathe, but unless you can go home on your own and be content with your own company none of this will matter. You control your own happiness, never forget that!
7. Don’t rush to grow up, enjoy the ride
Your school years really are the best time of your life, stop trying to rush through it. Never again will you have the freedom that you have at school, the lack of responsibility and the constant stream of support. Embrace it all and experience as much as you can. Enjoy being young! Don’t get me wrong adulthood isn’t all bad, but make sure you can look back at your teenage years and feel happy about the memories you have.
8. Your hair is fine, leave me alone
Your hair is part of who you are. Your curls are a sign of your black heritage and that slight ginger tinge is a sign of your white heritage. It demonstrates your status as a mixed raced woman in the best way possible. You don’t need to change it! Straightening it won’t make you white, and no matter how many times you dye it that ginger will just keep coming back. Embrace it, look after it and love it!
9. Don’t miss out on great opportunities just because you’re scared
Being scared to do something is a good thing, that means you care about it. Instead of backing out embrace the fear, use it to spur you on. Give yourself the chance to experience new opportunities. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, pick yourself up and move on to the next thing. Everything will work out in the end.
10. Work hard and be confident of yourself
If you want something work for it. Your perfect job isn’t going to just land in your lap, and your friendships won’t last if you don’t put the effort in. Be confident in your abilities and your worth as a person. You can do it! ~Lauren Riley
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