10 Women Share The Advice They Would Give Their 14-Year-Old Selves

Between bad haircuts, unrequited crushes, and relying on your parents for transportation to and from soccer practice (and literally everywhere else), your teenage years can be an awkward, trying time. While certain movies and popular TV dramas give us the impression that our junior high and high school years should be the best years of our lives, more often than not, they're also filled with uncertainty about who we are, what we’re genuinely interested in, and how we want to spend the rest of our lives … or at the very least, our late teens and early 20s.

As we grow up, the cringe-worthy struggles of being a teenager — like staying on top of school work, making and keeping friends, and avoiding becoming the subject of lunchroom gossip — become a thing of the past. Yet personally, I know there are a million things I wish I could have told my younger self to make the whole "growing up" thing a little less painless. To empower young women who may be struggling as they make the transition from teenager to young adult, we partnered with the United States Marine Corps — who know a thing or two about overcoming adversity — to ask women to share the advice they wish they could give their younger selves.

1. Build True Friendships And Camaraderie

"Don't worry so much about being popular and well-liked — you will eventually have genuine friendships that will be so much better than being 'cool.' These people will end up being your unrelated brothers and sisters, and will support you in all parts of your life." —Jasmin, 38

2. Turn Worry Into Action

"I spent so much energy worrying what people thought of me (and how I looked), having petty fights with my friends (who are, thankfully, still my friends), complaining about my homework, complaining about rules. I loved to wallow in teenage angst. Coupled with a perfectionist streak, I probably drove myself (and my friends and family) mad as I repeatedly came to the conclusion that everything was hopelessly and irrevocably doomed. If I had taken a little of that obsessive introspection and challenged it into activities that actually brought me joy, like spending peaceful time with friends, writing, playing music, etc., perhaps that time wouldn't have seemed so fraught." —Jackie, 29

3. Be Kind To Your Caretakers

“I'd tell myself to be kinder to my mom. We butt heads over tons of things for most of high school, but she ended up being one of my closest allies and cheerleaders as soon as I moved out of the house. I would tell myself, 'She's dealing with a LOT, and you are dealing with homework and hormones. Give her a break.'” —Mallory, 32

4. Appreciate The Present

"I would tell my 14-year-old self to not be in a hurry to grow up so fast. There was always some major milestone I wanted to reach (driving at 16, college at 18, drinking at 21) that I never just enjoyed being the age I actually was and all of the goodness that comes with that. The fewer responsibilities (leaving more time for sports, free time and time with friends) is so enviable looking back, but I never took the time to appreciate everything." —Sarah, 28

5. Stop Overanalyzing Everything

“I'd tell myself to stop thinking that everything 'should' be a certain way. I'd say, 'You're 14. There's nothing that's already set in stone for you at this point; it's only in your head that you think you should be as thin as your soccer teammate, that you should be as smart as your sister, that you should have a boyfriend, and that you should be wearing Abercrombie & Fitch.' I'd tell myself not to think about what I was supposed to be like or do, and just be in the moment.” —Erin, 26

6. Embrace Your Individuality

"I think most of the awkwardness [I felt as a teenager] came from trying to fight the awkwardness. I would tell myself to embrace it and laugh at it, because it won’t last forever and it will be so much more fun that way. On a similar note, I wish someone had told me that I would be way cooler if I didn’t do what everyone else did or wear what everyone else wore. My mom didn't usually pick me up from school, but once she did, and I remember getting into the car and her saying, 'I couldn’t recognize you in the crowd because you’re all wearing jeans and the same hoodie.' I wish I had questioned the way things were happening in high school. If I had known there were other ways to do things, like take a gap year after high school or challenge what was being taught, I would have felt less desperate to conform." —Ceili, 25

7. Speak Up

"Don't be so afraid of talking to people. I remember being terrified of talking to people older than I was, and mortified at the thought of simple actions like picking up the phone to call and ask a neighbor if I could borrow their newspaper for a school project. I wish I could shake my past self and say, 'You're 14, kid. No one expects you to be able to carry a conversation and crack small-talk jokes like an adult!" —Rachel, 26

8. Think For Yourself

"Even though it's nearly impossible, try not to care about what other people think about you, or your hobbies, your clothes, your friendships, or anything. You have many journeys in life that come and go, like high school, college, your first job, and your first serious relationship. If you let what other people think alter how you explore those journeys, you may look back on them and regret how you experienced that time period. You'll always learn from those mistakes, but you'll also sacrifice some happiness in the meantime." —Christine, 26

9. Don't Limit Yourself

"[At 14], I was working so hard at school and setting myself well for the future. But what would have served me even more was if I'd taken the focus off test scores, grades, and my GPA to think more about what genuinely interested me, and what fulfilled me personally. I'd advise myself to figure out what I was passionate about, and I'd tell myself to go figure out ways to learn and grow on my own by searching for mentors, doing my own research, and blazing my own path. I think that would have given me a better sense of achievement than getting the best grades." —Stephanie, 30

10. Don't Give Up On Yourself

"As you face challenges throughout your life, remember the reason you're here and look at the bigger picture. Times will get hard wherever you end up, but they will always blow over. You accepted the challenge for a reason.” —Logan, 21, U.S. Marine

This post is presented by the United States Marine Corps .

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