One of the most difficult things in life is being a teenager. I know that I certainly wouldn't want to repeat those drama-filled, hormone-fueled, and acne-ridden days of years past. From 13 to 18, my life seemed to depend on the instant messages I sent, the pictures I posted on Facebook (and MySpace, let's be honest), and the grades I got on even the most insignificant of school quizzes. And, of course, what I chose to wear.
In hindsight, it's clear to see that such priorities (save for maybe the grades part) proved totally irrelevant to my life as it stands today, and really as it stood just mere days after high school graduation. Moreover, it's also quite obvious that such struggles pale in comparison to any actual serious hardship. But unfortunately, my little teenage bubble lacked such perspective, so all these things were things that I spent a considerable amount of time reeling over — and I'm sure I'm not alone.
Which is why, again in hindsight, I felt it kind of necessary — or at least a bit therapeutic — to write one of those classic "Letters to my Younger Self." I'm positive that teenagers then and teenagers now easily loose themselves in a barrage of social media feeds bursting at the seems with over-glamorized, over-photoshopped, and overly-curated images and messages telling them what's cool and what's not. It really can't be said enough: Being a teenager is hard. But, it can also be fun. It can be a time when you finally start to find yourself and your personal style, where you develop who you are, what you believe, and what you wear. So for my teenaged-self (and teenagers past, present, and future) — this one is for you.
(Me thinking I was cool at 17!)
Be embarrassing because being embarrassing is how you'll stumble your way to a personal style. I know it's your worst nightmare for someone to make a snide remark about what you're wearing, but hear me out. Come five years from now, when you're in college, scrolling through pictures of all those ensembles you tried so hard to perfect, 99 out of 100 will look terrible. So, why experiment? Pass over a trip at that go-to store (for me, that was American Eagle and maybe Abercrombie and Fitch, but if you're reading this as a teenager now, I'm assuming it's Forever 21 or Zara) for someplace you maybe wouldn't consider hitting up. Shop your parents' closet, too — I promise Mom and Dad both have some pretty great vintage finds.
Growing up in a small town makes it hard to branch out and easy to hide amidst the shockingly similarly dressed crowds. I get it. Part of me hates even using the term "hide" just because such a word implies some sort of purposeful conformity. I don't think dressing in clothes from the mall, especially as a teenager, is conforming — not every young person has the time or resources to put together blogger-ready ensembles, and that's okay. Be embarrassing, but don't feel bad if you're not voted the most fashionable just yet. Trust me, the time will come.
Embrace Being A Teenager
This brings me to my next point, which is to just embrace being a teenager. Experimenting with fashion and beauty when you're young is so important, not to mention incredibly fun. Being young means you can wear virtually any and all trends without having to worry as much about settings or venues or "work-appropriate" styles.
I know this is tricky territory — and let me just state to you right now that I'm 23 and still quite young in the grand scheme of things. And I'm whole-heartedly against changing what you wear to appease anyone but yourself.
But again, hear me out. You have your entire life to look "mature." Right now, that word may seem like the ultimate compliment — and some nights certainly call for getting dressed and dolled up (does using the term "dolled up" make me sound old?) to the nines. However, regardless of what you see in your social media feeds, I think it's important to remember that you're only a teenager once. Don't worry about having a full face of makeup, of impressing boys, girls, or whoever with how great you look. I know when you're 16, the only thing you want to be is 18, and when you're 18, the only thing you want to be is 21, but try to live in the moment. The future is full of looking "mature," so try not to spend to much time trying to look twice your age.
Think About Yourself
So I guess all this is leading up to one thing. I mentioned it before, but it deserves repeating — dress for no one but yourself. Despite all of your hardheadedness, as a teenager you're still quite impressionable and now more than ever, that impressionability is affected by a relentless bombardment of images of a glamorous, ideal reality that in most cases isn't even real. It's hard to sift through it all without feeling a bit like you're not stylish enough, not pretty enough, not cool enough, not good enough.
Here's the thing, though: It's all going to be okay. So you're stuck in the suburbs where the only "cool" clothes are the ones everyone else buys at the mall, where the craziest nights usually mean sneaking into an R-rated movie, and where instead of heading to #Coachella, you have to settle for prom. But that's okay. Take the time to be a teenager, to learn a bit about yourself and your personal style. It's not always fun and isn't ever easy, but just because you might think yourself uncool in comparison to all the celebrities and bloggers and models and whoever else you see on Instagram doesn't mean you actually are.
It's cool to be young, to take fashion risks, and make subsequent fashion mistakes, to worry about impressing yourself and nobody else. It's cool to work hard at school, to get into your dream college and to flourish into your own as an adult. It's all going to take a while, but don't rush it — think about yourself and what you love, and I promise eventually everything will be okay. Plus, all those fashion mistakes will make for some great Throwback Thursdays.
Images: Author; Giphy