8 Things I'd Tell My 21-Year-Old Self About Sex And Love, Because It Turns Out That Arm Candy Is Not The Answer

The things I valued and what I believed about sex, love and dating when I was younger vastly differ from the way I think and feel about these things today, 10 years later. I just caught myself strutting down East 51st Street, getting seriously down with my bad self in oversized white jeans and clogs, and it hit me: I definitely did not feel this way about myself when I was 21.

The change has happened gradually, of course, although I will say that the biggest seismic shift was when I turned 30. The next day, I had the experience of being fully present and powerful in my own body and with my own body in a way that I just plumb had never felt before. So cheers to that. (And for anyone afraid of letting go of their 20s, don't. It's better on this side, I promise.)

My little street sashay today got me musing about the way we think of ourselves and our partners/lovers, and how that evolves as we age. The way I see myself and love in general today is so different in comparison to how it was back then that it would be unrecognizable to my younger self. And so: Eight things I wish I'd known when I was younger.

1. Dating Hotties Does Not Improve Your Self-Esteem

Girl, step away from the smirk! Players and bad boys are not the way. As far as I was concerned, if I was dating someone incredibly sexy, then obviously I, too, was incredibly sexy. But that never really worked — I felt the way I felt about myself regardless of whom I was dating — and bad boys are labeled "bad" for a reason.

2. They're Never Going To Change

So either be with someone for who they are, or move on. Never confuse a person with a project.

3. Conquests Are Fun, But Ultimately Not Rewarding

When I was younger, I'd set my sights on the most attractive person in the room, and then I'd flirt with them until we wound up together in some capacity. I was really, really good at it. And while it was fun, this behavior never really got me anywhere.

4. It Doesn't Matter What Everyone Else Thinks Of Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend

It matters what you think of your partner. If you think they're amazing, that's all that matters. Don't look to friends/family/everyone else for approval/co-signatures.

5. If They Seem Too Good To be True, They Are

I chased a few dark strangers a little too far down the rabbit hole (OK, too many mixed metaphors, sorry) because they seemed, like, really smart and interesting and super well-educated on the latest independent hip-hop. Oh well. No regrets, but now I know that people show us who they are with their actions, not their uber-tailored words. Pay attention, little self!

6. Don't Let People Hurt You (No Matter How Hot They Are)

You know that phrase "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?" If someone does something truly awful, they will do it again. Take it upon yourself to peace out the first time someone shows you their true colors. Sure, we all make mistakes, but I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about inexcusable things — cheating or deep dishonesty or emotional, verbal or physical abuse — that are never OK.

7. Your Body Is Bangin'.

I had nothing to compare it to back then, but now I can say with assurance that although I'm actually stronger now, my body looked great when I was 21, because I was 21. Seriously, 21-year-old self: Stop worrying about what you look like naked or in a bathing suit.

8. You Are Awesome Just The Way You Are

I know: cheesy. But I'd like to be able to share some of my circa-now self-esteem with my circa-then self. I didn't have a lot of acceptance for myself when I was younger. I was always super hard on myself. But it turns out that getting down on oneself does exactly zero percent good for anyone or anything, and though I am truly not perfect, I might as well work with what I've got. If nothing else, past self, what you've got is unique to you and only you, so you've got that over everyone else right there. Werk!

Images: Francisco Osorio/Flickr; WiffleGif (8)