10 Things I Would Love to Tell my 13-Year-Old Self

1) Don’t argue with your hair

There is nothing, absolutely zip that you can do about the hair you’ve been given. Straight hair wants to be straight. Curly hair wants to be curly. Maybe later when you grow up you can make enough money to get your curls permanently straightened if you really want to. But right now whatever you do that goes against your hair’s nature will make you look like a total dork and you’ll wonder what in holy hell you were thinking when you look back on your school photos later. Work with what you’ve got as best you can.

2) You don’t need lots of friend to be a good person/to be happy

Large numbers of friends don’t equal happiness nor do they validate that you are somehow more worthy. If you only have a couple of close friends and a handful more acquaintances, that’s A-OK. Some people thrive in large groups, others thrive in small ones. Stick by the friends that make you feel good and that take care of you. You only need a couple.

3) You don’t need to be friends with the cool kids to be cool

Here’s an interesting fact: most of the ‘cool kids’ in school grow up to be pretty average adults. Many of them you won’t even want to be friends with once you’re out of high school. The truth is that no one is cool because of who they hang out with. What makes you cool is entirely an inside job. What makes you cool is self-confidence, and now is the time to be building that up — not benchmarking yourself against other people’s definitions. Keep close the friends who see who you really are and who value you for your quirks.

4) Learn to dress for your body type

Fergodsake, don’t wear whatever’s trendy just because it’s trendy. We don’t all have the same body type and we certainly can’t all get away with wearing what’s currently in fashion. If you’ve got a boy body or pear shape or have killer curves, learn what looks best on your body type and only wear variations of those items. No one wants to see body parts stuffed in or hanging out where they shouldn’t be. Learning to dress for your body type is one of the single biggest confidence boosters that’s easily implementable.

5) ‘Self-love’ will probably save you a fair bit of trouble

Remember that scene in There’s Something About Mary where Ben Stiller takes care of…ahem…business before his date with Cameron Diaz? This shouldn’t be restricted to just dudes. Don’t be afraid to get to know your own body and what feels good. It’s a taboo subject, but if young women were encouraged to know, appreciate, and understand their bodies better at the age when they become sexually mature, I’d bet healthier decisions about sexual intimacy would be made. Get to know yourself in that way. It’s healthy and wonderful, as sexual interactions with others should be too.

6) When you find something that speaks to you, own it

I know this is a tough one when you’re 13 because you want to fit in more than anything. But fitting in is overrated. Discovering things that light you up, and then pursuing them…owning your love of that thing or that hobby no matter what people say…will pay off in spades. So many people get halfway through adulthood and don’t even know who they are. They can’t remember what makes them happy, because a lot of them never learned that about themselves to begin with. Always move towards that which lights you up and see where it leads.

7) Start looking for validation inside yourself

As children, we’re validated by feedback from the immediate external world — usually our parents. But you’re at an age now where your happiness will largely be influenced by how much you alone understand your inherent worth. Do things that scare you, be bold, take chances for love, for art, for the thrill of becoming. Now is the time to start figuring out what you’re made of and build a Self that you can be proud of, no matter what slings and arrows you face as you become an adult.

8) Don’t be (too much of) an ass

We all act like jerks at some point in our lives and teenagehood is a get-out-of-jail-free time to sort through this. It’s ok if you’ve made mistakes and been an idiot. It’s a human thing. Sometimes it’s a reactive thing. Sometimes it’s a rejection thing. Sometimes it’s an inexplicable hormonal thing (you know it, sister). You’re doing the best that you can with the tools that you have. When you feel bad about something you said or did, do what you need to do to make it right. That’s called character. It will get you far in life.

9) Be whoever and however you want to be (until you’re 26, then refine)

The next 13 years of your life are a really awesome opportunity to be whomever or look however you want. Want to move to Japan right after high school and get dreadlocks? Knock yourself out. It’s a little-thought-about truism that everyone is pretty understanding of what we get up to before the age of 26-ish. After 26 starts the phase where most people take all they learned about themselves in the ‘experimental years’ and start to refine a bit. If you hit your 30's and you’re still living in Mum’s basement wearing all black…you might be pushing it. But have an amazing time until then. Grandma will get over the fact that you had dreds for a while there.

10) Always be kind

Being a teenager is a tough road. It’s confusing and difficult even for the most beautiful and popular people. (I swear!) We’re all trying to navigate the world with greater independence. We’re all making mistakes in the quest to try to figure out what we’re really made of. And we’re all having to accept consequences for our actions. Be kind to yourself because you are under development right now and it’s freaking tough. And be kind to those around you because everyone needs it. Even the jerks. They’re probably jerks because they’re not getting enough kindness from the people they need it from the most.