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Saturday, 8 October 2016

Advice For My 14 Year Old Self

Hannah Barnes

As I think I’ve mentioned before, September sees the annual celebration of my birthday. You may not know though, that it also heralds the birthday of my youngest sister.

We actually share a birthday, with her making her entrance into the world twelve years to the day after my own awkward arrival. And the parallels don’t end there; we were both born around the same time, both in the same (very difficult and very wrong) position, both taking days and days to show our faces and eventually both needing to be pincered out into a world we clearly weren’t very sure about.

So here are a few pieces of advice, taken from both my triumphs and my failures, for my 14-year-old self, my soon to be 14-year-old sister, and all the girls out there wondering how the hell they’ll ever get it right.

Be you 

Be wholly and entirely and unashamedly you. Be the very best you you can be, because everyone else is taken. There is nothing more attractive than confidence and whilst it might seem like following the latest trends and bitching about the right people will get you to the top in high school, it’s unlikely you’ll go much further than that. People who have the confidence to choose for themselves what they like and what matters to them are golden. They glow with their own self-assurance and learn much more about themselves by building a completely individual identity.

Feed your passion 

Do something that is all your own. Whether it’s a weekly club, a passion for art and photography or an adventure into your local library. Whatever your passion, remember to nurture it always. Don’t give up the things you love for fear of missing out on the weekend plans or because other people can’t see the same value in them as you do. If you love something, do it to your full ability and don’t quit because the going gets tough, or the girls are going out for ice cream.

Let boys be boys 

Teenage boys are possibly some of the most boring creatures on the planet, so the best course of action is to simply leave them to it. You will have plenty of time to pursue love interests when you’re 39 and your internal body clock is no longer avoidable. At 14, have fun with friends of all sexes and don’t let your heart get wrapped up on some basic boy in a too-short-school-tie. Alternatively, if your interests don’t seem to include boys at all, don’t worry about it – true friends are friends no matter what and you’ve got decades to figure out what you do want in a life partner.

Keep a kind heart 

Keeping your heart kind at 14 is a struggle, it’s hard to see beyond yourself and it’s hard to open up your mind to the things you may not understand. A kind heart however, is worth a million bucks and if you can cultivate a kind heart at high school, you can keep your heart kind anywhere. What’s more, you’ll be proud of the stands you made, and the injustices you fought when you’re the one looking back. 

Write it all down 

If reading through the diaries of my teenage self has taught me anything, it’s that we tend to rewrite our own histories. I was an entirely different person back then and whilst I’m not particularly proud of who I was at 14, it’s heartening to see how far I’ve come. I had some pretty tough times as a kid and didn’t always handle these in the best way but without that 14-year-old version of me; making mistakes and figuring things out as she went, I wouldn’t be who I am today and I’m pretty darn proud of the person I’ve become. We all make mistakes, and you will too, but it’s about how you choose to handle those mistakes. You can let them beat you and become you or you can grow from them and become even better.

Trust me, there is no better birthday gift for a 12-year-old girl than a brand new baby sister but despite my constant pleas, she’s now gone and grown up. She’ll have her own path to follow and her own passions to pursue, but with two big sisters to help her navigate it all and a natural tendency towards being bloody brilliant, I’m confident she’ll conquer the world.

What advice would you give your younger self, or your younger siblings? Share it in the comments section.

Hannah Barnes / Author & Editor

I keep myself busy with my small business; The Loft Gifts, the period poverty charity I run; The Crimson Wave, writing here and for vaious platforms and a growing menagerie of household pets.


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