I spent a good chunk of last week pondering how to celebrate International Women's Day 2022. In true chaotic fashion, here I ultimately am, on the eve of International Women’s Day, hunched over my Mac with a glass of wine and a stale cheese biscuit, chastising myself for having left it too late.
I tell myself “diamonds are made under pressure” before getting out my crayons to brainstorm. My thought process goes like this: Public love letter to 16-year-old me? I shudder. Article on tricky female-related teen topics and how to handle them? Cliché and I run the risk of exposing how profoundly uncool I am. A letter to every 16-year-old girl I can possibly reach, with advice from all my girlfriends (in their 20s) about what they would tell their 16-year-old self? Nailed it! I down my wine, spam all my girlfriends, and wait.
To every 16-year-old woman reading this, as you go through these pearls of wisdom, remember that behind each of these is an outstanding woman with her own lived experience from teen to today. Collectively, these women come from all over the world and hold careers as teachers, consultants, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, publishers and artists.
Each has her own story, just as you have yours. We hope that these insights empower, entertain and encourage you to be nothing other than yourself. Girl, you’ve got this; 16 is only the beginning. Happy International Women's Day, 2022!
"I just spent 12 hours in the lab so I hope it’s not too late! I’m thinking of two things. The first one is to stop comparing yourself to other people! Find a role model but focus on really loving yourself instead of what other people are doing. The second one might seem a little harsh … but know that the world is not perfect. I used to always want and dream of things to be perfect, but then when they didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to, that made things hard. It might be harsh to tell a 16-year-old that the world is not perfect, but I would certainly let 16-year-old me to stop looking for perfection." [LG, age 28]
"Don’t fall for bad boys. Let them fall for you." [SH, age 24]
"To quote a show that you will love 10 years from now: Nobody is thinking about you as much as you. You know how you’re always worried about what people are thinking about you? They’re not! Because they are busy worrying about what other people are thinking about them. So relax and just keep doing you. And try to spread positivity and affirmation when you can - it will help all the other little balls of anxiety out there 😉." [AH, age 29]
"I would tell my 16 year old self to stop worrying about what other people think of you. Don’t waste your time trying to shrink yourself for them. They’re on their own path and you are on yours. Be your own best advocate, be confidently yourself, and be proud and of who you are. You’re doing great, and I promise you will accomplish things you never thought were possible for you. Just focus on you and what makes you happy - that’s what’s most important." [HS, 24]
"Don’t be afraid to let yourself fail, now’s the time to make mistakes and learn from them. Being interesting is much better than being perfect!" [FA, age 25]
"I would tell my younger self that whilst you can enhance people’s lives, you are not ultimately responsible for their feelings, and sometimes you have to put yourself first. This doesn’t mean be selfish, but it does mean that sometimes you have to give some of the many chances you would give someone else to yourself instead. I like the analogy that people are like radiators rather than sunshine(s). If you are a radiator, you make a room warmer, but without you the room will still function. You cannot heat every room on your own, and sometimes you need to be drained, taken out or installed in a new room in order to fulfil your function. Don’t be scared of testing that out. The good rooms will have space for you to come back if you need to." [IM, age 24]
"Embrace what makes you weird and wonderful." [HL, 28]
"Every choice you have made is a good one, no matter how unsatisfied you were with them at the time. Have no regrets. Also know that you are right with your judgement, it just takes longer for you to meet with your gang." [JZ, age 27]
"I wouldn’t worry too much about exams and getting stressed about grades. University is not for everyone, even though it feels like it at 16. I was actually much happier going down a creative pathway, so I guess following your dreams, even if it is against the tide of what everyone else is doing, will always pay off. Your happiness is the most important thing so don’t let anyone take that away from you." [SD, age 21]
"I would tell my 16yo self: It’s okay to struggle with so many insecurities, you’ll grow up and be more secure than you can even comprehend now. Without the experiences you’re going through now, you wouldn’t be who you are in the future." [HA, 27]
"1. Only worry about things that are in your control 2. Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path (These are not original or that I can coin - just stuff that resonates 😂) 3. There’s no such thing as a stupid question. 4. When you ask a question, usually 90% of people in the room are wondering the same thing." [LP, age 30]
"I’d tell her to be careful what she reads and watches and to recognise sexist stereotypes and expectations and realise that they don’t reflect reality and she needn’t be limited by them." [ZH-N, age 25]
"I love that question! My advice would be to focus more on the present instead of living in the future and past. 16 is a really fun age and memories are the most precious thing you have - enjoy being a teenager." [KG, age 25]
"Don’t stop hunting until you find what you love, and then fight for it, work your ass off and no matter how many times you fall always get back up again." [LD, age 25]
"Try not to worry about what people think. It takes true courage to wholeheartedly be yourself so know that if you remain true to who you are, genuine friendships will come in good time. If someone mistreats you, whether verbally, physically or emotionally, let them walk on by (some you might want to give a lil kick 🐴 as they do so *joking). Certainly explore as much as you possibly can: go places you never knew existed, learn to speak languages that once sounded absolutely alien to you, eat things that others would squirm over, take absolutely nothing for granted, work like a dog (to get to where you want) but also love your friends and family more than you thought possible. Know your worth early on and don’t settle for anything less. Finally, reach for the stars ✨ and then share your success with others. 💕" [OH, age 26]