Yesterday was International Day of the Girl Child.
A 14-year old gets shot in Pakistan for having the most normal of opinions; girls across parts of Africa and Asia have their genitalia mutilated and are forced into abusive marriages. Lots of girls don’t even make it into the world, they get “terminated” before birth because apparently they’re “not worth it”. Here in the Western world, we have it easy by comparison. Still, there are a few things I would like to tell my 15-year-old self if I could go back in time:
1. Find out what you’re both passionate about and good at, and stay the course. Remain focused. Don’t feel guilty for wanting it.
2. Don’t believe in fairy tales, movie scripts, and classical gender roles so much. Cut your own path.
3. Don’t feel guilty for being different (or better) – celebrate it! Be honest and assertive about your needs – it’s your right.
4. Be yourself. You might lose a few “friends”, but you’ll make new ones who are better for you; they will love the true you, not some mask, and they will share your ideas. That’s 10,000 times more fulfilling and you won’t waste precious energy pretending.
5. Family is important, for support. But be careful who you marry. A lot of early love is self-suggestion. Marrying the wrong guy can put an end to your dreams. But dreams can rise again from their own ashes. More importantly, don’t allow your hormones to put an end to your self-esteem.
6. Laugh a lot, don’t take it so seriously and give freely to others. That’s the best recipe for avoiding depression. Some will take advantage, but you have the strength to move on.
7. Cut down on that perfectionism. You don’t have to be perfect at all times. You’re allowed to make mistakes. And you definitely don’t have to be nice to everybody under every circumstance. If you feel your resources are dwindling – allow yourself time to replenish, too.