When you’re dealing with lots of changes in your life and body, it’s hard to really know who you are.
I get it. When I was a teen, I struggled with a lot of sudden changes. The girls who I thought were my best friends as a kid no longer talked to me and I didn’t understand why. Suddenly they were shopping at the mall and flirting with guys while I was staying in to study.
On top of that, my body was quickly changing and all of the advice from teen magazines just made me even more confused.
It’s now been 20 years since my first year as a teen. My confidence is still a work in progress, but I’ve learned some things over the years that I’d love to share with my teen self.
1. Own What You Do
Be proud of who you are and what you do. This is what it means to be truly confident.
As a teen, I studied hard, made good grades, and practiced my viola for hours each day. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, all of those parent-pleasing activities just added to my teenage anxiety. I liked school and loved orchestra, but, like many teen girls, I was bullied for my nerdy interests.
Find what you love and what excites you. Maybe it’s math or softball or show choir. Embrace your passions and don’t let anyone else steal your excitement. Having true passion is the best confidence-builder out there, so stay strong and own it!
2. Forget About the Makeup
When I was a teen, I was so bad at putting on makeup. I was the last of my friends to care about it and, not surprisingly, the worst at figuring out how to wear it. But all the other girls were wearing it and magazines said I was supposed to be wearing it, so I kept on trying.
Now, I don’t want to leave you hanging for a happy ending. Maybe you think I persevered and blossomed into a talented, fashionable makeup artist. But that’s not my reality. So if I could talk to “Teen Megan” today, I’d tell her it doesn’t get any easier. Not for her anyway. And that’s ok.
At 33, I still don’t get it. And instead of wasting a single hour watching YouTube tutorials, I’m finally comfortable not wearing makeup and, more importantly, not feeling guilty about it.
We all have something like that. The things we try so hard to care about as teens because we’re told that we’re supposed to. Whatever yours is, just let it go. Knowing what does and doesn’t matter to you takes real confidence.
3. Your Changing Body Doesn’t Define You
I was 12 years old when I had my first period. But with a frail, petite frame and no other physical signs of puberty, I felt and looked like a child. That same year, I was the only girl at a sleepover not wearing a bra and, therefore, couldn’t participate in the “bra-strap popping game.” I went home the next day and begged my mom to buy me a bra, any bra, just to fit in.
I could not have guessed how rapidly my body would develop by age 15.
At both ends of the spectrum, I let my body define who I was. When I was skinny and flat-chested, I believed that no one would ever be attracted to me. Once I had been “blessed” with large breasts, I thought that was all I had to offer as a woman. Boys in high school commented on my breasts right to my face, and I didn’t see any reason to stop them.
Since then, I’ve loved, hated, and been content with my body. But my perception of my body no longer determines the way I feel about myself.
Nourish your body, treat it with care, and you’ll learn to love the results. Your body will continue to change over time, but you are so much more than the way you look.
My teen years weren’t documented on Facebook (phew!), but I still remember those awkward years when I learned who I was and what I stood for.
I know how overwhelming everything feels, but give yourself some credit. Becoming a confident woman takes time, so go easy on yourself along the way.
Don’t waste these fun years comparing yourself to others. Instead, find passions and friends that bring you joy. Over time, you’ll discover all the great things that you alone can offer to the world.
By Megan Baird