Blog Battle: What Can I Learn From My Teenage Self

March 26, 2013

I got a good laugh when I opened the Blog Battle e-mail containing the above prompt. I’m fairly certain I would disregard just about any message teenage me tried to send along. I’ve learned lessons from my myriad of mistakes growing up and I’m certain any advice he has left to give shouldn’t be heeded as it’s probably terrible. Teenage me was less informed, more stressed out, less empathetic and busy making bad decisions. It’s not surprising that if you ask people what they would tell their younger selves, they have a laundry list of painful life lessons they’d love to have avoided learning the hard way, yet they would likely stare at you blankly if asked the reverse. A far more interesting prompt would have been “What have I learned from my teenage self?” and I’ll address that.


Regardless of whether it’s a job, romance, or other opportunity it’s easy to allow fear of rejection to keep you from taking risks. If we don’t expose ourselves, there’s no possible repercussions, completely disregarding all the missed opportunities that route entails. It takes practice to become more comfortable with rejection, but along with handling criticism this is a skill that will benefit you greatly. It’s important to realize that while rejection won’t stop feeling bad, you can recognize how much of the fear is just self-delusion and work toward welcoming future opportunities.

Assigning Motivations

We’ve all muttered, “What the hell was that guy thinking?” to ourselves, and likely on more than one occasion. Subconsciously or not we often answer that question. We assign motivations to the actions of others, many times extrapolating long chains of causality. Looking back over my teenage years I often assumed the worst; if someone’s actions caused me disturbance it seemed I would always attribute their actions to ignorance or malevolence. I’ve found it helpful to play devil’s advocate when I find myself doing this and I try to find good intentions that could have lead to the action that’s causing me grief. I find it more relaxing to assume the best of others, instead of the worst.

Decisions for Yourself

Arguably the most important process we go through during our teenage years is that of becoming our own individuals. It’s incredibly hard to throw off years of seeking parental approval and realizing that you need to be making decisions that you’ll be happy with, not just ones that will make others happy. I ended up in college with a major I was certainly capable of but had no real interest in just because it made my parents happy. Losing my father during freshman year caused a lot of re-evaluations of what I was doing with my life and was the first hard wake-up call from reality that I needed to be responsible to myself first. I ended up changing majors and I’ve never regretted that decision. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t consider the impact of our decisions on those around us, but at the end of the day you need to be able to live with the decisions you make.