What would you say to your teenage self? Last night I was asked to speak about Adolescences at an amazing event The Journey of women- Health and happiness through the lifespan. After much reflection.....here is my letter to my teenage self
Dear Teenage Kimberli,
Being a teenager is frigin hard... yet the people who have made it through that stage of their lives will keep telling you that it is probably the easiest time of your life. That you go to school only to socialise. That you don’t really have a worry in the world. That you have no pressure. That the world is your oyster.
Maybe this is because they have forgotten. They start adulthood, paying bills, working 9 till 5, possibly get married, made a family and learn to better deal with their emotions (sometimes) and suddenly they can’t remember what it feels like to be on the roller coaster called adolescents. And now that they are on the flip side, believe me that some may want to be back there!
How much it hurts to feel like you don’t fit in, how much you try to fit in, what you will actually do to fit in. How peer pressure and expectations feel, how hard it is to learn adult skills with a teenage mentality- like learning to drive, how to get a boyfriend and keep a boyfriend, how to deal when your heart is broken for the first time, how to not be too promiscuous but not be too fridget. To want so badly to look like that friend, to be smart like her, to be popular like her and to have her sporting ability. I am glad for you that social media wasn’t as big then as it is now... teenagers today have Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram added into the mix. Geez... Dolly, Girlfriend and Cleo magazine comparisons were hard enough.
But... teenage Kimberli, if only you knew then what you know now. How you deserve to be treated. How you needed to learn to love yourself first, before you can let anyone else love you the way that your truly deserve. How your level of self confidence and self worth could have been more positively shaped for the rest of your life. How you could of enjoyed so much more of your teenage years by putting less pressure on yourself- most of this pressure was based on others opinions of you.How being a girl can be hard enough... especially when your being hard on yourself.
How much that first relationship would teach you. That first serious boyfriend, who you ditched your friends for, who you lost your virginity to, who was your entire world, who broke your heart. That heartbreak hurt like hell. It made you understand why it is called a broken heart. It showed you an ever so soft and viscously mean side of your dad. How his heart would break when his little girls does. It has helped you understand that nobody wants to hear that there are ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ even though there are. It has allowed you to listen, hug and simply let others teenage girls know that it ‘just sucks’ and they will survive.
The arguments you had with your mum. Ask Karen (year 9 was a mega bitch year for me!) Sure mum and I laugh about it now but since becoming a mum and having my youngest at times tell me “I’m the worst Mum in the world’ it tears at your heart strings. Learning that we take things out on the people who are closest to us is an important life lesson, as they are generally the ones that put up with our crap so we can act a little psycho towards right? Saying a proper good bye to the ones we love is so important, even when we sometimes feel like slamming a door in their face- which you did to your mum many times.
This is also of no criticism of my mum but I wish teenage Kimberli knew the damage her mum was doing to herself and her three daughters who idolised their Mum so much. When she talked about her size 8 and 55kg frame as being “fat and hideous”. I wish you could have told her to stop. I wish you knew that her negative and hurtful comments were not only affecting her, but the little ears around her. That it was teaching her girls that it is ok to talk to yourself the way you would never dare speak about anyone else. This has made me be extra careful with what I say in front of my beautiful boys. My mum is the most beautiful women I know and I’m so glad that she is finally starting to make peace with the amazing, inspiring and incredible woman that she is.
Who can forget the friendship dramas?! I am someone that is lucky enough to still have a couple of my closest friends being the ones that I went to high school with. Some of those friends are still by your side, they watched your ugly cry for months after that break up... despite me ditching them... they are keepers. Learning who your true friends are is important. Knowing that it really is quality over quantity. Learning that we will not get along with everyone and to agree to disagree in a respectful way is also important. Hard lessons to learn when you are trying to ‘fit in’ and be the stereotypical ‘popular girl.’
Empathy and kindness are underestimated and should always be chosen over popularity. While I think you were always a sensitive and caring person.. I wish you had put yourself in other’s positions more. I would have a couple less regrets.
You have slowly learnt that as females we shouldn’t feel the need to be in competition with each other. We should be in a community together. Support each other and build each other up. I wish as a teenager you valued this. Comparison really is the thief of joy.
And the body image issues... the things that set you up for a lifetime of insecurities and also the things that would make you so passionate about making a difference to other young females life’s.
Analysing your flaws so much that you sometimes missed out on being a teenager. Stopping swimming training and going for runs as my boobs were bigger a than everyone else’s and I hated the thought of them being the thing that everyone associated with Kimberli. The years that boys referred to them as the Kimberli Ranges.
You got your periods earlier too, making you feel different to your friends. I remember sitting on the lounge in tears wearing a surf board pad and refusing to move- this hasn’t changed some months!
Wetting my thick, wavy and outta control hair every recess and lunch at high school to tame it. Even in winter. Dieting to lose weight. Doing 300 sit-ups in bed every morning before allowing myself to get up.
Going to parties and drinking way too much because you liked the drunk teenage kimberli more than the sober one. Having lowered inhibitions and more confidence felt good. Engagement in risk taking behaviours partly because you wanted to experiment but partly because you didn’t value your worth for what you are worth.
Trying to be cool and follow the trends in fashion... some successes and some failures. Learning to wear what you feel comfortable in, learning what suits your body shape and skin tone, wearing what makes you feel beautiful in is something i have learnt a long the way- this has resulted in far less tantrums when getting ready. In all honesty, they do still occasionally occur!
Mostly I wish you learnt to be grateful for your body and what it will and can do- not for how it does or doesn’t look.
Missing out on things from feeling self conscience or the fear of embarrassing yourself and still myself is one of my biggest regrets. I wish you did more things like the skinny dipping excursions at parties with your closest girlfriends. Those sparkle moments are the ones that make us feel alive. Only a few months ago at a Year 7 Camp with school I played spotlight with the students and couldn’t stop laughing- all the kids knew where I was hiding - I was so loud! I was holding my crouch trying hard not to pee my pants (hoping the pelvic floor talk later will help me with this!) , but apart from that feeling... it was the best in the world. We all need to hold onto and recreate those moments.These are the moments are what life is all about. It doesn’t matter what stage of the life cycle we are at! Don’t forget that little girl inside of you!
Giving and receiving compliments is something that females are often not great at. Teenage Kimberli, knowing that your mum isn’t calling you beautiful because she has too, that people are not on your back to make your life more difficult- it’s because they care and speaking the truth and giving someone a genuine compliment is one of the nicest things you can do. Things I try to practice everyday now... but wish you knew the value of back then.
Teenage Kimberli... you should have worn more sunscreen to prevent having such a freckled face and noticeable crows feet today. But you also did laugh and generally enjoy being a teenager which helped your wrinkles be a little deeper and that tells a good story... so I don’t regret that.
I learnt that watching the teenage Aussie drama Home and Away is still one of my favourite self care activities that I can mindlessly do every weeknight. Another thing I don’t regret. And also learning that although other people think my Summer Bay obsession is lame/sad/pathetic I don’t care. I like it and that’s what matters most! I can proudly tell the teenage you that I went on the Flaming Galahs Tour earlier this year and I loved every minute!
I think you were a pretty “normal” teenage. Plenty of amazing times that shaped your adulthood, plenty of difficult times that also taught you lessons.... like your sisters would one day be your best friends.
Teenage Kimberli I am proud of you. Sure I’d do a few things differently but overall you have made me into 20 year old Kimberli and then 30 ..... ok 30 something year old Kimberli and for that I am grateful. Your teenage experiences and working with teenagers is the back bone of The Girl Campaign aiming to make others realise some of these messages that I didn’t receive as early as I would have liked.
Love always a more self aware and self loving Kimberli