Relationships

Advice to My Younger Self

Nancy Meyers

What advice would you give your younger self? Tricks I wish I’d known earlier: go on more walks (even in the winter), buy a coat that is actually warm, truly listen to others. So, in the spirit of listening and learning, here are the wise words of 11 smart women…

“Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less… You will be able to go around the world, learning languages, speaking to everybody, because no one can be more human than you or be less human. They can be meaner or crueler, or sweeter or prettier, younger, richer, but they can’t be more human than you. Remember that.” — Maya Angelou

“Don’t worry so much about finding the answers and finding love and finding success. Just do your work. Live your life. Be kind. Be good. Pay your own electric bill. It’s going to turn out okay.” — Cheryl Strayed

“Stop with the self-tanner! It’s enough!” — Emma Stone

“Stop being so afraid! That’s really what strikes me when I look back — the sheer amount of time I spent tangled up in fears and doubts that were entirely of my own creation… Focus more on learning than on succeeding — instead of pretending that you understand something when you don’t, just raise your hand and ask a question. You’re a smart girl, and chances are if you’re confused, plenty of other students are too. And for heaven’s sake, let yourself really fail once in a while — not some tiny little mistakes here and there, but big, glaring, confidence-shaking, dark-night-of-the-soul-inducing failures. Understand that no one — especially folks who are truly successful — simply coasts from achievement to achievement. The most accomplished people in the world fail and fail big. That’s how they learn so much and grow so quickly and become so interesting and wise. In short, stop trying to be someone who will impress everyone else, and just focus on being and becoming fully, sincerely and passionately yourself.” — Michelle Obama

“If you don’t like the world the way it is, change it — one step at a time. Be prepared for how long change might take and how hard it will sometimes be. Always remember the quote you wrote in your diary after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak: ‘If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving.’ ” — Marian Wright Edelman

“­Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.” — Margaret Atwood

“Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful — be concerned with doing good work and make the right choices and protect your work. And if you build a good name, eventually, that name will be its own currency.” — Patti Smith

“You cannot predict everything. Yes, bad things will happen but they’re totally different bad things than you can imagine. Same with the wonderful things. So stop trying to predict and control the future, and enjoy the weird magic of right now.” — Lena Dunham

“INVEST FIFTY BUCKS IN THE STOCK MARKET EVERY MONTH!! You don’t need to eat out so much. Think of all that compound interest!” — Naomi Wolf

“Don’t take my advice, that’s the advice I would give you. Because the important thing is that you listen to the wisdom that’s inside yourself. Do what you love. Do what makes you forget what time it is when you’re doing it because you love it so much. Find your unique talents. And find the people who make you feel smart and make you feel good and hang out with them, because we all need that kind of support.” — Gloria Steinem

“Calm down.” — Nancy Meyers

P.S. Career advice from smart women, and thoughts on aging.

(Top photo of Nancy Meyers writing Private Benjamin, 1979. Via Instagram.)

  1. I loved reading this :-)))) It’s boosted my spirits and made me feel more inspired.

    Gosh I love Michelle Obama.

    Thank you Stella for such a fab round up!

    http://www.thislifeisbelle.com

  2. Julie says...

    My advice would be to go outside every day no matter how I was feeling, and to reach out to other people more in hard times and let myself be known. Life is easier that way.

  3. Hannah K says...

    The advice I got that I follow:
    1. Look after your teeth.
    2. Being on anti-depressants is nothing to be embarrased about.
    3. Wear sunscreen.
    4. Its okay to be 31 and have no clue.

  4. Audra says...

    I really love all of these…great post!

  5. I’d tell myself that sometimes it’s ok to let things unfold on their own. It’s good to have a plan and do your part in order to make things happen, but it’s not healthy to be “on” 100% of the time. A watched pot never boils, and sometimes the moment you relax a bit is when the best things come to you.

  6. Lili says...

    My mom was a very cool ceramic artist and also a very cool lady. She passed away when I was a kid but I recently found this quote in an interview she gave in 1999 (a great year). “It never occurred to me that my career would last this long, but I was recently struck by the fact that I’ve spent the last 29 years perfecting a specific idea. When I ask myself how I’ve stayed with it for so long, I remember a dream I had many years ago. I dreamed I was walking down a long road and that the road was my work. The sun was setting at the end of the road, and all I had to do to get to this exquisite sunset was keep walking.”

    When I think about my own work, I remember this and it reminds me to keep walking.

    • Melisa says...

      That is beautiful. What an amazing gift your mom gave to you and now to all of us:)

  7. Nadja says...

    The best advice I ever got was “you don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with,” from a good friend in high school.

    So simple, but so freeing – it’s important to remember that as women and as people we are NEVER obligated to do or say certain things! It is okay for me to put my comfort before other people’s.

  8. Thank you for this post.
    – Learn kindness, it is not just someting to “be”; it is a spiritual practice. If you cannot summon kindness, take yourself away from the situation and be kind to yourself first.
    – Learn that “be kind” can sometimes be more way to tell a woman to be compliant and shut up.
    – If you can’t summon kindness, practice calm civility, and refuse to sink to meanness.

  9. I don’t say this to all of you at Cup of Jo nearly often enough, but:

    Thank you so much for your service. Thank you for the ways that you give your time and talents to build up all those you can reach. I’m so grateful for your work.

    Thanks especially, Stella, for this post today.

    • this is SO NICE! and so so true. i will say ditto to all that. we need to remember to say these kinds of thanks.

  10. Cindy says...

    This was such a wonderful post and so timely in my life. Thanks for posting!

  11. Such beautiful and inspiring post, a perfect weekend read! All these quotes are amazing but the one from Patti Smith is everything! xx

  12. Great post, first time here and I will be coming back!<3

  13. Oh I so needed that advice from Michelle Obama. It’s perfect for where I am right now. Thank you for sharing :)

  14. Sophie says...

    You are not in control of other people’s emotions. For example, should someone become annoyed because you can’t do something, that’s not your fault. They have a huge list of other emotions to choose from.

  15. April says...

    If possible, live by yourself at least once. It’s a powerful thing knowing you can pay your own way and enjoy your own company!

    • April says...

      Also, don’t pluck your eyebrows!

  16. I love this, thank you!

    I had an ex-boyfriend who gave me advice in my mid-twenties I wish I’d known all my life: “Only care what the people you love think. F*ck the rest.” Would have saved me SO much time worrying what people were thinking about me in high school and college!

    I also wish I’d understood the concept of sacrifice and priorities. “You cannot have it all” is something I’ve had to learn over time. If you want an amazing body, you can’t eat all the time and not exercise, if you want a steady income, you can’t give up your day job, if you want a stable relationship, you can’t have butterflies all the time. For everything you want you have to give up another thing, and that’s ok. Maybe this is obvious to some people but it took me a while to really get it.

    • I love this advice, Mary Kate, it’s so simple but true! It’s something I’ve really come to understand just in the past few years.

    • Anna says...

      Oh, I really love this advice too… and something I’ve only learned recently (and I’m in my mid-late 30s) and wish I’d known sooner! Particularly with motherhood I think for a couple of years I tried to do it ALL (work full time in a demanding job and try to be an amazing mother)… and it was SO hard (e.g., doing the laundry some nights at 3am). I was so exhausted and unhappy and unwell. It took me a long time to realise that most of life is about trade-offs – there is no “perfect” decision or situation – it’s more about weighing up what’s most important and then accepting the trade-offs that come with those decisions.

  17. Amanda says...

    This has been bothering me all week….and in my stern belief that financial knowledge is crucial for women and women’s rights, I have to say it: You don’t make interest on stocks. Stocks yield dividends. Interest is paid on fixed-rate investments, and is what you earn by lending money through that investment. Interest is income that is promised. Dividends, on the other hand, are a share of the profit for purchasing a share of a company. You are not guaranteed dividends as a shareholder. Also, the compounding of dividend growth (if dividends are reinvested) is different than the compounding of interest.

    • Yes, good catch. I agree, it’s so important for women to understand how to manage and invest your money. Do you have any online resources you’d recommend?

  18. Kristy says...

    “no one can be more human than you or be less human. They can be meaner or crueler, or sweeter or prettier, younger, richer, but they can’t be more human than you. Remember that.” — Maya Angelou

    I was thinking about this idea but in regards to our politicians, haha. I always had this subconscious idea (even if I rationally know it’s not true) that public officials (not the scandal-y ones) are more just, more noble, more moral. But they’re just people. They have no reason to be more good, they just have more power.

  19. Marta says...

    Without a doubt, I would tell my 20-year old: Don´t lie yourself!
    Sometimes, to please others and get away from situations, I would lie so much to my inner self. Be true to you. If not, you will be believing the lie you tell others! Listen yourself.

    A big kiss from Spain!

  20. forgive yourself the mistakes you’ve made, big and small, love your insecurities and the gap between your front teeth, count your blessings every night, they are many …
    and believe that you can meet the right man when you weren’t expecting to at all … you are completely “good enough” for him and this whole wonderful life thing!

  21. Anna says...

    I really loved all of these! Thank you for this wonderful post!!!

  22. Nicole says...

    Wonderful quotes there COJ team – they are so inspiring!

    Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard are in Baz Luhrmann’s song “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen”. Every time I listen to it I pick up on something new that resonates with me depending on what I’m going through.

  23. Angela says...

    Michelle and Cheryl, FTW.

  24. Alla says...

    Women can “have it all”, just not at the same time.
    Don’t be so damn hard on yourself, you do the best you can, with the information you have at the time!
    And lastly, LAUGH! There is so much to be joyous about!

  25. Colleen says...

    Can Michelle Obama come back from vacation and be my mama?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      OMG ME TOO PLEASE!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Yes, please.

  26. Claire says...

    Fake it until you make it; but walk and live, with a subtle swagger, remembering you are the only you! Find your grace, kindness, sass and an openmindness to make you wise.

  27. Oh man, as per always, this post highlights everything I love so dearly about COJ. So much wisdom from women. And continues to be highlighted through the comments of all the other readers! You have created such an incredibly thoughtful, wise community here. Thank you.

    Also, I would tell my younger self:
    Lean in to your passions instead of running away. They will only grow stronger and more urgent with time, and you will become less and less satisfied spending your time ignoring them. If something feels fun and too easy to be a real job, that is probably exactly what you should be doing!

  28. liz says...

    Dear younger self –
    there is value in being kind
    you will be so happy if you use sunscreen every day – really truly – skin cancer is no fun,
    brush and floss like its your religion – you will seriously miss your teeth when they are gone
    if you got it flaunt it – don’t apologize for it
    you don’t need a man to buy you a home
    enjoy the long winding journey, your path isn’t meant to be orderly or straight
    you are stronger and smarter than you realize

  29. Ana. says...

    – Beware of envious people who subtlety belittle your Self and your aspirations. Always listen to your feelings after interacting with people. If you often find yourself feeling bad about yourself after spending time with someone, ask yourself what is going on. It is possible that – usually not consciously – this person is conveying you how THEY feel about themselves. Don’t get mixed up with their feelings, keep your distances, and move on with your life. Of course, use that advice wisely ;)

    Last advice: psychotherapy can really help the growing process we go through in our 20’s.

  30. Ines says...

    My advice to my younger self would be to really truly listen to my gut when I feel I am being direspected or mistreated. So often I have attempted to rationalize my feelings by telling myself I’m over reacting but the truth is, when bad things have happened in my relationships I always saw it coming but was too chicken to deal with it in the first place. This goes for friendships, work, family, love and even casual interactions. It’s not always worth a confrontation or big blowout but maybe just saying to the other person”hey, that didn’t feel too great”.

  31. Justine says...

    Just read this in Maria Semple’s latest novel, Today Will Be Different: Change is the goal. Insight is the booby prize.

  32. Miriam says...

    I turned 35 today so this is perfect timing! If I could go back 20 years to give my 15 year old self some (extensive!) advice I would say:

    -Don’t live your life trying to please other people or gain their approval. (35yr old me is still working on this so please do me a favour & break the habit now while you’re young!)

    – You don’t need to spend excessive amounts of time or stress studying & to be the ‘perfect’ student. It is not normal how sad & stressed you feel. Doing your best doesn’t mean studying every hour of the day. It means learning how to relax, take breaks & take care of yourself. Its totally ok to be ‘average’. (See above!)

    – The art room is the one place you feel really happy & free to be yourself . Embrace this. Pursue it despite what common sense and other people tell you. You won’t be the next great artist, but I promise that there are far more careers available in the wider world of visual arts than you have ever even heard of yet! Just enjoy the process & see where it takes you. You have plenty of time to figure it out.

    – Really appreciate & value your friendships. Some will last & others will only be for a particular stage in your life. Be there for your friends in sickness as well as health because even though you can’t comprehend it yet disease & suffering will enter your lives. You won’t know how to handle it & that’s ok because you’re still young. But do be kind and thoughtful. Offer to go with your friend to doctor appointments & sit beside her hospital bed no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel. Go the extra mile to spend time with her & find small ways to show that you care. You will never ever regret it.

    – Laugh more! Learn to enjoy life. Appreciate & be grateful for every wonderful silly teenage moment you are living. Don’t wish it away. Occasionally let yourself be a just little irresponsible. Go ahead & dye your hair purple! Wear the weird clothes you want to instead of trying to fit in. Kiss an unsuitable boy. Have fun!

    – Give up the stupid piano lessons you hate & take those dance classes you have always wanted to. You are most definitely not too old! The aim is to have fun, not to become a prima ballerina!

    – Life is not going to turn out in any way how you imagine or hope. Don’t be scared & don’t despair. It will be hard & it will hurt but it is always always worth living. (BTW I know you can’t stand the parents right now, but you can trust them. They will love and care for you unconditionally!)

    • sam says...

      wow, I could have written this! Any chance you can tell this 35 year old what career you chose? I’m still studying and still trying to figure it out!

  33. B says...

    When I was young, I always worried about making mistakes or the wrong decision, as if there was only one right decision or one way to do things. I wish I could tell myself not to worry so much, because life is something you figure out as you go and sometimes the ‘right’ decision looks wrong later or the ‘wrong’ decision takes you to exactly the place you need to be. And the most wonderful things can happen when you let go of trying to plan and control everything and let life take you unexpected places.

  34. Claire says...

    Just APPLY to art school! Don’t be afraid to follow a different path than everybody else.

    • Miriam says...

      Ah me too! :) I wish I had been strong enough to embrace my love for art instead of going for a more conventional & safe career.

  35. What I would say to my younger self:

    “Watch and Listen to the signs life throws at you–everyone’s signs will be different, so it doesn’t matter what the person next to you is doing. Some signs will come into your life with bright blinking lights, don’t be scared just roll with it.”

    xo Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

  36. K. says...

    I would tell myself to use sunscreen, stop smoking and don’t spend more than you have. Also, those heartbreaking relationships that feel so important in your youth really won’t even register in your 40s. If he or she doesn’t want you, it’s really going to be ok. It feels hard but it really does pass. Find 2 or 3 good true friends rather than legions of friends/acquaintances who don’t make you feel good.

    And in light of women being shut down on the senate floor and elsewhere: your voice matters. Speak up and to echo the first comment, don’t make yourself small. Be authentic and make yourself heard no matter what others try to suppress in you.

    • Ines says...

      Your voice matters! This <333

  37. Rachel says...

    I was big into Glennon Melton for a long time. A quote of hers is, “It’s not a woman’s job to get smaller and smaller until she disappears so the world can be more comfortable.” I repeat it to myself A LOT. It’s so tempting to try to fade in the background and not rock the boat. But I always feel best when I’m truly passionate about something and allow myself to really feel it and express it – and embrace the discomfort. Women can move mountains.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i LOVE that.

  38. L says...

    Wow – brava CoJ community – way to be consistently amazing! For me, I wish I had known the true dangers of perfectionism much earlier. I think being a perfectionist has hindered me in so many ways and made things so much more stressful than they needed to be. And even though I am older and wiser about it now those tendencies still haunt my decision making. It is so frustrating! So a huge, heartfelt Amen to MO’s quote – I so wish my younger self could have heard that and really taken it to heart. But it’s never too late and I’m still working on how to try and fail and be my radically imperfect self (even publicly)!

  39. Hannah says...

    Love these comments! I loved this piece of advice Sally Field gave her 25 year old self – “Your thighs are as good as they’re ever going to get. So bend down and kiss them, and quit criticizing them.”

    Here’s mine…
    -If he wants you, you’ll know.
    -Save save save. Just a little bit a time, just save something.
    -Read all the books you can.
    -Wash your face every night, your baby skin won’t last forever.
    -Learn a different language, it’s gonna haunt you forever you chose to take Latin over French or Spanish.
    -Call your grandmother.

    • Cynthia says...

      I’m a Latin teacher, and while Latin is not spoken, it helps with vocabulary, grammar, and the origins of many of our customs and ideas. Latin makes learning a second language easier.

    • Shanze says...

      I am bilingual regardless but I absolutely LOVE that I took Latin all the way through college- its a foundational part of western culture, language & mores. In fact – my advice to highschool/middle grade me would be take at least a year of Latin!!

  40. So many things that we could tell ourselves if only we could turn back time… however i also think that it’s not too late to start doing some of the things that we regretted not doing, now.

  41. Kate says...

    To my younger self: Anxiety is horrible, and millions struggle just as you have. As you get older, you will meet many people fighting similar battles. Be open. Share your struggles with others. Brene Brown says ” Shame cannot survive being spoken- it cannot survive empathy. Shame depends on me buying into the belief that I am alone.” You are not alone. Voice your fears to empathetic listeners and do not let that fear take over. Find professional help, or a friend, that can walk through your hard times. Take care of yourself, get enough sleep, find an exercise you love and make it a habit. Drink more water and less alcohol. Know you are strong and beautiful just as you are and your perceived flaws do not make you weak- but rather real and human.

    • Carrie says...

      That’s very touching. I can really relate to you. One of the worst things about anxiety is the shame you feel for experiencing it. Why does it take so.much.courage. to open up to others about it??

  42. Anon says...

    At 22, you don’t need a house, a husband or a dog.

    • So simple yet so true!

  43. Sharon in Scotland says...

    Dear Sharon,
    Don’t be so afraid,
    Don’t compare yourself unfavourably to your sisters, you are you.
    You are not the size of a house.
    Men?…………..you need to get out there, have fun and not stay in on a Saturday night, ironing your younger sister’s going out gear.
    You’re okay…………….you’ve got this

    Love Sharon x x

  44. Teree says...

    Stop worrying about the opinions of people whom you don’t respect. I spent way too many years wanting people (especially at work) to like me when I didn’t even like them. Craziness.

    • Sabrina says...

      AMEN to that!

    • Brianna says...

      Yes. I’m struggling with this myself. It’s been a learning curve to focus on my job and not worry about what others think.

    • I struggle with this every single day, still!

  45. Joan says...

    As a woman in my early 20s entering into public service, recent events have made this even more daunting and scary. Thank you for this post and for this community!

  46. Wow, never thought I’d actually find Lena Dunham relatable, but that was exactly what I needed to hear today! Thanks for sharing these. <3

  47. Laura says...

    Amazing post, thank you! Needed this today.

    My advice to my younger self and that I will tell my daughter if I have one: Don’t let guys treat you badly. Do not stand for it, even if it’s just a sly comment. They should make you laugh and feel good, otherwise move on! I stuck with a selfish and mean guy for 2 years and I saw those traits on the first date. I was so excited about him and the date that I tucked the red flags away. He didn’t change of course. If I met someone like that now I would literally get up from dinner and walk out and go have a drink with my friends or Netflix. He deserved for me to do that and I wish I would have had the strength!

    • Lauren says...

      Agree with this so much! It has taken me years to have the comfort and love for myself to follow this advice…

  48. Allegra says...

    This was your best post in the longest time. Thank you.

  49. Nicole Brant says...

    Terrific posts. All wise, wonderful women. I especially liked Michelle Obama & Lena Dunham’s. Most notably “they’re totally different bad things than you can imagine”.
    That really struck me. So true and somehow comforting.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, and SO true.

  50. Stop wasting time feeling guilty about your choices. Own them…even if it means that your choice to eat french fries instead of a salad requires you to run a mile….who cares? Those fries were good as hell!

    • Brier says...

      It’s so freeing when you can actually achieve it!

    • Laura says...

      Heck yes!!

  51. Mags says...

    “Document the moments you feel most in love with yourself – what you’re wearing, who you’re around, what you’re doing. Recreate and repeat.” Warsan Shire.

    And-breathe. REALLY b r e a t h e. Inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. You are enough.

    • Off to go and do some deep breathing now… hopefully it’ll help with this general anxiety I’m feeling today!

  52. Love! What would I tell my younger self? I guess its the things I tell my son now: Allow yourself to feel more joy. Don’t complain so much – focus on the good. People are mean because they feel bad about themselves, don’t take it personally. Not everyone will like you – in fact, most people won’t because they don’t like themselves so just like and love yourself. Fill your life with laughter. Remember, life is beautiful. Be a problem solver not a giver-upper. Do what makes you happy. Have a career that allows you to have the life you love, not a career that is your life. Remember and remind yourself about what a great person you are everyday.

  53. LOL’ed at Nancy Meyer’s quote. So wise.
    My favorites :
    1) Yours. Because walks are SO GOOD FOR THE SOUL – thanks for the reminder.
    2) Maya Angelou’s about us all being human. <3
    3) Michelle Obama's to stop being afraid. Just within this past year, I've started DECIDING that I'm not going to let fear get in the way of doing things – traveling, meeting new people, trying new endeavors. The simple act of just making that decision has lead me to so many wonderful opportunities (and people), and you realize things aren't nearly as scary as you make them out to be.
    Anyway, thank you for this today. <3
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

  54. Girl, in 1997 your eyes will lock with those of a gorgeous man – KEEP. ON. WALKING.

    • Meredith says...

      Ahhh…..me too! Same damn year. Actually you should probably just run.

  55. Emily says...

    All. The. Feels. Michelle Obama is a hero.

  56. Carrie says...

    Oh to my younger self… Sweet girl, please be strong. Have some foresight and realize these bad choices you’re making right now will hurt you one day. Run as far away as you can from bad influences. It all feels weightless now, but later in life it will be a heavy burden you will have to carry for a while.

  57. Lauren says...

    I listened to my dad’s advice to college me which was “never get into consumer debt” and I am proud to say at 32 I have never carried a balance on my credit cards. It is so easy, especially with online shopping, to buy things without much thought, but budgeting and staying out of consumer debt is so important. Living within your means is key.

    Also agree with the sunscreen and condoms :)

    Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful comments and advice ladies!! x

  58. Lena says...

    I got this advice when I was about 18, and I listened:

    Never cheap out on a can opener.

    I bought the best can opener at the store, and I’ve not had to worry about opening cans. Later, I applied the advice to scissors: get a good pair of scissors for the kitchen, ones that won’t break when cutting something tough.

    It’s a small thing, but amazing how that extra $5 can spare you so many headaches later on.

    • Cynthia says...

      Also, get the best knives you can afford. Our knives are 28 years old and still going strong.

    • Deb says...

      Haha. I actually have the opposite advice. Having tried can-openers at all points on the price spectrum, it’s the super-cheap-no-bells-and-whistles one that has stood the test of time! (All its parts are metal – I wonder if that’s the difference; no cheap plastic.)

      I am sooooooooooooo interesting ;-).

  59. Laura says...

    Soooo… how do you invest in the stock market? A post on that would be great.

    – nervous 20 something year old that is clueless about the stock market world

    • Allegra says...

      This really would be a great topic for a Cup of Jo post.

    • Tara says...

      Yes! I was going to suggest the same (and I’m 34 :/)

    • jen says...

      There companies that let you invest directly–look online for dividend reinvestment plans. I built up a portfolio over 15 years investing 30 to 40 each month.

    • Justine says...

      One of my fave Liz Lemon quotes: “I’ve got like 12 grand in checking”. That’s me. And its getting worse. My girlfriends and I are all looking for trustworthy advice re. investing.

    • Mary says...

      Ellevest or Vanguard are both good companies that will invest your money. They charge very low fees (called a ‘fiduciary’), which is key. Just link your bank account for an automatic deposit and they invest in a variety of well-performing stocks. I also invest my spare change through an App called Acorns.

    • Cynthia says...

      Check out Scottrade. We have accounts with them. Easy to open, buy, sell, and manage. Very, very affordable.

    • Elle says...

      It’s easier and more diversified (safer) to buy a stock-index mutual fund and invest across the market.

      And Naomi should know by now that she won’t ever get “compound interest” from the stock market! You might make a profit if things work out, but you can also lose money. You want nice, safe, predictable compound interest? That’s what banks offer, but interest rates are currently too low to make it worthwhile to “invest” there. Keep money in the bank as your emergency-fund cash. If interest rates to go up, then savings bonds, CDs and even your bank account will become better “investments.”

    • Becky says...

      I was given the book “investing from scratch, the handbook for the young investor” by my boyfriends mother. After I got over being offended I realized it was one of the most important things I ever read.
      The other advice is the wealthy barber’s – always save 10% of your income no matter how small.

    • yesss this would be a GREAT topic. something I’d really like to learn more about doing (or how to start.)

    • Meredith says...

      At the very least, each and every one of you should be contributing $5500 annually to a Roth IRA. That money is put in after you pay taxes on it so you’ll never pay taxes on it again. Plus the amount you invest is always available to you if you need it, with no penalties. You just can’t withdraw any gains until your retirement. Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund is a pretty middle of the road investment vehicle. And Vanguard charges very low fees. Not a Vanguard employee, just have invested with them for years and they are an honest company.

  60. This really helped me today. I recently left my job to pursue a pretty significant career change, and I’ve wasted a lot of time thinking about how I’m starting at the bottom and everyone else is so much further ahead. But I’m working on it :) Thank you!

    • Carrie says...

      The best of luck to you!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      good luck, nicole! rooting for you! xoxoxo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      PS for what it’s worth, my mom was a stay-at-home mom with her three kids until we were in high school. she wanted to start a career but felt it might be too late in life. she went back to school for accounting, but hated it (she would cry doing her homework at our kitchen table, after we were in bed). so she thought really hard about what she really loved and it was psychology. she had always known she loved it but had thought she should do something more “practical.” but she followed her heart and took some undergrad courses at a local college (in her 40s) to get pre-recs, and then applied to grad school and went to grad school! it was so inspiring. she always reminds us now that you have SO much time in life, and people always feel like everything needs to be done by a certain age, but there is so much time and so much future ahead of you! xoxoxo

    • Lizzie says...

      Wow, Joanna, your mom sounds amazing and her story is so inspiring!

    • Sara says...

      I struggle with this, too. Although I’m still relatively “successful” in terms of my role right now, I also see peers of mine who got started in my field several years earlier and are now a few notches up on the career ladder. However, I really try to focus on the fact that I’ve taken the time to discover what I really want to do and if I had to pay the price of a slightly delayed career trajectory, then so be it! It’s much better to be happy.

    • Thank you Jo for sharing this, I had no idea your mum had gone back to grad school in her 40s!
      You’ve hit the nail on the head by saying things have to be “done” by a certain age, this is a thought which has been on my mind a lot lately… It feels great to see in writing that no, it doesn’t have to be that way.
      THANK YOU xoxo

  61. melissa says...

    *arms flaying frantically above head*
    Wait! One second! Hold on!
    Always, always, always get a condom. Always. Always use protection. Even “just the tip” still counts and can impact you negatively for the rest of your life.
    I left my 20s and 30s free and clear THANK GOD, but I still routinely think back on how lucky I was because….lets face it, we all have those ill thought out moments. If I could go back, I would FOR SURE tell my younger self this. So scary.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!!!!!! another tip from naomi wolf was, simply, “condoms, condoms, condoms.”

    • June2 says...

      @joanna g: amen, lol

  62. Louisa says...

    Live so that one day you can tell your daughter, “Nevertheless, I persisted.”

    • YES. this.

    • Juliette says...

      Absolutely, and timely ;)

    • Amy says...

      *high five*

  63. SFORD says...

    Speak up. You have as much right as anyone else to have your own opinion. Don’t be embarrassed to express it. Also, lose touch with ‘friends’ who put you down, drain your energy and take but not give. It doesn’t matter that they are in the ‘cool’ crowd. You are better off without them. Finally, Don’t worry – Plan B often works out better than Plan A.

  64. Cazmina says...

    Oh man, that quote from Maya Angelou hit me right in the feels.

    I’m still relatively young (30) but my advice to my younger self would be:
    * Stop trying to impress the wrong people.
    * Don’t worry that you’re too old or lacking talent if there’s something you really want to learn, just give it a go. (current me still probably needs reminding of that one, actually)
    * You won’t like all the people you meet, and not all of them will like you, and there ain’t much you can do about it. Just be kind and be yourself.
    * Learn to pick your battles. You don’t need to always be right.

    I guess the thing is we only become wise enough to give this advice through our experiences. I could have read all this advice when I was younger and I doubt much of it would have prevented me from making the same mistakes.

  65. Rachael says...

    YES! To all of this! The post and all of these amazing comments. In happy tears over here reading all of them. This is such an incredible community of women with some of the best advice ever. To my younger self- don’t worry about finding a partner in your 20’s, you’ll find the man of your dreams when the time is right and it will be worth every second of the wait. I wish I would have spent more time just having fun with my girlfriends and enjoying different experiences rather than worrying about settling down. I am now 35 (going on 36) with the most amazing husband and almost 9 month old. If I had known what I know now, I would have felt a lot more at ease within myself to just have fun and know that things happen the way they are supposed to. Also, the diets… Just stop. After carrying a baby, birthing a baby, and still currently breastfeeding, I am in absolute awe of what our bodies are capable of. My body has changed so much since my 20’s, but I have such a better appreciation for it and so much more self love for myself. Women really do rule the world! xo

    • Hillary says...

      Word.

    • I really love these but I’m commenting just because it’s so exciting to find someone else who spells their name the way I do! :-)

    • Nectar says...

      This advice just hit me in the heart, thanks.

  66. Such a good time for the post. The one I’m trying to tell myself more often (I’m 26 so still learning) is that it’s most important to make myself happy – not everyone else! While it’s good to keep in mind family, friends, boyfriends, coworkers, bosses… at the end of the day you have to live with your choices and where you are in life.

  67. Mar says...

    I would tell myself: ‘Don’t worry. Everything will be alright’. Surely my younger self would love to hear that.

  68. Marissa says...

    When I found myself paralyzed with fear and uncertainty at the age of 25, contemplating divorcing my husband of one-and-a-half years, my dad’s sage advice was “when you don’t know what to do, do nothing at all.” I’m so thankful for this advice because while I still ultimately made the decision to end my marriage, I was able to do so with 100% peace and certainty – something I had not previously experienced in my former hasty-decision making life (e.g. getting engaged at 22). The advice to give pause and not let fear make your decisions for you has proven helpful time and again. You don’t have to always have the answers – sometimes you just need to wait for clarity.

    Also – I agree with the previous comment to not get married before 25 :)

    • CR says...

      Ha! As an over-thinker and worrywart, I would tell myself don’t let fear stop you in your tracks! This feels completely opposite from your advice, yet both would be right in different context :) So can we just agree that the best advice is to reach out to our parents. They always have the best advice!

      Like when I was working crazy hours in public accounting and was fearful of quitting such a “admirable” job, I went to my dad crying because I could no longer take the pressure and the long hours. I didn’t like how my lifestyle was changing so he told me “when something doesn’t feel right, when something feels like you are going against you and your beliefs, and your desires, just STOP! and walk away”

      …and so I did!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is great advice!

  69. Neha says...

    There must be something in the air, I’ve found these advice to your younger self at a few spots now. I’ve enjoyed them all. But I’ve also been thinking what would I tell my younger self. And apart from the very very specific (don’t get this place on the mortgage; and don’t marry that guy) I don’t know if I have any advice for my younger self! I’m still trying to figure it out, and can’t think of one thing I’ll tell my younger self!

  70. Tami says...

    Oh man, I’m 49 and there’s so much I’d say to my younger self…
    I could (and may still) write a book:
    1) Get over yourself. Seriously. The world does not revolve around you, your clothes, your hair, your eyebrows. There are far more important things to get involved in.
    2) LISTEN. Stop talking and just LISTEN.
    3) Do not drive around town, windows down, with Vanilla Ice blasting. You look like an a**hole.
    4) Stop trying to fit in. That’s the thing nobody ever tells you.
    The best thing in life is to stand out.
    5) Take chances.
    6) Be a nicer person.
    7) Always be kind to your Mom b/c she’s got your back.
    8) Don’t engage in gossip. Ever.

    • Laura says...

      Love this all so much. Especially #4. TRUTH!!

      But, driving around town with Vanilla Ice blasting sounds amazing and should be done!! Hilarious. :):)

    • liz says...

      Aw, blasting embarrassing music out of the car is a must!

  71. Start applying anti-aging cream to your neck and eyes IMMEDIATELY! You’ll be in your 30’s before you know it!

    • June2 says...

      This is true. My mother looks amazing for 70 without fillers or surgery but has always moisturized and used serums, etc – with just whatever is on sale at Ross, lol.

    • Laura says...

      The neck, yes! I learned this way too late! I’m trying to own it because of course we all age, but still, I wish I would have taken better care of it earlier.

      June – Good to know! :)

    • Cynthia says...

      Good advice. Take care of your skin while you’re young. SPF is the greatest anti-aging product available.

  72. This is so beautiful, and I enjoyed readers’ comments as well! Some months ago I wrote precisely what I would tell my younger self if I got the chance. I often feel like I’ve been doing it all wrong since the age of 15 and would do it differently now. But would I still be the person I am now? I have no idea. And honestly, I like the person I am now.

  73. Lauren E. says...

    I would tell my younger self to hear the criticism but don’t let it break you. Most people who criticize don’t know what’s best for you anyway.

    And also, a quote I heard once and wished I’d heard at a much younger age: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love that quote, lauren!

  74. Cait says...

    Love this post. :)

    My advice to my younger self would be: STOP worrying so much about what people think and do you, stop doing things that make me unhappy, and your mom is always right.

  75. I needed this! Thank you! ❤️

  76. Erin says...

    Mine would be – you don’t really need graduate school. You’ll get the same job without it and you’ll be $30K less in debt. Just work harder in undergrad and be a little more focused.

    • Erin says...

      And PS – this post is extremely timely since today is my 38th birthday! ;)

    • Cynthia says...

      I didn’t go to grad school, and it’s my one regret, but with retirement around the corner, it’s pointless. I always say I earned my graduate degree from the school of hard knocks.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      happy birthday erin. and, cynthia, i laughed out loud at your comment :)

  77. Andrea says...

    Therapy is going to do so much more for you than weight watchers.

    • liz says...

      Amen!

  78. Caitlin says...

    I love this post! Thank you! As a 28-year-old I am feeling a little lost. I quit my job last year, lost my dad and I am trying to get back into grad school to go into something that is totally different than my original career. I am trying to just embrace this ‘unknown’ and not have too many panic attacks. I love all of these quotes and they really do help! :)

    • Hang in there, Caitlin! I left my job last year, too! I was really miserable as an attorney, so I left to start my own business. I hope that you get into grad school and find something you truly love.

      http://hyggewellness.com/blog

  79. Sharon says...

    Just….. stop trying to be perfect. You are killing yourself trying sooooo hard

    I love Michelle O’s… I just love that woman!

  80. Oh, how I wish I could have a time machine to tell myself…
    * wear sunscreen, wear sunscreen, wear sunscreen
    * appreciate the body you have now — you’ll look back at pictures and wonder why you were so critical of yourself
    * apply for jobs that seem out of reach — successful people don’t take jobs where they already know how to do everything that is required
    * when dating, ask yourself if he is right for you instead of trying to be right for him
    * enjoy all that pre-parenthood time to read, write, take walks and talk to friends for hours!
    * spend time with your grandmother — you’re going to miss her more than you can imagine

    • Maggie says...

      “ask yourself if he is right for you instead of trying to be right for him”

      love this!

    • Mara says...

      Perfectly put, Jill. Couldn’t agree more, especially re grandmother.

    • Kali says...

      Are you living my life? This was so eerily spot on. Nicely put.

  81. Joanna says...

    While all those quotes are great, it’s Naomi Wolf’s that resonates with me the most. Most financial advice women are getting is usually about managing household finances, but rarely about their own financial security. This is ironic as women are much more financially vulnerable, so developing a saving habit, especially early on when you are getting your first pay check, which you are tempted to blow since you are ‘young’ and this is ‘your time’ and ‘if not then when?’, is truly something that will impact your life quality greatly. Time flies quicker than you imagine, but passing of time is also what helps to grow your savings.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! on a similar note, my mom’s biggest advice was always “make your own money.” it gives you power to make certain life decisions — moving, ending a marriage, making big changes in your life, etc. — without being beholden to someone else.

    • Cynthia says...

      Yes, you need your own money, and my mama always said you need something for a rainy day. She grew up during the depression, so saving was always important to her.

    • Meredith says...

      Yes! It was my grandfather that drilled that into my head. Always have your own money. Never have to stay in a crappy situation (job, husband, whatever) because you can’t afford to get out. Never be dependent on someone else.

  82. Danielle says...

    I did what I loved- I followed my dreams into college and beyond and into a career vaguely doing what I hoped to do (at least it’s in the same building). Now I am seriously underpaid in a field the government is slowly destroying with cuts and fewer investments. I can’t afford to buy a house or even a flat because my salary is too low. I can’t afford to have a child because the financial strain would destroy us. I certainly can never have two. I commute 3 hours every day to do a job where I’m treated poorly (mostly by other women, so go girl power?) and I’m forced to stay because there’s no work anywhere else and hey, it’s sort of in my field?

    And the worst part is I’m not alone. So sorry but my advice to my younger self would be to pay more attention in math class and become an accountant. Because the reality is your dreams won’t work if you’re broke.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m in a career that I hate. I spent ten years trying to get out and follow my dreams and do something fulfilling, but I can’t. As much as I dislike my work, I’m paid very well and I’m stuck. It’s good to remember that while I wouldn’t have chosen this career it does at least find a life of relative comfort for myself and my family. I think the lesson here is to find the good in the situation you have. And maybe get that accounting degree just in case. I hope you’re able to improve your situation!

    • R. says...

      Hi, Danielle. I’m sorry for the struggles you’re facing. My boyfriend faced the exact same problem last year, working in the arts. He was always broke and stressed out, feeling like he couldn’t afford the future he wanted, despite his hard work. So, he decided “No more!!” He took a new job in a new field, and makes far more than his last job. He didn’t feel qualified for the job, but the right people saw his value. And, in his down time, he STILL works in the arts regularly! Now, it’s just extra income, and it leaves him feeling fulfilled.

      To quote one of my favorite college professors (who taught English, but also played in a band): “Don’t be afraid to put on a suit during the day if it allows you the chance to boogey all night.” (He has a way with words.)

    • Paula says...

      Thank you! Thank you! I cannot stand the advice of: just FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS and everything will fall in place. nope, nope, nope. Yes, to a certain extent, don’t do something you hate but don’t also just follow your dreams. Or have a dream (for me it is writing) and then have a daytime job (statistician). Ladies, it’s 2017 and we still cannot have it all. I have a family and had to stop PhD program because I cannot have it all! I chose family and kids but with TWO JOBS to afford said kids and our financial well being over my PhD. The only sound advice up there are about just being human, learning from failures, and money! Everything else is fluff.

    • Danielle – I can SO relate to this! I left my job as an attorney last year because I was truly miserable. I started my own business and am working harder than ever before. I’m going to try to make it work the best I can ; ) And I also found women to be some of the worst ‘offenders’ when it came to being totally unsupportive in the office. I hope you break through it somehow. I’m always here to chat if you think it would be helpful.

      http://hyggewellness.com/blog

    • Danielle, I completely understand how you feel in terms of not feeling satisfied at work and not able to afford to buy a place, but I don’t think the key to happiness is necessarily training to be an accountant… Sure, it seems completely obvious that you need to look for a new job, probably in a different field too, but I don’t agree about completely putting your “dreams” on the back-burner and turning away from them. Because if you never paid attention in Math class in the first place, I don’t think you’d be super happy working 9 hours a day as an accountant, no matter how much money you had in the bank… Just my opinion!

    • Holy shit. It’s terrible to hear that others are going through this, but sooo helpful to know that i’m not alone. I majored in a field that I don’t love and find boring just to have financial stability. I’m trying to find that mix between expressing myself creatively outside of the workplace and not being too hard on myself for totally selling out to “the man” for a paycheck.

      So often women are told that we need to “have it all” but sometimes the reality is that as women, we have to pick all that we can afford to have whether it be restricted by time, money or some other conflict.

      Hugs out to all of the other ladies that are maybe putting those dreams on hold for the sake of financial stability and are battling with their creativity being muted. Even bigger hugs to those ladies that are chasing those dreams and feeling like they’re climbing up an insurmountable hill or having to make the tough choices between financial stability/family/creative fulfillment.

    • I’m so sorry Danielle. I was in this boat too at one point, complete with the abusive boss and horrible co-workers (all men, in my case) and I remember the helpless feeling, and feeling like my soul was slowly dying. Thankfully, I was able to get out. It took over a year of being out of that toxic environment for me to regain my mental-health.

      How I got out was that my husband and I decided to start our own business about 7 years ago. We made this leap to self-employment at a time in our lives when we had very little to lose (no house, no kids, no debt other than student loans) and a solid safety-net (our families, who would have let us move back in with them if we had fallen flat on our faces). We were so lucky, no doubt. The risk was small in the grand scheme of things, but it was still a nerve-wracking decision. Self-employment is not easy, but it has been a great fit for us personally. Many all-nighters and a fair amount of stress later, the business is chugging along so well that I was able to excuse myself from it almost completely about a year ago in order to raise our 11-month old and run the household while my husband runs the business. We own a home, live where we want to live, and we answer to no one.

      Wanted to tell you my story just in case you had ever contemplated going out on your own and you needed a nudge. Coming from someone who totally understands that that is easier said than done…it is absolutely worth it.

      Rooting for you, girl.

    • Em says...

      I’ve spent years trying to understand how to approach the dilemma of “follow your heart and the money will come”… my hard-won truth to date sounds almost obvious now but for me it meant looking for examples of the most successful people (lifestyle-wise not specifically financially though that’s part of it) in their field – as an artist for example. I’ve been shown that tons of people make excellent livings working as commercial artists or creative directors, ie: graffic design, product design, photography, model makers, architectural drafters, etc, let alone actual artists and I think of all those who turned me away from art as a teen with the “advice” that it was a losing proposition.

      I’ve since met more than several successful artists, including aforementioned creative directors etc – (who proved to have jobs paying 6 figures) and the fine artists can be even more financially successful, (my landlord was a millionaire sculptor for example even though he was far from a household name! Just your average working bronze sculptor making a LOT of money selling his creations.) Another landlord’s murals sell for $100K. SERIOUSLY. A friend’s father’s paintings regularly sell for $50K, hers sell for $10k and climbing, my old neighbor’s paintings sell for $10k, etc etc etc. I mean really. I’ve avoided it my entire life but looking back, I feel I am being encouraged.
      And I know examples exist in every field.

      So don’t give up on your inner calling – just continue to move forward, shifting into better and better situations. Surely the government is not the only employer for your field of choice?

    • Danielle says...

      Wow, what lovely and supportive messages. I usually read this blog as a way to pass the time, not therapy! But I think I needed to hear some of this because it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes.

      I hope I am able to one day provide for my family and do something I enjoy. I have relatively modest dreams, but maybe they need to be altered. Maybe what I love to do (I work in a museum, hence the government dependency. Support your local arts!) isn’t meant to be my career but a hobby I can pursue while earning more in the corporate world.

      I doubt I’ll ever get an accounting degree- my brain just doesn’t work with numbers! Maybe I’ll land that dream job I’m applying for now. I think this is more my speed for inspirational quotes though:

      “Phoebe do you have a plan?”
      “I don’t even have a pla.”

  83. Anna says...

    And just wanted to say that comments are amazing as always.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i agree so much, anna. i was JUST thinking that while reading them all. i love all these women so, so, so much.

  84. Anna says...

    Mine would be to try to differentiate between self-care, self-indulgence and self-hate. Somehow I used to and still sometimes do tangle them all together and can’t tell them apart eventually hurting myself. In spirit of that Atwood’s and Patti Smith’s quotes are perfect.

    • I’ve never thought of it like this before… thank you!

    • Hillary says...

      This is so wise.

  85. Deb says...

    Um, the stock market doesn’t pay compound interest*. You do get capital gains and dividends. (Sorry. Spot the pedant!) The sentiment is a winner though, obvs. Put money away for your future. The sooner the better. And a small amount put away now is as powerful as large amounts put away later so even $50 a month is worth it.
    * If you are buying standard products such as stocks in Apple (other company stocks are available ;-).

  86. The advice I would give to my younger self — Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone learns from them. Try to learn from your mistakes, and then you can have peace of mind that some good came from the experience. http://www.thislifeisbelle.com x x x

  87. Maryse says...

    I love Cup of Jo for this. Both the words you posted (especially Michelle Obama. What a woman) and the comment section are so good. There are so many awesome Cup of Jo readers with great advice.

    • Em says...

      Agreed. The best advice for me is that you can fail big and still go on to succeed. Intelligent perseverance!

  88. Tanya says...

    To my younger self:

    Bullies are people who are hurting deeply and don’t have any tools to deal with their hurts or loving people to guide them through it. They’re still dreadfully wrong but none of it has to do with you.

    Find safe people.

    Don’t worry so much about being thin and young and beautiful. You still won’t be young and thin when you’re 33, but you’ve always been beautiful.

    Don’t get married until you’re at least 25.

    And above all, meditate on the reality that you’re loved. Every lie you believe about yourself was put there by someone who didn’t know how to build you up without tearing you down. Again, nothing was a reflection on you.

    • Rachel says...

      I’m writing this quote on a sticky note and putting it on my computer monitor. “Every lie you believe about yourself was put there by someone who didn’t know how to build you up without tearing you down.” I have let so many comments from other people shake me to the core, when really it was – and always has been – about them, not me.

  89. keri says...

    Love this!! One of my favourite quotes is…

    “Listen to me, your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest—thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.”

    ― Beau Taplin

    We are so hard on ourselves about our bodies but I think it is always important to remember how incredible our bodies really are and all the amazing things we can do with them! And I think this can apply to our minds, our careers and our love lives too :)

    • This is beautiful!

  90. elizabeth says...

    My favorite aunt from Columbia told me — on my 30th birthday (10 days after my mom died and my world had come crashing down) — to wear my bikini whenever I got the chance. I thought she was just being silly, but 10 years later I really wish I had! And thinking bigger picture, just wear what makes you happy and embrace your body (for me that’s teeny boobs, big booty and “sturdy” legs/ankles). xo

  91. Jeanne says...

    Sometimes there’s a quiet little voice in the back of your head that speaks to you softly. That something isn’t quite right. That’s your instinct. Your instinct doesn’t always yell at you, so make sure you listen for it.

  92. Anna says...

    Prefer to invest in friendship. Relationships aren’t the most important thing when you’re young because they’re nearly never everlasting. (My younger me prefered to have other priorities which i regret)

  93. Shannon says...

    This is just what I needed to read today, thank you

  94. ann.e says...

    I wonder if I bookmark this to share with my 3 daughters when they are teenagers if they will heed all this advice… would I have?? I would love to think so, but I don’t know! Anyway, I’m going to print out some of these (ie. Michelle Obama’s!!) to save for a future date. So much wisdom.

    • June2 says...

      Put the printout on the fridge so you can all benefit together!

  95. The time will pass whether you pursue your dreams or not. You might as well try (oh how I wish I had understood this)!

    Don’t marry your first love. At least not on the first round. You will always wonder.

    Don’t over plan your life. Most plans won’t work out anyway, and you might get a better life than you imagined. Make sure you notice that your different-than-planned life is great.

    Do over plan for retirement.

    Don’t rip out your pubes for a man.

    Exercise and eat right, but don’t obsess over either.

    If you have babies, hold them as long and as often as they will let you.

    Don’t be afraid to fail (every thing I regret in my life stems from fear of failure).

    Don’t be mean; don’t be a doormat.

    Floss your teeth.

  96. Hannah says...

    I’m 26 (27 in a month) and feeling so down on myself and more alone with each passing year. This post was EXACTLY what I needed tonight. Thank you, thank you! So glad to know that we are all human (no one more human than the next) xo

    • Meg says...

      Just a note to say you are not alone. :)

    • You’re not alone. I’m staring down 28 and seem to accrue more insecurities and negative self talk with each passing year. I’m trying to stop the cycle, but it’s tough.

      You’re not alone.

    • Hillary says...

      I am 40 and found my 20’s so tumultuous (lots of fun but not a lot of joy). I too remember feeling very lonely. I promise it gets better. You will settle into your life.

    • Katie says...

      You’re not alone. 26 was my hardest year for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. I think it was because when I was younger, 26 was THE AGE I envisioned myself as being “put together” or having all of my grown up goals set in place or at least in motion. Coming to terms with the fact that I was far from this made me set smaller, more realistic goals like make a new friend at work whom I admire, or at least invite her out for an afternoon coffee. Hang in there, it gets better and less lonely!

  97. That Gloria Steinem comment was incredibly powerful. I almost teared up. Thank you for this post!!

  98. Sylvie says...

    Buy a warm coat. Inneeded to hear that! Mine sucks!!

  99. Katherine says...

    I nervously emailed my mom years ago that I didn’t think I wanted kids, and she sent this back:

    ““Bah! Dynasty Shynasty! Being a grandma was never my goal in life! but DAMN I LUV my kids and so glad your dad and I changed life gears and made beautiful babies! I love being Momma to my girls but I do not think it is the only path in life. One day you will have a sweet dog and that may be what makes you happiest, whatever you choose is cool with me!”

    I think that that attitude (“I love being ____ but I do not think it is the only path in life”) was just the greatest thing to encourage in a nervous young girl. Trying to celebrate what works for you while also holding space for what might work differently for other people–that’s the best advice I can think of :)

    Oh, and my mom also gave me the second best piece of advice I have ever received: “you know, babe, orange lipstick just doesn’t look that good on you.”

    thanks mom. you were right.

    • Maryse says...

      Katherine, your mom sounds awesome!

    • Ceridwen says...

      Your mum is awesome!

    • emma says...

      Your mother sounds amazing! :)

    • nat says...

      excellent

    • Valerie says...

      I love your mom’s advise. She must be a great woman Katherine!

    • Laura says...

      Love your mom!! Made me tear up.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      your mom sounds amazing, katherine xoxoxo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      (and funny)

    • Katherine says...

      aw, thanks all. i’m going to send her these lovely replies–she’ll love knowing that people got a kick out of her advice!

      and yeah, she really is the best and the most hilarious :)

  100. Cara says...

    Stop obsessing about your weight in your teens and twenties. Really, STOP RIGHT NOW! You will love and appreciate your body more than you can imagine once you’ve had kids. You are beautiful. Also, it’s ok to spend money on things like good food. You won’t always be so cash-strapped. Oh, and wear just a little more sunscreen during those high school beach jaunts. PS–you are RAD.

    • ann.e says...

      YES!

  101. Kali says...

    It is far better to fail at work than to fail at family. No matter your definition of family.

    Get up and move. Even if it’s just walking around the house looking for everything you’ve lost.

    Stop tanning. Put on the spiffy 50 and the big hat and own that god forsaken sunshine.

    After you have kids, you’re gonna lose your mind. Like you’re literally gonna feel stupid. Know that it’s 100% normal. Remember that you’re a smart person. Slow down, ask questions and embrace vulnerability.

    And finally:
    Put … down … the tweezers.

    • Julia says...

      This is so true! I could not support your “failing-comment” more!!! Also, as a mom of a 1-year-old, thank you so much for the perspective about kids!

    • Lauren E. says...

      YES! Put down the tweezers! I found an old photo of me when I was 13 and at my most awkward. I always remember myself as having totally unruly eyebrows but now I look back at that photo and think, “OMG those gorgeous brows!!!”

    • Laura says...

      YES about the eyebrows! Natural is beautiful!! I wish I would have listened to my mom when she told me, constantly, to put down the tweezers. I am trying to grow them out to look like my 13 year old self and it is rough! Getting there. :)

  102. LOVE THESE. Michelle Obama’s really speaks to me (no surprise there!).

    My advice to my younger self: Quit it with the diets already. I spent 10+ years of my life trying to make myself smaller and all I really lost was a lot of time. Beauty doesn’t equate to a certain body type, and besides…being beautiful is not the rent I pay to exist on this earth. It’s okay to be beautiful, and it’s also okay to just be.

    • Lilly Siblesz says...

      “being beautiful is not the rent I pay to exist on this earth. It’s okay to be beautiful, and it’s also okay to just be.” Loved this so much!

  103. Marlena says...

    College: drink less. Eat less after midnight. Go to all of the free films and talks. Study abroad even if you have to take a loan out.

    Find an exercise you truly enjoy. Forget the treadmill stair master. There are so many classes where you will smile the entire time.

    Save more.

    • Laura says...

      Yes about study abroad. It’s my only regret about college! I was nervous about the $ but I could have found a way. The culture gained is so much more than the $!

  104. Tera says...

    Take good care of your teeth; dental problems are painful and expensive!
    Wear sunscreen.
    Don’t stay in relationships that make you feel bad about yourself. There is someone great out there who won’t.
    Don’t cheat. On people, on tests. It’s NEVER worth it.
    Think about what you like to do in your free time. Find a career that involves whatever that may be. You will spend a lot of your life at work; might as well enjoy it.

  105. Tricia says...

    And above all…persist. :)

  106. Savannah says...

    No one will ever love you as much as you will grow to love yourself. Stop looking so hard for others to give that to you.

  107. Claire says...

    Don’t waste time and energy trying to impress boys. The boys who want you to aren’t worth impressing anyway, and the ones who are worth it won’t require that you do so.

  108. Katie says...

    This is a great collection of quotes, thank you! Something that comes to mind for me is to be less focused on being right and more focused on understanding and building relationships. Most of the things I regret looking back are times when I was militant about one opinion or another and hurt a friendship in the process. For the record, I don’t think strong opinions or expressing them is bad, I just wish I had put some more work into finding ways to do both when I was younger.

    This is particularly on my mind right now because I’m 37 weeks pregnant and trying to process all of our world-changes at the same time that I prepare to bring a new baby into the world. One thing I’m asking of my family and friends (and the blog-world) is for people to consider trying to take one healing action between the Right and the Left divide in America in honor of my baby. It could be something like asking a conservative friend was they’re hoping for for our country this year or nurturing a friendship that was hurt over the election. And if you don’t have anyone you disagree with in your life circle, maybe just figuring out a way to expand your boundaries to include that. I have hope that my little girl can be born into a world where little ripples of healing are starting to rush out along everything else that surrounds us these days. I’m so encouraged by all the protests and activism that’s going on, but I also know that if we don’t put an equal amount of work into healing our divisions, we might not get to see as many fruits of those labors.

    • Elise says...

      Such a thoughtful comment. Thanks – you made my day. :)

  109. I would tell my younger self the following:

    On marriage: Unity is more important than who is right.
    On parenting: You will survive this phase, and you will look back it longingly when you realize the next one is much harder and you still have no clue. :-)
    On physical abilities: If you stink at anything requiring coordination, try running. Straight lines! ;-)

    • Maryse says...

      I love these.

  110. Sam says...

    That Lena quote got me in the feels! So wise!

  111. Sienna says...

    That Michelle Obama quote was just what I needed to hear right now! I have been feeling like a complete failure in some big areas in my life. Here’s to hoping they make me wiser and better and not just doomed to repeat my mistakes.

  112. Amanda says...

    Love these. Thanks for sharing.

  113. Penny says...

    From my successful, brave, chic, giving and ever-graceful IMMIGRANT grandmother–in her beautiful accent:
    “Just…be cool.”
    It usually applies.

    • Jami-Lin says...

      :)

  114. I love this! I think some of mine would be to take deep breaths and change my contacts regularly ;)! Also, totalllllly agree about the warm coat here in NYC!

  115. Meg says...

    Any feeling that you’ve ever had is one that someone has felt before. You’re not alone and you’re not unique (in the best way).

    The person who’s really mean is probably in some kind of pain. If the mean person *is* you (mean to yourself counts), ask yourself in the nicest voice you have what that pain’s about.

    You are your own asset. You are the thing that you have. Be nice to your investment.

    If he doesn’t show interest in what you think is best for you, he is probably not great for long term investment. Have fun. Be careful.

    Don’t overvalue your looks. By all means, use them to your advantage in ways that feel morally on the up and up, but don’t hold them too close. There are so many other great things about you. Show off those things, too.

    Notice when you feel healthy. Enjoy that feeling.

    • Natalie says...

      Saving this FOREVER.

    • Nina says...

      These are excellent. Thank you.

  116. yes! don’t be so afraid is speaking to me loud and clear right now. why is michelle obama so amazing?

    xo, brittany
    http://www.notablob.com

  117. Alice says...

    Yes to all these! Thanks stella.

  118. Middle class says...

    I would tell my younger self to enjoy your youth!

  119. Thank you SO much for this article. Really. I am 26 and currently trying to forge out what I “want to do with my life” so these quotes really resonated with me!

    • Christina says...

      26 as well- and in the same position. thanks for posting this!

    • Meg says...

      I would tell my 26 year-old self: Stop worrying! You won’t know the answer, and you can’t imagine it anyway. Take one step, then another, then another. That’s how you build your future.

    • Meg says...

      (My 26 year-old self also would have not found that helpful/been very annoyed by the non-concreteness of that answer.)

    • Natalie says...

      Also 26 and also feeling very confused and lost. We’re not alone!

    • Same here guys. 26, still trying to get through grad school, just quit my job and kind of in a tail spin.

    • Melissa says...

      As yet another confused 26 year old, I couldn’t not check in here. Life feels hard sometimes, but we got this!

    • Bec says...

      I’m 28, it gets better! I promise

    • Christine says...

      Joining the 25/26 year old club! Hahah nothing feels in place but trusting in the process.

    • Laura says...

      No one knows the answer and that’s ok! I think trying to find it makes us great, but don’t stress about it too much! :)

    • Char says...

      My life really, really became what I wanted it to be at 26. Just be brave and do that thing you want so desperately! For me it was moving halfway around the world. That decision made everything else click into place. Love to you xxx

    • Sharon says...

      34 now, but I remember the 26 time frame. Everyone says “your 20s are amazing!” and I remember thinking, “did I miss the bus?” 26 particularly because college and all of your endless friend and flirting times are LONG gone, yet you don’t really feel like an adult. You’ve been working a few years, but likely don’t have the income, status or hours you’d like. And your dating options are non-existent – not really a woman, but too old to be a college co-ed.

      It gets better. I’ve always wanted to be older than I was, but now at 34 I finally feel I can relax. Relax with who I am. My only advice would be don’ t rush marriage, kids, promotions because you are trying to compare to what you think you “should” be doing. This is your life. More is not always better. And what is great for one person may be way too much for another.

      Don’t fret too much about mistakes. Great experience comes from great mistakes. And you can always recover.

      And I could never finish without saying, if you are lucky enough to have an amazing mother, cherish her and hold her as tight and often as possible. Mine died suddenly when I was 30 and I miss her every day. Believe your mom when she tells you how amazing, and beautiful, and special you already are. And when you feel self conscious or down, remember why you found her so beautiful yourself. The way she laughed without fear, loved without condition, and believed in speaking her mind with kindness and love.

  120. Brianna says...

    This is perfection! More posts like this, please.

  121. All those quotes are amazing, but that Michelle O. quote is just everything. Gawd I love her.

  122. It’s hard to add to these gems because they are truly golden. Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Lena, and Gloria especially. SO good. I’m actually working on a post of my favorite little wisdoms I’ve gleaned. Something I’m learning (and would tell my younger self) is to feel my feelings, learn to stay with discomfort, and embrace creativity without demanding perfection of myself. Also to regularly practice deep breaths and smile. Even when you don’t feel like smiling it truly changes your brain chemistry and uplifts your mood a bit. Can’t wait to read more discussion on this one.

    http://www.thewefiles.com

  123. wendy says...

    love this post. all so inspiring. bookmarking this.

  124. Hannah says...

    Love this! And needed it. Undergrad student with lots of anxiety about being successful and achieving “big things” or just living a meaningful life. I especially loved Michelle Obama’s advice to not be afraid to fail BIG. Now just to put that advice into practice! That’s the hard part.

  125. HA! Calm down. So subtle but so spot on. Thanks for this post. :)

  126. Mary Beth says...

    Never say never.

  127. Jeannie says...

    Love this advice!

  128. Christine says...

    When I was struggling in grad school, the advice my mom gave me was: “It is important to keep a word-life balance, but it doesn’t have to be done on a day-to-day or week-to-week level. At some points you will have to focus on work and let other things drop a bit and at others you will have to step back from work and focus on the rest of your life.”

  129. Anna says...

    I really needed to hear Michelle Obama’s advice right now, thank you.
    If I had to give my younger self advice it would be that it’s not too late.
    When I was 15 I wanted to learn ballet dancing but thought I was too old. I eventually started at 25, 5 years ago, and thought to myself, had I started back then, by now I would have been dancing for 15(!) years. It’s an interesting thought I think how we (or at lest I) don’t tend to think ahead like this.

    • Emily says...

      When I graduated with my bachelor’s in psych I wanted to go to nursing school, but it would be another 3 years and I was sooooo tired of school. I would have been 26 when i graduated nursing school and that was “too old” to start a career! My mom said, “You’re going to be 26 in 3 years no matter what, might as well have a nursing degree at the end of those 3 years.” Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

    • Michelle says...

      Gosh isn’t that true. As they say, the time will pass anyway!

    • Miriam says...

      Oh Anna I was just the same with wanting to learn ballet as a young teenager but feeling way too old and thinking I’d missed my chance. The desire has never ever gone away and I would join a class in a heartbeat now if I could, but unfortunately I’m pretty much housebound because of a chronic illness that hit me in college. Now I wish I’d just done more of the things I had really wanted to and not let the fear of what people would think stop me.

  130. I love Nancy Meyer’s quote.

  131. Always a fan of seeing inspiring quotes on the blog and this post in particular is a saving grace for me right now as I’m trudging through the chaotic (and incredibly angsty) final months of my undergrad degree. Thank you so much, Stella x

  132. Love this post! Thanks!