Relationships

What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?

What Advice Would You Offer Your Younger Self

No one else notices the pimple. Trust your intuition. Leave the party whenever you want. These are some of the things I would tell baby Caroline, if given the opportunity. Here, 11 women share the warm and funny advice they would offer their younger selves, and I’d love to hear yours…

“Don’t sweat the jobs you didn’t get. When I was in my early twenties and trying to break into the publishing industry, I must have applied for a hundred editorial assistant jobs. The constant rejection was so deflating that I considered throwing in the towel and going to law school instead. I applied to an internship at a well-known magazine not once, not twice, but three times. Turns out the third time was the charm — I got the job, which set the course for my professional life. I don’t believe in fate, but if you keep trying, I do believe things have a way of working out.” — Brettne Bloom

“When you have people over for dinner, don’t try to impress anyone. Give them simple, delicious food made well — meatballs, barbecued chicken and potato salad, macaroni and cheese. No one is grading you. They’re just happy that you’re cooking for them.” — Jenny Rosenstrach

“When I was younger, I was always stressed about my stomach pooch — in high school, in the locker room, whenever I felt it overlapping my pants. I used to wear pants with too high of a rise that would squeeze my pooch. What was I thinking? I wish I could tell my younger self: Wear pants with a lower waistband. No one ever looks at your waist and thinks, ‘Not that flat.’” — Minya Oh

“Let me hold your face in my hands and say this loud and clear: WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY ABOUT YOU IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. You are not on this earth to be palatable to every person you meet. You are fine on your own, and when you stop begging the wrong people for love, the right person will love you so much you’ll know what all those songs you love were written about. Your life is going to be better than you’ll ever imagine, and harder than you know. All of it is temporary. All of it is worth it. Go forward. And stand up straight.” — Nora McInerny

“I would tell my younger self — and I now tell my daughter — that perfection isn’t the point. The other day, my daughter sang herself to sleep, ‘You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be brave.’ So, she’s teaching me, too.” — Lucy Kalanithi

“Don’t avoid things just because they seem grown up and stressful. For example, guess what you get if you don’t open your mail? A whole lot of stress. So many bills went unpaid and my credit was terrible for years. Relatedly, know that part of your job growing up is to make mistakes. It’s actually crucial in order to learn how to properly react and fix them.” — Emily Henderson

“Life is so much happier with a dog in it.” — Lisa Rubisch

“The thing that comes most easily to you is probably also your superpower. For the longest time I thought my strengths — like making conversation — were nothing special because they felt effortless to me. But over time, I’ve learned that your power lies in your true nature. It is inherently yours, and you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to use it. Own it.” — Uli Beutter Cohen

“I would tell my younger self that college isn’t for everyone (and neither is that debt!), and you aren’t lesser than because you’d like to pause (or in my case, never return) to explore creative jobs (or raise your baby) outside of this. Exploring doesn’t mean that you will end up at some dead-end job; it means you are seeing yourself, and to see oneself is the greatest gift.” — LaTonya Yvette

“When I was younger, I worried that every decision I made would send me down that path for LIFE. Every time I faced a choice of whether to accept a new job, move to a different city or stay in a relationship, I built it up as a definitive, forever-life-altering moment. And while that was true on some level — all the little choices do, in fact, add up to the life that you end up living — I wish I could go back in time and whisper in my own ear, ‘Let this decision just be this decision, not a loaded choice about the rest of your days on earth. You can always reroute.'” — Ann Friedman

“Date the one who makes you laugh. Who makes you think. Who introduces you to your favorite new things. Date the one who listens. Who makes you feel like you are home. And the first and foremost quality in a boyfriend or girlfriend is that he or she likes you back.” — Lisa Rubisch

“Growing up, I was told over and over how sensitive I was and how that wouldn’t do me any favors in ‘the real world.’ If I could go back, I would tell myself from the moment I was born, every emotion I experienced was valid and normal, given my age and view of the world. When people don’t want you to talk about your feelings it’s because they don’t want to have to talk about theirs. That doesn’t make you wrong, it makes you vulnerable. But vulnerability is how you find the people who will love you through the worst of yourself and challenge you to be better. Don’t feel burdened by your humanity. You will learn healthy boundaries and clear communication. You will find that your open heart has been a gift the whole time.” — Ashley Ford

“Your mother was right: Do not over pluck your eyebrows. They do not grow back.” — Brettne Bloom

What would you tell your younger self, if you had the chance?

P.S. Career advice from wise women, celebrities sharing their advice for their younger selves, and on becoming the person you’re meant to be.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow.)

  1. Oh my gosh, these are so good. Thank you for sharing these!

    You’ve gotta look out for yourself because no one else is going to.

  2. M says...

    There is no shame in taking anxiety/depression medication!

  3. Lily says...

    1. Attend 6 different meetings of your 12 step group before deciding it’s not for you. [That program changed my life, but there was a 6-year gap between my first and second meeting]
    2. It can take seeing 3-4 therapists to find a good fit. Keeping looking until you find the right one. Once you find her, it’ll be life changing.
    3. Don’t speak English while living in a foreign country and stay at least 2 years so you can become fluent in the language.
    4. Go for the dual graduate degree. The extra year or so is well worth it.
    5. Invest in your friendships through every life stage: college, marriage, babies… keep those friends a priority
    6. Have a little faith in yourself and set higher standards. You are capable of way more than you think.

  4. Jess. says...

    I really REALLY wish someone (my parents, especially) had drummed this into me: Just because someone gives you something (even if you really love that person), doesn’t mean you need to keep it forever. I have spent so much time and energy and money trying to organize, sort through, store, move things that I never even liked in the first place.

    Tonight, my kids and I are going to do some purging!

  5. S says...

    Loved reading these! So encouraging and comforting to read how so much of it is about not overly caring about what others think, and knowing I’m not alone in my struggle. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one. Still working on it in my mid-30s but definitely cared more in my younger days. So…yay for progress. :)

  6. Annie says...

    Absolutely none. I wouldn’t appreciate the wisdom I’ve earned had it not been a result of many mistakes, embarrassment, heartbreak, self doubt, bad decisions. And knowing that hard/awkward times create growth makes it so much easier to stay grounded when going through it.

    • Diana says...

      This!

  7. Brett says...

    Have you ever done advice for first time moms? I saw an article from jo but other moms but we interesting read

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s SUCH a great idea, brett!

  8. Maria says...

    Do not let anyone have a naked picture of you.

  9. A says...

    Dear blissfully unaware;) younger self,
    We always are learning, but most learning comes by experiencing. The “don’t sweat the small stuff”, “it goes by so fast” sayings are so true-but so hard to truly appreciate until you’ve lived it- so I will cut with those (even tho they still apply today) and instead— a few practical tips that will (possibly) help:
    Humility is in order-many of the things you thought would NEVER happen in your household, now that it has 4 children, definitely have (mismatched socks to school is cool yes?!)
    In the same thread: the others were right: very small children don’t suffer from small chores like having to put shoes and clothes away. Waiting until they are “bigger” just creates habits that a vv hard to break (sigh)
    Be social! Don’t worry so much about size of your place or if they “probably already have plans”. Real face to face interaction with friends and family is lifeblood
    On that note, there’s this thing coming called a smartphone- HOLD OFF as long as you can. Just trust me on that one.
    Repeat after me: NO. Or, “I’m sorry I’m just too busy” is much more polite. And needs to be said.
    Oh, life, must be lived. And lucky us that get to do the living.

  10. That one slightly dangly labia is totally normal. Don’t worry about it.

    (I can’t believe I attached my real name to this, but.)

    • Callie says...

      My favorite response out of all of them, hands down.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this.

  11. FGB says...

    Oh sweet girl, you are going to be just fine. You are so strong and I am so proud of you. You will love the woman you grow up to be and a big portion of that is because of what you are going through now. I promise you it gets better.

    As soon as you get the strength too, stand up to him. He will know you mean it.

    Keep working hard, but never put the needs of your employer before your own. They can live without you. Do what’s right for you. You don’t need to be perfect, a B in college is just fine (yes, you go to grad school!) break some rules – it’s ok.

    Those people you are intimidated by, go up and say ‘hi’, it turns out, everyone is nervous – and people like you and appreciate your friendliness.

    Keep having and voicing your opinions!

    Work through those hard years of your marriage. It turns out really great. (and you two have the most incredible son – the greatest joy of your life).

    I know you do this already – but spend even more time with mom, ask her all those questions. You lose her way to early.

    Thank you, young me, for having the strength to let older me be around. We have it good.

  12. Emily says...

    I’m still young. But I would tell my younger self:

    There are things more important than being ‘cool,’ and ‘cool’ can mean different things to different people. When you lean into being smart, intellectual, and creative, you will feel cooler than ever.

    The friends that stick around are in your corner, and it’s important to have people in your corner as you go through life.

    It’s okay to need help, or a hug from mom, every so often.

    :)

  13. L8Blmr says...

    Advice to my younger self: “you are good enough” period. the end.

  14. Hannah says...

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m finishing a year of teaching English in Tunisia after graduating from college last year and trying to figure out my next steps. I feel so paralyzed thinking that whatever I choose to do next will determine my entire life. I look at all of these women whose careers I admire and wonder what they felt when they were 23 and just starting out. I find that most interviews focus on people’s achievements, but I want to know about the years leading up to success and the twists and turns their lives took. I would love to see a series on Cup of Jo ala NPR’s How I Built This but for women’s careers!

    • HH says...

      Looking back on that moment, right after college, from the distance (somewhat rosy-hued) of 15 years…

      To my 23-year-old-self and all of you, going through that anxiety-inducing moment, you are not alone. My sister and I named it “Post College Trauma.” Out of rebellion, we bought crazy clothes we never wore (“another PCT purchase, huh?”). We dreamed about vacations and loathed the 8 to 5. We wondered “Is this it? Is this what the rest of my life looks like? School was SSOOOOO much better.”

      All I can say is… enjoy that moment, when anything and everything is possible. Even that first post-college job that seems at the time so awful and stunting. Find the things about it that you love. Better yet, that you believe in. It will get you past the tedium of the 8 to 5 and the low pay (humanities grads!) if you believe in what you’re doing/who you’re working for.

      My 23 year old self would have NEVER stood in front of a classroom (or adult audience!) teaching, NEVER spoken to the press about anything, NEVER thought she might be published one day. She was too shy to believe herself capable of any of those things.

      Be grateful to those who deserve gratitude. Remember the encouraging words, not the cruel ones. They are the ones that will put you in front of that classroom, in front of the press, etc. one day.

      And be kind. Listen before you speak. Remember, the people who seem the rudest or cruelest or coldest have a life that you know nothing about. Treat everyone with compassion. But don’t let anyone tread on you. Saying no is not being mean. Be firm, when you need to be firm. (Something I’m still working on.)

  15. Sally says...

    – It’s okay to not be super-ambitious in a career. There always seems to be a lot of pressure, for women especially, that if you’re not currently doing the “raising a family” thing, that all your energy should be on building a high-flying career. But it doesn’t have to be. It really doesn’t. There’s no shame in leaving the running of multi-nationals, or brain surgery, to someone who thrives on it. If you’re more of a “9-5, work to pay the bills and buy a weekend coffee” kind of person, that’s TOTALLY okay as well. Ambition to achieve high-flying careers isn’t for everyone.
    It wasn’t for me either. It’s took me over a decade to realise it, but once I did, it was like my life suddenly because 80% less stressful.

    • CL says...

      THIS!!!!!!!

    • CS says...

      Wow! Great advice!

    • Nicole says...

      Oh man, such a good point! Took me about a decade as well haha.

    • M says...

      Omg yes. I can’t have children and, yet, I’m not a super career driven person. AND THAT’S OKAY. I don’t have to do one or the other. My life is joyful and, honestly, really peaceful!

  16. Sally says...

    – If there is something you are trying to achieve, that you really, really, REALLY want – try your absolute hardest. That way, even if you end up not getting the result you wanted, then at least you’ll know in your heart that it wasn’t because you didn’t try your best. Regrets for something you didn’t get, because you were a bit lazy, are the absolute worst.
    – It’s okay to quit at something if it’s really not working out for you. If you’ve tried your best, given it your all, and it’s still not working, then it’s okay to call it a day. Whether that’s a job or a relationship, anything. For me, that was my teaching career. My dad had been a teacher, and I followed him into the “family trade”. He was an incredible teacher, top of his game, whereas I struggled. I could never quite make my teaching style fit with what management wanted, and however hard I worked, I could never quite get it right. Yet I stuck at it for 10 hard years, before finally saying, “You know what? I can’t do it any more. It’s not for me.” Finally making that decision was so incredibly liberating.
    – You’ll never regret establishing a good skincare regime.

    • Em says...

      Thanks for this Sally. I’m a teacher; eight years in and still struggling so much with the job. I’m facing what feels like a huge crossroads and it was really comforting to read the words of someone who’s been in my position.

  17. I come back to this list from Naomi Wolf over and over again.

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

    If they don’t have beards and aren’t clean-shaven either, they make good short-term but bad long-term boyfriends. Beware.

    Stop worrying about making people happy or getting people’s approval.

    Forget trends; go for the classics.

    Don’t gossip; it makes you untrustworthy.

    Condoms, condoms, condoms.

    Kindness is everything.

    • SZ says...

      I’ve got to disagree with the beard thing! :)

      My husband of 14 years “shaves” with that setting that makes it consistently look like he hasn’t shaved for 5 days, but it’s also not a beard. Incredibly loyal and kind dude. ;)

      On board with your other comments!

  18. C says...

    So curious how men would answer this question. We are so hard on ourselves as young women. After 20 years as a working professional, it was only in the last couple years that I really started to understand that all the feedback I got was not entirely valid, as I worked to overcome things like “my little girl voice.” I wish I had been less focused on myself and more focused on the forces driving the world around me.

  19. Kristie says...

    Don’t take every remark to heart. For example, if your boyfriend says “OH you have hair on your feet!”, don’t shave them… He will forget he ever said it, and you will still be dealing with spiky black toe hair ten years later.

  20. Erin says...

    When I was nervous before an exam in high school, my mum would tell me “This exam might be worth 50% of your grade in this course, but it is minuscule in the scope of your life. This exam is worth less than 1% of 1% in your life.” My mum taught me to evaluate myself based on whether I was treating others with kindness and respect, and whether I was trying my best, not based on exam results. I still remind myself of this today, and hope to pass it on to children of my own one day.

    • FGB says...

      I LOVE this and will absolutely use this. Thank you.

  21. Em says...

    When you keep praying for clarity about a relationship and not getting it, that IS the answer. Drop it like it’s hot!

    It’s TOTALLY OK TO NOT SAY SOMETHING NICE, particularly if that something nice is “Stop, I don’t like that,” or “Leave me alone, creep,” or “No, I do not want you to reorganize my office, Strange Coworker.” Love and respect yourself so you can stand up for yourself.

    Wear sunscreen and take care of yourself. You only get one you.

    Perfection and Comparison are two games you can play your whole life, but you will never win and you will never enjoy them. Opt out!

    Wow, some of this I need to tell myself now! Thinking of all those 20somethings graduating (or not) and in the limbo phases that can be so hard–in the future you will actually look back on them with some nostalgia. Try to enjoy them! Freewheel while you can!

    • HH says...

      All of these things! All of them!

  22. Eve says...

    Write every email as if it will be forwarded to the people you don’t want it forwarded it.

    • liz says...

      YUP. This seems small but a great tip. talking from experience… sigh haha

  23. Wendela says...

    Start saving for retirement as early as you can. Also save for a rainy day—aim to live below your means. Invest energy in relationships (friendships, family, romantic, professional—all kinds!). Don’t take too much personally—it’s rarely about you! Take yourself seriously (but not too seriously). Go after what (and who!) you want—you are worthy! Find people you can talk and laugh easily with and keep them close. Develop an exercise habit. Wear sunscreen. Eat your fruits and vegetables. Not so much ice cream—notice when that’s a way to avoid feeling something. Be honest with yourself. Make time to get comfortable being alone in your own company.

  24. If he doesn’t like you…he’s MISSING OUT!

  25. Lizzie says...

    One word: SUNSCREEN. My god. *facepalm*

  26. Andrea says...

    Don’t open a credit card account, it’s a slippery slope!

  27. Cat says...

    Thank you, as usual, for such a timely post. I was let go in a round of layoffs yesterday, in an industry where this is all too commonplace, and it’s hard to not see it as an appraisal of talent or qualification. Nora McInerny’s words brought tears to my eyes. They reminded me talk to (and about) myself in the same gentle, loving, kind, and generous way I’d talk to any of my loved ones.

    • Em says...

      Cat, I am so sorry! I don’t know you, but I am sure that you are talented, and you are qualified. I hope that this ends up being the beginning of a good turn that you would never have expected, something you’ll look back on with quietly joyful wonder.

  28. Erin says...

    I would tell that dear girl that figuring out what you don’t want is the first step in the long process of naming what you do want. So the city, the job, the boyfriend – all those things that you tried but weren’t the right fit, they were necessary so that you could begin to define very specifically what you do want. But MOST IMPORTANTLY – Two things can be true. Your parents could have done the best they could and it not have served you very well. Your father can be an alcoholic but still be worthy of your time and attention. You can know more now but still not know everything. Just like your younger self.

    • Allison Kreider says...

      “your parents could have done the best they could and it not have served you very well.” i can’t relate to this enough. as an adult, i now see my parents as kind, good, decent people – the way i’m sure lots of other people know them. but as their child, i experienced them & their relationship with each other differently. but i’m learning that these things can coexist. i can have lots of *feelings* about them, their marriage, their parenting – and still love and respect them for doing the best they could with what they had. i’d be curious what they would say to their younger selves …

  29. Emily says...

    I would tell myself, Forgive your parents for their mistakes. They are humans doing the best that they can, even if some of their choices hurt you.

    I would tell myself, 99.9% of things that happen have nothing to do with you. Don’t get involved with the things that do not. Don’t waste time worrying over other people’s problems and opinions.

    I would tell myself, Being thin doesn’t make you more worthy or valuable.

    • Lisa says...

      This. I am working on the 99.9% of things that happen have nothing to do with me. It is very hard to do but it is so freeing.

    • Frankie says...

      YES
      YES
      YES

  30. Alexa says...

    Get. Out. Of. Tanning. Beds.

    • Laura says...

      lol YES

  31. Christy says...

    I wish I could find my 19-year-old self, sit her down and make her repeat this over and over and over again until she really believed it:

    “You are a horse worth betting on. You have worth, and value, and ideas that are worth sharing. It’s important for you to hear this, to believe it, and surround yourself with people who make you feel this way. But it’s just as important for you to make your friends feel this way. Invest in your friends and tell them what you admire about them. Competing with them won’t fill a void.”

  32. Victoria says...

    In my 20s, I truly believed being skinny meant I was healthy, no zits meant I had clear skin, being busy meant I was important and being in a relationship would make me feel whole. If all these things aligned, then I’d be ‘happy.’

    BOY was I WRONG!

  33. Alexandra says...

    It’s not a race
    It’s not a race
    It’s not a race

    • kate says...

      Similarly – It’s not a race but it is a marathon. And just because you might be stumbling now, doesn’t mean you are always stumbling or failing.

  34. Heather says...

    Hold off on college. I went fresh from high school and flitted around for a few years, changing majors, experimenting and wasting serious money. Now I have the degrees, but I also have enough debt to literally buy another house. I wish I would have just pulled out and waited until I matured.

  35. Christine says...

    I would tell myself (and plan on telling my daughter on repeat) “don’t make long term decisions based on short term feelings”.

    • Leanne says...

      I needed this today. As a grownup. Thank you.

  36. Maria says...

    You don’t owe a thing to anyone. You owe yourself the entire world!

    You can always change your mind. (And no, you don’t owe anyone a justification.)

    Eat a little more when you’re 15, 16, 17, 18. You have the rest of your life for protruding hip and collar bones. Build those bones and that collagen in your teens and 20s. God knows you’ll want it later on.

    Trust yourself.

    (I’m 25, and I am hugging my little young me so tightly right now. She deserves it. Thank you CoJ community for this.)

    • Jackie says...

      I needed this today. <3

  37. Katie says...

    I agree with Ann Friedman! I have a hard time making decisions, and put a lot of weight on them. But my mother’s advice has always been, “there are very few decisions that you make now that you can’t change later.” Make the best decision you can with the information you have at that time, and if you need to pivot later, that’s okay!

    • Tania says...

      My dad taught me the same. No decision you make is permanent!

    • Frankie says...

      Completely agree and yet still manage to battle myself with this one all the time.

  38. Anonymous says...

    Re: college, finish that degree at all costs. Don’t tell yourself “it’s not for me”. It’s a fact that finishing college opens doors that not going to college never will. The graduation rate in this country is low. The people who wrk hard in school (and that’s the key: work hard) have a better quality of life later. You may one day find yourself mid-life wishing you had that to fall back on. And finishing when you’re young is a lot easier than after you’ve had kids.

  39. I’d tell myself it’s absolutely okay to not be like everyone else. I surely would tell myself that spraying air fresheners because I couldn’t afford to buy antiperspirants is a terrible idea. Nobody is looking, and even if they are so what. run and sing at the top of your lungs if that’s what you’d like. and there’s no such thing as laughing like a lady. and your nose is never too big.

  40. Invest your money wisely before babies kick in. You’ll be forever grateful you did.

  41. Tiffani Green says...

    “Doing your best ≠ making everyone happy”
    “Prioritize getting enough sleep and drinking enough water, they are the key to everything else”

  42. Annie says...

    I would say to ask for things! Ask for things and try things and don’t get offended when things don’t work out or someone doesn’t like you. Life is a series of little and big experiments and a lot of it boils down to some combination of effort/timing/chemistry so just keep going and know that you can’t “win” all the time but you will still “win” and have a good time!

    Cheryl Strayed also gives a great answer to this question (https://therumpus.net/2011/02/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-64/) here, including this quote:

    “The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”

  43. MJ says...

    I’m the coach on the sidelines of my younger self’s game screaming, “Don’t score that subtle snub/judgmental remark/snide whisper against that other girl. YOU’RE ON THE SAME TEAM!” Don’t ever look over at the woman across the room and feel diminished by her beauty, or intelligence, or charm. Align yourself. Introduce yourself.

    • Ash says...

      Thank you. This is advice that my current self needs to hear every so often. We are taught that as women, we are each other’s competition. This is such a load of crock. We are each others strength.

  44. Claudia says...

    * Spend your emotional energy on the people and activities who are giving some of that energy back to you.
    * You think you hate exercise, but you actually really love weightlifting–I know, right? Go ahead and get started on that early.
    * You’ll rarely be sorry you interpreted people’s actions charitably. You’ll often be sorry you interpreted people’s actions negatively.
    * For all your fear and anxiety, you’re actually a very brave person. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear; it’s going ahead despite it.
    * Buy lots of Apple stock during the 1990s.

    • b says...

      And Starbucks while you’re at it.

  45. Savannah says...

    You don’t have to date men if you don’t want to.

    • b says...

      I wish I could believe this when I tell it to myself now. My younger self wouldn’t have listened anyway.

    • Michelle says...

      Yes! And enjoy being single. Explore more on your own and know that you are not ‘complete’ when you are in a relationship.

  46. Abbey says...

    The things that are going to evolve you and bring you most alive are going to be things that are genuinely terrifying. That’s how you’re going to discover courage, honey, and you’re going to learn to LOVE IT. There’s so much more in you than you could even dream.

    • Maria says...

      Wow. Love it. Thanks!

  47. Anna says...

    Go to yoga, buy armfuls of greens, go on epic solo journeys and write about them, enjoy living alone but open your heart to love when it comes your way.

  48. Callie says...

    I’d say, “Sweet girl, repeat after me. ‘I am me, and I am ok.'”

  49. jackie says...

    You are enough.
    Have faith in yourself and trust the process.
    You can be ok with not knowing all the answers. You can’t think your way out of uncertainty.
    Accept your shortcomings with grace and understanding.
    Be honest with and about yourself. When you make a mistake or feel hurt, try to own it openly and without any kind of ego influence, because that will make you clearer and stronger. Be kind and courageous – give the compliment to that stranger, tell people when their words touch you, don’t give in to how easy it can be not say “i love you” to someone you do, but aren’t in the habit of telling. You’ll never regret doing any of this.
    Be in the present. Put yourself in the way of beauty and find joy in small things. Practice gratitude, write them down. Remember what you have, what you’ve gotten through, what you’ve learned, who you’ve become.
    Remember the traits you value – authenticity, compassion, integrity, courage and serenity – and chose to move towards them as often as possible.

  50. Silver says...

    Oh Ashley Ford, you nailed it!
    I might say = “this is it – this thing called life. Don’t be so afraid, all those years you you will spend trying end you life – just know it isn’t life that sucks, you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. One day it is all going to change and you’ll live a life that you’d do anything to hold on to, and you will and you’ll live and you’ll have a family (yes you will actually want to have a kid one day, and don’t worry – it works out). Life is bitter and sweet but it is all you have. You will come to peace with the fact that there is no god, and that you will not get second chances after death – this right now is the glory – so run with it. Oh and learn now that there is strength in compassion – one day you’ll meet someone who says “it is amazing how often people get what they want, just by articulating that want clearly to others”. Stay true ninja, you got this”. Oh I would also say “you will find the truest and most amazing love, so please don’t let the idiots in. And NEVER go camping – seriously, it’s a massive disaster when you do it”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “And NEVER go camping – seriously, it’s a massive disaster when you do it”” = hahaha

  51. Emily says...

    Believe it when people tell you who they are. My younger self wanted to believe better things about people. Now I pay attention to what they tell me. It saves a lot of time for those people I truly want to spend my time with.
    Also, relish your perfect health. It’s an amazing gift.

  52. Megan says...

    If you are doing something privately that you wouldn’t do publicly, ask yourself why.

  53. Michelle B says...

    I would remind myself that no one will remember what you said, but how you made them feel.

  54. Meagan R. says...

    “Don’t feel burdened by your humanity…You will find that your open heart has been a gift the whole time.” BEAUTIFUL words that really resonate with me, one who feels everything so very deeply and is often tempted to see it as a weakness. <3 Thank you, Ashley!

  55. Agnes says...

    SAVE. YOUR. MONEY. At least $100 a month. And don’t spend it. Start when you start your working life. And don’t touch it except to invest it wisely or buy a house when the amount is big enough.

    • SUCH important advice! I absolutely second this!!

    • b says...

      I third this. I’d be in a much better position if I had started saving when I was 17 and had my first job instead of needing the new Backstreet Boys CD (among many other things that seem ridiculous now).

  56. Taylore says...

    you don’t have to go to college just because everyone else is & it’s okay you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, (you still don’t.) also, stop spending all your paychecks on those awful ripped up jeans; put some away in a savings account.

  57. EP says...

    Prioritize the relationship you have with yourself over all other relationships. Love yourself. Take care of yourself. This is not in any way selfish.

    Growing up I had such low self-esteem that I was constantly seeking validation from other people. I needed them to like me or I felt worthless. Thankfully I finally took the time to commit to loving myself and it has improved every relationship in my life. It has helped me to remove toxic relationships without the fear of hurting someone else’s feelings at an expense to myself. Love YOU. Do what is right for YOU, and stop worrying what everyone else might think. After all, they’re really just focused on themselves anyway, so nobody actually cares all too much what you’re doing!

    • Maria says...

      THIS <3

  58. Becca says...

    I am really hard on how I look in photos (too heavy, too wrinkly, funny teeth, etc), but it recently hit me that after a few years, I see photos and think I look amazing! So hot! So young and full of energy!

    So now when I feel those mean thoughts coming I think: “future you will think you’re beautiful. Let present you feel beautiful right now.”

    • Hannah says...

      Becca, I absolutely love this comment. I needed to read this today <3

    • Silver says...

      My cousin posted a picture of herself in a swimsuit, it was an image from when she was in her twenties (she in her 50s now) and under it she wrote ‘I wish I was as fat as the first time I thought I was fat” – and it is true – she was absolutely gorgeous – youth, vitality, joy, and being full of expectation… fat isn’t on the list, and wouldn’t be even if we used 1000 words to describe her.

  59. Lauren says...

    I’m still learning this lesson, but I would say that as a 32 year old woman, I am always reminding myself to be kind and think gently about my younger self — she did the very best she could with the information she had at the time… and she did it all with great hair and in uncomfortable shoes! And at the same time, she must have known what she was doing, so I would thank her for making important decisions that set my 32 year old self up for the life I have now.

    • Kui says...

      May sound so cliche but being yourself is the biggest favor you will ever do to yourself😊 Would have saved me from ALOT.
      Also surrender your ALL to God, sounds cliche still, but it’s Oh So Liberating!

  60. SAVE. MONEY. And then enjoy your money.

  61. liz says...

    The one I’ve been thinking a lot lately: Worrying won’t change any outcomes, so why bother!

  62. Sarah says...

    1. Actually listen to and trust your gut. If your friend, crush, romantic partner, or family member says or does something unkind, to you or to someone else, you will respect yourself more if you say something about it. If taking a stand leads to the end of the friendship or relationship, then that person wasn’t worth having in your life.
    2. (related to 1) Your first loyalty should be to yourself. If a job or a class is making you miserable, don’t be a martyr and stick it out until you hit your breaking point. If it’s the wrong fit, find the right one. You don’t owe a company, or your boss, your undying loyalty – they certainly won’t bend over backwards to help you.
    3. Max out your 401(k) at the first opportunity you get. That is free money and the more time it has to grow, the better!
    4. Take risks! If you are too scared to try new things because you’re afraid of failing, you’ll regret it. “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage” – Anais Nin
    5. The second they are invented, get your hands on some Corsyx pimple patches (seriously, where were these when I was in high school?!)

  63. Laura says...

    when I see this question I always think of the second Terminator movie. I’d tell my younger self to get strong! (and be a scientist)

  64. Katie says...

    I really needed this today. I am me, and that is perfect.

  65. Joy Bela says...

    Be kind. Put your napkin on your lap. Don’t listen to that teacher who scolds you for daydreaming. And most importantly: those little moments that feel especially terrifying are the moments you’ll feel most alive.

    • Emily says...

      Wow… i so identify with these !

  66. Charlotte says...

    To paraphrase the late, great, Nora Ephron, “wear the damn bikini”. Also, you have thin enamel so just go to the dentist already.

  67. janee says...

    Put 10% of ANY income into investments or a retirement acct before you do anything including buying groceries! You think you’ll miss it but it will do so much more for you later than it will by frittering it away now.

    Do not waste any time on men who don’t love you in a way you don’t have to justify because it is wildly evident. Infatuation is not what’s important and it will waste your time.

    Continue to work out as if you are still in high school sports. It’s important.

    Good job going vegan early on – the planet, and your body, thanks you.

    Plant at least 3 trees in a group (they are stronger in family plantings), where they won’t be cut down, every year for the rest of your life.

    • Fiona Lee says...

      Thank you! I love these tips.

  68. Deidre says...

    I love this post and the comments (and I’ve already commented too) but I’ve been thinking: what about advice FROM my younger self? (I learn so much from my 3year-old daughter, for example.)
    What would that younger self, so intensely alive, so unknowingly brave, say to me now?

    • Dee says...

      Now, THIS! Yes. I would love to read answers to this question.

    • i love that!

    • Marie says...

      I like to think of the Anton and Toby conversations as advice to from a younger person (I don’t have kids yet so I don’t get to hear all those gems regularly). They always make me smile with their depth and silliness.

    • Marie says...

      from*

    • Leanne says...

      Yes! My 3-year-old puts together the most fun outfits combos and talks about how “super beautiful” she is. I wish I had that confidence now – only caring how my choices make me feel rather than worrying what others would think.

  69. E E Faris says...

    Wear earplugs when you use a hair dryer! This will save you from hearing loss later in life.

  70. Rosie says...

    Accept help when you need it, but remember that money comes with strings. It may seem like your parents are just being supportive because they can be, but don’t take money for longer than you need to if you want to live your own life. That said, if you need it and they’re offering, accept it. Don’t starve or work so much you’re miserable to prove a point. The fact that my parents insisted on giving me money well into my thirties was great in that it let me make riskier decisions that paid off in my career, but it also gave them an icky power over me that I still resent. It’s hard to reconcile that resentment with the incredible gratitude for the safety net.

  71. I’ve learned over the last few years when making decisions to remind myself that “it’s either a fuck yes or a no”. I have an all-in personality so if my emotions are placing me on the fence of a decision it becomes an automatic no. Then I dive straight in when it’s a “Fuck Yes!”

    • janee says...

      I like this – very practical thanks!

    • Charlotte Griffin says...

      Same here! From huge, life altering decisions to the completely mundane. Also, no shade if I change my mind with just as much conviction.