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15 pieces of advice I would give my teenage self

Looking back, I barely recognise that girl. My dreams, aspirations, values and perceptions have completely changed, writes Mairead Healy.

Mairead Healy

AT 18, I was like many young people at that age: excited to be going it alone in the big world.

Everything seemed SO important. I thought I had all the answers. Yet honestly, I didn’t have a clue who I was. Looking back now 14 years later, I barely recognise that girl. My dreams, aspirations, values and perceptions have completely changed.

My twenties were a mainly unpleasant period full of heartache, losing everything stable in my world-my mother, my brother and our family home. Yet, there were also periods of great adventure, living and working in London, Brussels and Florence amongst others and changing jobs before finding my calling in life.

Here is some wisdom that I have learned along the way, that if I could, would impart on my younger self.

1. The meaning of success

There is more to life than top academic grades, a big salary and a fancy job title. What’s more, it’s ok not to know what you want to do and to figure it out along the way. My definition of success has totally changed in the past 5 years. For me now, success is simply about being able to wake up happy and go to bed happy, every single day.

2. Life is hard, very hard

There are going to be unpredictable events that are horrifying and unpreventable. You are going to lose people, get your heart broken, feel alone, and depressed at different stages. But just remember that everything is going to be ok. Eventually, the tide will turn and life will be more amazing than you ever thought possible. How you recover from these tough times and what you learn, is actually what will define you. In fact, sometimes the uncomfortable transition period is the defining moment for learning and growth.

3. Your intuition is almost always right.

Listen to your inner voice and don’t ignore red flags. How many times have we felt that something really wasn’t right, but we ignored it and believed what we wanted to? As you get older, you’ll come to trust that your gut is your most trusted advisor.

4. Everything changes

You as a person, will constantly change and your personality will evolve as your values, knowledge and wisdom are refined over time. Your preferences will also change, your food tastes will alter, your style will change and the things that will make you happy will also evolve. What you find attractive in a potential partner will also change (useful tip, take a second look at the nice guys!

5. Friends come and go

Know that relationships are not static. People who are your friends now, will drift away. And that’s okay. Later on, you will find they were in your life at the exact time they needed to be there. As you get more confident in yourself, you will realise that not all friends are a positive influence, and for your own personal worth it is important to surround yourself only with people who lift you up.

6. Stand up for yourself.

Don’t follow the crowd and keep quiet when you are treated badly or see someone else treated wrongly. Always call out bad behaviour and never accept it. You are your one and only true advocate, so never be afraid to stand up for yourself and speak your mind.

7. Give back

I live by the 3 thirds rule of life. Spend 1/3 of your waking hours working, 1/3 ‘me’ time and 1/3 giving back and supporting others. This could be through volunteering or helping someone who needs support. The single most generous thing you can do for others, is to give them your time.

8. What defines you

What defines you as an individual, is not your career or accomplishments, but how kind you are to others and the feeling that you leave people with. Always try and be as nice as possible to everyone you meet. When others are rude or mean to you, remember it is reflective of what’s going on in their own head not a reflection of you. By the same vein, try not to judge them and instead try to understand their pain. None of us know what is going on in someone else’s life.

9. Take risks now

Travel the world, enjoy life, and make friends continuously. Always take risks. Get outside of your comfort zone at least once per day. Always challenge yourself so that you continuously learn and grow.

10. Be curious

Always unapologetically ask more questions, not merely just to know answers, but to share in experiences. Everyone has their own stories to tell- always involving a journey. Listen to the lessons they share.

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11. Always mind yourself

Take care of your body, as well as your soul. Get more sleep. Even better, get up really early every morning before anyone else, this does wonders for the soul! Have a creative outlet, which allows you to zone out from the day to day drudgery!

Last year, I did a makeup course which allowed me to try something completely outside my comfort zone. This year I’m doing a night course in digital marketing and another in psychology, both of which have no relation to my work or career, but simply for the fun of it!

12. Never be afraid to start over

If you are not happy, try something completely different. Don’t be afraid of not succeeding. Be more afraid of NOT trying and living with regret. People will try to discourage you but don’t let them. Believe in yourself. If you fall, pick yourself up, and keep moving forward.

13. Be grateful.

Look up as you walk around, and notice the wonder of nature. Look around at the people who brought you to where you are today and tell them thank you. Appreciate the small things in life and you will always be happy, even in a bad situation.

14. You make your own luck

There’s a notion that serendipity is just happen stance, but I think it’s about tuning in and noticing things, listening to those you encounter and why you encountered them at that particular moment; then being actively open to embrace the opportunities you are given.

15. Be happy and proud of who you are.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. You are on your own path and don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone is on a different journey and at a different stage, so it is important to be happy with yourself and measure your actions, thoughts and words only against your own values and integrity.

Mairead Healy is Chief Executive of Future Voices Ireland, an Irish youth empowerment charity.

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About the author:

Mairead Healy

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