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Letter to my 16 year old self

Written by Tia Giles

Dear 16 year old me,

I am writing to you from 2022 – a date that probably seems inconceivable to you right now but today is the day after our 20th birthday (scary, I know!). I remember 16 being a confusing age. You’re tackling GCSE’s, having an enormous amount of pressure piled on you by teachers with unrealistic standards, trying to live the life of a teenager all at the same time. You’re still re-building the confidence you’ve lost in people and in yourself. But I know you will get there and look back at how far you’ve come with a great amount of pride. You have lived off the opinions of others for far too long and have wrestled with being afraid to be wrong and preparing yourself to apologise when right. If turning 20 has taught me anything, it’s that life is too short to put what people think of you above the opinion you have of yourself.

You won’t realise it yet, but that little voice in your head that screams imposter syndrome, will hold you back in your endeavours if you continue to pay attention to it. I know it’s easier said than done but you will learn that worrying does not prepare you for tomorrow, it simply saps the joy out of today and it will WASTE YOUR TIME. Don’t worry though, you will prove every single person that currently doubts you, wrong and you will prove yourself to be much stronger than you know. Going to university is part of how we become more confident and stronger within ourselves. We encounter lots of challenges, but this is what makes us that much stronger. These challenges are needed to allow growth, learning, and flourishing. Becoming a university student seems like a scary prospect now and a road that we never thought we would take, but we make ourselves incredibly proud.

Applying what we learn at university to right now, my advice would be to put a stop to the imposter syndrome before it limits your choices. Life is too short to waste it on unrealistic comparisons and as they say, all that glitters is not gold. Not everything you see on social media, for example, is a true reflection of what someone is like or the kind of life they are living – you never know what someone is going through, so always check up on the people you love. I’m telling you now, the opinions that your GCSE teachers have on you regarding your academic abilities are false. YOU MAKE IT TO UNIVERSITY - with even better grades than the people who you have previously compared yourself to. The only comparison you need to make is with yourself. You will work hard and achieve excellent GCSE grades and even better A-Level grades – you prove everyone wrong. Let this be your drive to excel and don’t let doubt stop you from reaching the place you want to be.

So, that dance show that’s coming up? Do it and do it with confidence. That outfit you want to wear on mufti day but are too scared to be different? Wear it. That house party invite? Say yes. You deserve everything good and I wish I had known this years ago.

There’s a part of me that wants to warn you for what lies ahead, because I won’t lie to you, it's a rough mental journey. I want to warn you relationship wise and tell you who not to get involved with, but I realise now that I wouldn’t change my experience. We learn from it massively – the highs and the lows teach us a lot about ourselves and what we don’t want in a relationship and that if we love ourselves a little bit more, our standards elevate naturally. There will be times of great challenge but please remember this: don’t ever stop showing up. I encourage you to keep going and remain focused on what makes your soul truly shine. School, I realise, is hard. You’re in the process of picking what you want to do next and what will ultimately determine your future university options. I’m going to sound completely mad writing this to you now but in just two years’ time, we enter a global pandemic that leads us into becoming the best version of ourselves, giving us time to heal after losing our best friend. Just trust the process. You don’t have to have it all figured out, or know what you’re going to do next, or achieve the unrealistic standards school has set upon you or understand your choices in life. You simply must try to enjoy every moment and stop spending your days worrying about what the future might hold – because I realise now, at the ripe age of 20, that this is the ultimate robbery of time.

Finally, open your eyes and appreciate life - for it is far more precious than you may think. Be grateful for every single person who you have and be open to the prospect of new experiences and new faces. We have wasted far too many years blending into the background and quite frankly, it’s time we started to get ourselves out there and meet new people. Don’t waste time entertaining people who no longer serve you or your goals and who always put you down or make you feel less than you are. Equally, never complain about who you have in your life – you will miss them lighting up your phone one day.

But for now, concentrate on where you are. Get through your GCSE’s and A-Levels and believe that you can do well. Invest in your friendships with people and fight that voice that tells you won’t make it. When life does pose its challenges, remember to hold your head up high and continue moving with a PMA (positive mental attitude) – that’s our speciality.

You are worthy, precious and smart. Never regret or apologise for being a good person. Everything you are working towards now will be worth it.

Virtual hugs,

Your 2022 self x

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