23 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger

1. Things aren’t always going to be easy.
In the words of musical legend (I use the term very, very loosely) Ronan Keating: ‘life is a rollercoaster, you just gotta ride it’.

2. Listen to your orthodontist and wear that post-brace retainer. 
Otherwise, the two years you spent picking food out of your Train Tracks will literally have been for nothing.

3. Experiment with your sexuality if you want to.
If you feel inclined, experiment and explore! Have no fear or shame in getting to know what you like and enjoy!

4. Change is a good thing and you will get way better at dealing with it as you get older.
Life’s magic tends to happen when you are outside of your comfort zone, so embrace change! It might take a while to adjust, but it will be so #worthit.

5. Wearing sunglasses indoors is not cool.
Unless, of course, you are Stevie Wonder.

6. If you can’t already, learn to ask for help. 
Because at some point, just like everybody else, you are going to need it and there is no shame in that.

7. Enjoy being single.
Relationships bring their own challenges; enjoy ‘me time’ and make the most out of being able to eat blocks of cheese in your pants on a Saturday night.

8. Hair will, in most cases, always grow back.
So don’t totally freak out next time you lop off a few too many inches.

9. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
Learn to laugh at yourself – I promise you, it will make life SO much easier.

10. Your tastes and opinions will change over time. 

This is a good one to keep in mind when you are considering getting something as permanent as a tattoo. Your adult self might not be as huge of a Britney or Bieber fan as your teenage self:

11. Your life might not end up exactly how you envisaged it.
Okay, so you might not get the law career, the big house and the white picket fence you dreamed of – but that’s fine! When I was four, I thought ‘being a mermaid’ was a tangible career option; needless to say, life under the sea hasn’t quite panned out for me.

12. Some people won’t like you, that’s okay.
Also, don’t change yourself for anybody. Stay true to who you are – people should love you for you, not the person you are trying to be.

13. Stick at that hobby.
It might just turn into an awesome career.

14. Keep a record of all your passwords.
Because I am still grieving the Hotmail account I lost access to five years ago. The thought of all those unread emails though…

15. No one will remember that time you *insert embarrassing situation here*. 
It might have seemed absolutely horrifying at the time and you might relive the scene again and again in your head, but trust me when I say, people are far too concerned with themselves to remember that embarrassing thing you did.

16. When you get your heart broken it feels like the end of the world, but it will ALWAYS heal in time.

So try not to waste too much of your young life hung up on the fools who break it.

17. Don’t give time to people who make you feel bad about yourself.
Because backhanded compliments are the worst.

18. Do what you want to do, not what you think you should do.
It might mean taking a risk, but if you feel it is the right thing to do, don’t let anyone stop you.

19. Stop sleeping in.
Sometimes I think of all the great things I could have done instead of sleeping in until midday. If I had spent as much time learning a new instrument as I did napping, I’d be first chair in an orchestra right now.

20. Put your friends before you crush. 
It’s so easy to fall into the relationship bubble where you stop seeing friends and instead spend night after night in your significant other’s arms. But, if your relationship doesn’t work out, you will want those friends there to support you through the break-up. Make sure you spend time with them instead of Netflix and Chilling 24-7.

21. Listen to your gut instinct.
Trust yourself; that inner voice is so often right.

22. It’s not a race to lose your virginity. 
Really it’s not. Don’t ever feel pressured to have sex just for the sake of being able to say you have lost your virginity. Make sure you are 100% ready by your own standards, no one else’s.

23. Try not to waste time regretting
What’s done is done. You cannot undo the past. Instead of focusing on ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ – look at how you can move forward in a positive way.

Any other things you wish you learnt when you were younger? Let us know in our Community.

Friendships and relationships are an important part of young adult life and in this day and age, this extends to connections they may have formed on the internet.

You might be worried about your child’s safety, however, it is important that you build a relationship where your child feels they are able to talk openly with you about their online activity without provoking judgement or a negative reaction – such as you limiting their access to the computer or mobile phone. Our Valentine’s study revealed that 55% of respondents overall had, at some point experienced a virtual, romantic, relationship with somebody they had never met. The data shows that young people who do not identify as being exclusively attracted to members of the opposite sex, those with a disability, those who identify as transgendered or respondents from lower-income backgrounds are the most likely to have engaged in a virtual relationship with somebody online.

While virtual relationships are often blamed for a wider disconnection between people and our ability to communicate in offline environments, our research has forced us to acknowledge the positives of conducting a romantic relationship in such a way. Virtual relationships allow for human connection, contact and gratification – things which for some, might be challenging to obtain or experience in the physical world. Those with a disability, for example, can also choose how much they disclose about their disability and can present themselves how they wish. Many young adults find relief and freedom from some of the prejudices they have encountered offline.

1. Keep an open dialogue.

We advise talking openly with your child and creating an environment in which they feel able to approach you. It is important that you do not patronise your child when speaking to them about their virtual relationship – to them, it will be just as meaningful as an offline relationship. Reassure them you will be there to support them every step of the way and you are there if they need to talk. Spend time with them, make sure they know they are not alone and encourage conversation around their online activity, or who they might be virtually dating in a way that doesn’t seem like you are prying.

2. Get to grips with the technology.

To get a better understanding of what sites and technologies your child might be using, take time to get to grips with it yourself. Read up on it, sign up to it and explore it. It will be easier to talk to your child about it if you are able to hold your own in the conversation. It also means you will be able to offer them advice on how to stay safe on a particular platform and they will be more likely to respect your opinion and listen if they know you are clued up on it.

3. Don’t punish them for being honest with you.

Reassure them that they will not be punished or chastised for talking about their online activity or seeking help. Often children do not confide in their parents because they are fearful of the consequences; make sure they feel comfortable talking about their experiences and that they feel they can confide in you without fear of being reprimanded. For example, if you threaten to limit the time they spend online as a preventative measure, you are essentially punishing them for being honest with you – this may mean they do not seek your support in the future when something is wrong.

4. Advise them on how to stay safe online and teach them ‘netiquette’.

Their safety is your priority. Make sure your child’s privacy settings are high and remind them to be careful when connecting with anybody who they do not know offline. Make sure they are aware that people may not always be who they say they are and that they could be putting themselves and those closest to them at risk.

Advise them that they should never give away personal details like their full name, telephone, address etc to someone they have not met offline either. If somebody is exhibiting threatening behaviour, or has their personal information and is giving them the impression that their safety might be at risk, contact the police immediately.

Teach your child how to behave properly online; help them to understand that their behaviour in online environments should reflect their offline behaviour – they may have forgotten that there is a person behind the profile. Remind them to be respectful of themselves and not to share anything online that they wouldn’t be happy with people seeing offline.

5. Give them solutions to potential problems.

For example, make them aware that if they ever feel like a situation is getting out of control, they have your unconditional support. You could also give them the contact details of Ditch the Label or an organisation like Childline (0800 11 11) if you feel they are more likely to want to seek external support.

Meet the GRL PWR Gang, a collective of girls set for world domination.

We interviewed Artist/Designer Elizabeth Ilsley, Photographer/Director Millicent Hailes and Marketing Consultant Jessica Riches; just three members of GRL PWR Gang, a collective of influential women who have joined forces to promote female empowerment and support other women working in creative industries. 

Founded by Kirsti Hadley and Kylie Griffiths, the GRL PWR Gang works together to provide opportunities for like-minded women to come together for girl-chat, media networking, creative support, team projects and sharing of ideas.

Their objective is to encourage and inspire other young women to access the creative industries as a potential career path, and plan to pass on their collective knowledge to the next generation of young girls via digital engagement and live events. They will soon host talks and mentor young girls on body image, beauty, feminism, social media and how to access that dream job!

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DTL: Our research revealed that 35% of teenage girls believe that their gender will have a negative effect on their career. What are your thoughts on this, based on your experiences?

  • Jessica: It’s true. But if you’re prepared for that, you can be aware of it. Call it out when you see it, know your rights, educate yourself and join any organisations or unions available to you for extra support.
  • Millicent: It’s really sad. There have been shoots in the past where I have been mistaken for the assistant, and my male assistant is assumed to be the photographer, just because he’s an older guy. This has happened before we’ve even set up or spoken to anyone, so it really is based purely on gender, and who is perceived to be the most ‘capable’ or ‘powerful’. It frustrates me, but ignorance isn’t going to keep me from furthering my career.

DTL: Did you ever experience bullying? If so can you tell us what happened and how you dealt with it?

  • Elizabeth: Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I experienced bullying throughout primary and secondary school. I had ginger hair and have a prominent mole next to my mouth, so kids used to tease me constantly about my appearance. I was in such turmoil during that time; I tried to cut my mole off with a razor when I was in Year 8, after a group of boys wouldn’t stop calling me ‘moley’! But my god, I am so glad I never had it removed – having a noticeable mole on my face makes me unique, and it has become one of my favourite features now!
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Elizabeth Ilsley
  • Millicent: One of the many times I was suspended at school, was for not intervening in a situation when I was aware that a girl was being bullied. Maybe the teachers thought that, because I was outspoken and confident, I should have stepped in and helped the girl. My mum always tells that story to my little brother and sister who are just starting secondary school – the tale of when their older sister was a coward. I still feel really awful about it now.
  • Jessica: All you have to do is go online to see the disgusting abuse directed at people – particularly women, LGBT+ people and ethnic minorities. I work with a number of bloggers, journalists and celebrities on their personal profiles online, and it makes them want to give up their platform. All you can do is tell them to focus on the people who are positively impacted by their words; they far outweigh the cowardly, unhappy few.

DTL: What advice would you give to someone who may be experiencing bullying right now?

  • Millicent: Tell somebody right away – a problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t isolate yourself, situations seem worse when you feel alone, there are people out there who are going through the same thing as you. More than you think.
  • Jessica: You are not alone. If you can’t get a support network in real life it will definitely exist online – Ditch the Label is a great example of this. You can visit their website and access support at the click of a button if you need to.

DTL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?

  • Elizabeth: You are not ugly. You are as funny and important as everyone else at school. There is no one else like you and life will get really, really fun as soon as you turn 18. Also, stop worrying about the colour of your hair and the socks that you wear.
  • Millicent: Embrace who you are. Wear weird clothes, watch weird movies. You’re great and don’t give a s*&% if someone says otherwise.
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Millicent Hailes

DTL: What are your most prominent challenges, and how do you overcome them?

  • Jessica: Being taken seriously as a young woman in business is hard. So many people have said to me ‘you’ve done so much for a girl so young’. They’d never say anything like that if I was a man.

DTL: What is it like to be a woman in 2016 and what needs to change?

  • Jessica: I have a very specific experience of being a woman in 2016, as a straight, white, cis-gendered woman with a degree and a middle-class background. I deal with sexist comments disguised as compliments, and have probably lost out on some income as a result of this – but I’m one of the lucky ones. There are lots of mainstream movements to make life better for women in 2016, but the majority of movements still need to broaden, listen to, and represent the needs of all women, not just those like me.
  • Millicent: Even in 2016 it’s important to remember how far we’ve come together, and how far we still have to go for gender equality and women’s rights.
  • Elizabeth: I want to keep this positive so, to be a woman in 2016 is…fun! Not in every aspect, of course, but in the main, it is incredibly fun! We are free to express ourselves, and there are opportunities out there for us – you just gotta find them.
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Jessica Riches

DTL: Is there anything you would like to add?

  • Millicent: I’m always available to speak to anybody that needs my help or advice. I might not be as good as Ditch The Label, but I’m still here!
  • Elizabeth: Enjoy being a woman – it’s a blessing, but don’t hate on men. Men are a blessing too!

Learn more about GRL PWR Gang here: Girls Girls Girls

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Read our full Gender Report here: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/gender-report-2016/

Whether you are being bullied, or you are aware of someone who is, Ditch the Label is here to help: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/get-help/