Fat, Fat Blogs, Fillyjonk, Self-Image

What would you tell your 14-year-old self?

Mo at Big Fat Deal got a poignant question from a 14-year-old reader, one that stirred up emotions for a lot of people who recognized either themselves or someone close to them. The letter-writer asked:

Is this just a “fourteen year old phase”?
What’ll it take for me to love my reflection?
‘Cause everytime I say to myself “You’re beautiful” it feels like a lie…

How do you do it? How can you just totally accept yourself exactly the way you are! What your secret? Will you share it with me?

The question has elicited such beautiful sentiments that I hope you go over there and read all of them (and contribute your own). Here’s a sampling:


Your body is how your mind accomplishes its work in the world; it’s what lets you do and be and act. We tell women that their bodies need to look a certain way, but if we all looked the same, we’d all be do-ing and be-ing and act-ing the same, and that’s not what this world needs. It needs all our individual bodies, and all our individual talents, and all our individual limitations in order to create the diversity of experiences that exist. If everyone were the same, even if everyone were perfect, the world would, frankly, suck.

Look at your body and love your body not for what it looks like to others, but for what it does for you. Find the parts of it you like, the parts of it that are strong or flexible or hard or soft in just the right ways, and concentrate on those for a while. Maybe you can’t hear “You are beautiful” yet (though you are), but try “I am strong” or “I am fearless” or “I am flexible” or “I am solid” or “I am energetic.”

Say good things about yourself long enough, and even you will come to believe them. (Remember that it works the other way, too, and stop yourself from saying negative things about your body, even in your head.)


I think in order to believe you’re beautiful there are certain things you have to believe first.

You have to believe that so much of the world is in the business of telling women that they’re not beautiful, and that being beautiful is the only way women can ever be worth something. This is the big idea. They make money off this idea. They love that this idea gives them something to hold over women. And as for who “they” are: they are companies and magazines; they can be men who have discovered the power of this idea; they can be women who have given their lives over to slavishly following this idea and think you should, too; they can be the guys in your homeroom and the jerk who shouted something at you on the street; they can be perfectly nice people, too, your friends and your mother and people you love.

I know, it’s intense. It’s much easier to believe you’re not beautiful than believe the above. But that’s kind of how it works.


To the young woman that wrote in: I don’t know you and may never have the chance to meet you, but the fact that you are asking for help with self-acceptance is simply amazing and so wonderful to see. Even if you don’t realize it, you have asked these questions because your very soul understands your worth and is gently calling your mind and heart (and eyes) to agreement. Continue searching, continue reading, continue questioning, and keep looking in the mirror – one day you will see your beauty. You are loved and supported by more than just your mother and friends – you are loved and supported by all who have come before you and know your struggle. We are here for you, we are rooting for you, and without even knowing you, we know that you are so very beautiful.


The best thing you can do is take care of yourself. That doesn’t mean starving and compulsive exercise. It means trying to get a balanced diet and incorporating some physical activity. It also means looking at the people and influences in your life and making sure that those things make you feel GOOD about yourself and not bad. Develop your talents, and be glad that your mom tells you you’re beautiful….not all moms do.


I don’t think it’s “just a phase,” but I think everybody struggles with their image of themselves in adolescence. Your body is doing all kinds of weird shit, even if you’ve gone through puberty early; your hormones are raging; you’re trying to do way too much in a day when your body needs care and nurturing and plenty of rest. Not only that, but high school is a total emotional minefield. It’s hard to love anybody, let alone yourself. I think it makes sense to be freaked out sometimes, and that it’s easier to start accepting yourself as your body settles down. That’s without bringing dieting into it, but anyway.

Another thing that’s really important to know: those of us who appear super confident and accepting still have bad days. We still have days where we think we’re fat and that means we’re ugly, where everything from our hair to the shape of our toes is wrong wrong wrong. So don’t beat yourself up further for not being able to love yourself every time you look in the mirror. Nobody does, except total narcissists.


I think what I would add/emphasize is that loving yourself isn’t something you are ever done figuring out. Even as an adult, I struggle with finding myself beautiful sometimes. It is so hard, yes, but the question is, do you want a life that you love? Because if you do, then you need to not give energy to other people’s expectations to such a degree that you stop living your life.


All the tips and tricks and affirmations in the world won’t force a change in an unwilling mind, but you have to find whatever it is inside you that makes it true for you. A lot of that comes through doing whatever it is that you are uniquely good at, because the satisfaction of creating or performing something great drowns out a helluva lot of self-loathing cynicism. It can be anything; art, sports, music, theater, writing, gardening, martial arts, photography, crafts, etc. etc. etc.

Do something physical. I agree about the Yoga since it challenges you, you can work up to it gradually at your own pace, it helps your balance and posture, and it makes you really aware of your body and what it can accomplish.

Then, surround yourself with good people. Friends are not really friends if they tear you down or make you feel ashamed of any part of yourself, physical or personal. A friend is someone you should be able to trust. A couple of true friends is worth more than a houseful of “associates” that stress you out.

Skinny people hate their bodies too. The “beautiful people” often see just as much to hate about their bodies as everyone else. That doesn’t help or comfort much, but it’s a perspective to hold onto so that you’re not placing anyone on a pedestal. Choose your heros by what they do and who they are, not by what they look like.


This is a tough one, but here’s an idea that helped me. People tend to judge themselves more harshly than other people. So, try to find beauty in other non-size-0 girls and women around you. When you start to see their beauty, it will help you to see that beauty is not about size, and that everyone has their own way of being beautiful. Then it will be easier to apply these concepts to yourself and see your own beauty.

By doing all of this, hopefully you will change your idea of what is beautiful and attractive. If you measure everyone against Hollywood standards, most people are going to fall short. And the fact is, just because images are presented to you as being “beautiful,” that doesn’t mean that you have to believe that they represent the only definition of beauty.

Damn, you guys, I wish you’d been around when I was 14. There’s some advice on the thread that I find weird or don’t completely agree with, but mostly there’s a vast number of really insightful, uplifting comments. I hope the letter-writer reads them and takes them to heart. The FA movement has the potential to make some young people’s lives a lot happier and healthier, y’all. I sure wish it had been around for me. (Well, it was around, but it wasn’t so easy to access.)

What do you wish someone had told you when you were 14? What do you want to tell the 14-year-olds you know, who might be going through this?

152 thoughts on “What would you tell your 14-year-old self?”

  1. All of the above, and on top of that: Don’t diet. Seriously. At all. Just try to eat intuitively and take care of yourself, but if anyone approaches you saying, “_____ will help you lose weight!” run in the opposite direction. Your health, mental and physical, will thank you for it, and you deserve health and happiness.

  2. I wish these blogs had been around when I was 14, too. Dayummm.

    Number 1 thing I’d tell my 14-year-old self? YOU DON’T NEED A BOYFRIEND. That was all I could THINK about then. I’d remind her that a bad relationship was a million times worse than being alone, and when a girl tells you she has a boyfriend and is not happy, there’s a good reason for it and you shouldn’t dismiss what she’s saying. It’s probably not that she does not appreciate what she has. It’s way more likely because what she has is a bad relationship. And bad relationship is a kind of walking death.

    It’s not worth it to be petted and loved by someone who does not respect you and does not listen to you! And most boys your age, or close to it, really are not capable of the kind of love you’re looking for. And let’s face it, kid, you are different, and because you’re different you need a Really Special Guy or none at all. But that’s good. It means you have a good reason to hold out for someone who is worth it. A lot of girls don’t, and they’re a lot more miserable than you are, believe me.

  3. Yeah, I wish someone had told me “you do not have to make out/have sex with every goddamn person just to prove that you are valuable.”

    Relatedly (though not really fat-relatedly), I wish someone had written “DON’T FUCK TEACHERS” in big red letters on the insides of my eyelids. It wouldn’t have come into play when I was 14, but I could have used that advice later.

    Um, hi Mom.

  4. I think Wendy’s post is my favorite of the advice in that thread. That’s something that I frequently forget at 28, frankly. That there’s a whole lot of money being made off of the moment when I sneer at myself in the mirror, and that it’s systemic, and it’s affecting almost every woman I know, unfortunately. It kind of puts being able to see yourself as beautiful in perspective.

  5. I wish I could go back and tell my fourteen-year-old self to be bolder and braver. I lost a lot of time on being too timid to try things I wasn’t used to and missing chances due to fear. I was beautiful. I was strong. I was talented. I knew all of that…and I was too afraid to use the knowledge. I wish I could go back and tell myself there really is something worse than failing: failing to try.

    I would tell any fourteen year old I know that life is best approached with a balance of consideration and self-assurance. Look before you leap, but then take any leap that isn’t completely insane.

  6. Enjoy exercise. This is especially important for teenagers as P.E. is basically just a lesson in torture. I wish I would have learned to shut out my moronic P.E. teacher and walked the mile because it felt good and it was relaxing to just walk on the track, but no I pushed myself and ended up rolling one ankle and spraining the other and now it hurts to stand still for more than 5 seconds. Listen to your body as it moves and tell stupid people who think all teenage bodies are made to move the same way to just shove it.

  7. Haha, Meowser beat me to it.
    I was absolutely going to write: I would tell myself that I didn’t need a boyfriend to tell me I was beautiful. And then I realized that wouldn’t have worked with my 14-year-old self, I would have immediately protested “But if I’m beautiful then whyyy don’t I have a boyfriend?”
    I think it takes a lot more years to break out of that one. But to speed things along, I’d give myself a copy of Adrienne Rich’s “Compulsory Heterosexuality.”

  8. I wish I could write my 14 year old self a book…there are so many things I know now that I wish I knew back then. Most importantly, I would tell myself that you’re beautiful and loved, and to keep trusting God through the confusing and difficult times that were to come (I went through a lot of crap in my teen years).

  9. I’d tell my 14 year old self to hang on. Fourteen is a terrible year with so many pressures and no help in resisting them. I’d tell her to keep on believing that everything they’re saying isn’t true just like she knew it wasn’t. I’d tell her that it I know it’s hard to believe, but better days are coming, and it’s not going to be like this forever.

    You don’t need to fit in, I know that you don’t even really want to fit in but it seems the only option. You’re fine the way you are. You always have been, and you always will be.

  10. These are specifically for myself, I guess, but I bet they apply to other people in some measure.

    First, YOUR DAD IS GOING TO BE JUST FINE. But it’s going to happen again. Just warning you. (Dad had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma twice. He’s in perfect health at the moment.)

    Second, you look better with shoulder-length hair.

    Third, that evil bitch? Is going to drop out of music school, take six years to get a degree from the local mediocre university, get her comeuppance regarding religion, and marry a rodent. Yeah, she’ll go to law school, but at a seriously crappy place, and you’ll be applying to top-20 law schools. So while she’s making your life miserable right now, it’ll be OK by 2008 or 2009. Unfortunately, it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Oh, and the skinny evil bitch? Gains the Freshman 45.

    Last, you’re right: you’re not fat, and while you aren’t pretty at fourteen, things will improve a lot around 18, and then again around 22 or 23. I promise.

  11. Anyone else think of Pink?

    (Link to “Conversations with my 13-year old self”, someone’s done a vid with lyrics)

    Being a science geek, I’ve thought about this before but wondered how that might change my life for the worse. There are things I wish I had known better than to go through, but they made me part of what I am today. I don’t know if avoiding them would have made me the same person I am now.
    I think I’d just like to tell me “It’s ok, you’re beautiful, people will love you, and you’ll turn out just fine.” The trick would be getting my adolescent self to believe it.

  12. Wait, that bit about “people will love you” didn’t quite come out right – I meant that I’m lovable the way I am, and there are people out there that will appreciate me for me, so don’t sweat trying to make myself into someone that I think people will like.

  13. Don’t diet, keep moving more, practice the yoga you learned last year, write more.

    But I wouldn’t believe any of it.

    At 14 I my measurements were 36-24-36 and I thought I was HUGE!

  14. I had accepted my size in junior high, it was one of the few things I felt okay about. I just stopped pressuring myself because I knew I couldn’t meet the beauty standard, ever. I chose to believe myself average looking, and I was pretty comfortable with that. I had read Jane Eyre and the stunning possibility that a woman’s worth does not depend on beauty took hold strongly.

    That body acceptance didn’t stop me from being literally suicidal in junior high though. The teachers, especially gym teachers, encouraged other kids to humiliate me. I had PTSD and nobody had ever heard about childhood abuse causing it (Jane Eyre strikes again, someone else had been through emotional abuse!), and I was going crazy with depression while my mom had been crazy with PTSD (same source) and untreated panic disorder for years with no understanding of what was happening to either of us. We just started screaming at each other and couldn’t stop. I had good friends, but the schools deliberately split up known friends so we would expand our social circles. Brilliant.

    My great grandma probably in sober truth saved my life by telling me that the teens are bad, I wasn’t to blame, nobody was to blame, and when they ended I would be happy again and be able to move out of my parents’ house. I kept telling myself that, and it helped enough that I never tried to kill myself again in my teens.

    I seriously am looking into having my kids home schooled by a teacher from grades 6-8. My daughter is tall and fat (okay for a boy) and my son is short and delicate (perfect for a girl, bad for a boy). Sending them to junior high is like throwing them to hungry wolves. They are in first grade now and already are bringing home messages of fat hatred, and it looks like it’s only going to get worse.

    If I had a chance at a billion dollars if I would relive junior high, I would turn it down in a heartbeat.

  15. Your allowance and the money you earn from baby sitting? That’s for you to spend on on yourself. Buy that candy you want, or those books, or whatever. Carry some of that money with you, so you have it when you want something. Don’t just put it all in your savings account – use some of it to make you feel happy right now. You are a worthwhile investment.

  16. Dude, don’t listen to mom you don’t have to be Suzy Highschool just because she was. She’s a joiner and an extrovert. You are not. Really not, and this is ok. And you will still get into a good college, cause you rock the ACT’s and have good grades. So just ignore that one.

  17. Candorville a comic by Darrin Bell, has a running gag with the main character coming back and forth in time to help himself and accomplishing nothing….

  18. Echoing TropicalChrome, and Matt Stone (or Trey Parker??) in “Bowling for Columbine”: Just hang in there. It is going to get so much better. Whoever said that high school years are the best of your life was lying. They suck for pretty much everyone.

    And what everyone else, said, of course.

  19. On second thought I wouldn’t change a thing. Just tell myself it will all be alright in the end. What if I messed things up and I didn’t end up with three kids and the cliche wonderful life I have despite all the problems?

  20. Dear Self:

    Mom means well, but she was and is genetically inclined to be thin. It’s not your fault that you’re not, and you need to stop the dieting NOW — because it will backfire later. Also, it was her dream to be popular, you’re doing fine and you’ll find the friends you need in college where/when being “weird” is an asset. :-)

  21. Mindy, I was actually thinking about a moment in the wonderful Box Office Poison where a character goes back in time to visit herself in high school. (It’s a realistic book, no sci-fi at all, but this is a one-off storyline.) She relays the message that things will get better, that the problem is with high school and not with her, and that “you’re a good person, Jane, and we win in the end.” It totally makes me bawl. Then it turns out she was actually supposed to be giving herself stock tips.

  22. Um, just in case someone does it here, too…I was clicking through different posts from the Fatosphere, and noticed that different people are posting a “life as an average sized person” at several blogs. It is actually kinda cool, but totally just being reposted all over the place.

  23. How crazy is this? I just posted my own letter to my 14 year old self on my blog, like 5 minutes ago. http://jamboree.wordpress.com/2008/02/11/a-letter-to-14-year-old-me/

    Here’s just the last bit, which I desperately wish that I could have read as a teenager, above all else:

    Okay, I know this letter is very bossy. I’m sorry about that. Even if you don’t make any changes in your life because of what I’ve said, know this: I love you. You turn into me, and I love myself. We are a good person. We are living a good life. Things at home are going to suck a lot for the next few years, but before you know it, the sun will come out. And it will be beautiful, just like you.

    You’re doing good. You are a great girl. I wish I could hug you, and I wish I could tell you that every day. I’ll just have to make do with this letter.

  24. noticed that different people are posting a “life as an average sized person” at several blogs

    Yeah, anyone know what the deal is with that? It’s a retread of the white privilege list from “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” and as such I support it wholeheartedly, but why such a weird mode of distribution?

  25. The people who make you feel like shit now will turn out to be pathetic losers in the game of Life. You won’t even remember their first names when you run into them over holidays.

  26. I had good friends, but the schools deliberately split up known friends so we would expand our social circles. Brilliant.

    Things like this are what give schools a bad name. Wtf kind of evil policy is that! It’s not only like these people have never met kids, but apparently they’ve also never been kids either.

    What would I tell my 14-year-old self?

    –Worry less. The majority of your problems will be caused by worrying over nothing.
    –Don’t start with the disordered eating. It will cause years of unhappiness and it’s never going to give you what you want.
    –Don’t be afraid to move. You’re not going to get hurt again, at least not anytime in the foreseeable future.
    –Guys really aren’t the yardstick by which you should measure your worth.
    –Your former best friend? She is evil and what she did will haunt you, but it is not your fault.
    –When your best friend falls into anorexia, don’t believe her when she says that she’s going to talk to her mother about it. She’s lying to protect her disorder and it will only get worse.
    –Cherish your grandparents even more than you already do. Even though you will have a ton of memories of them, it still won’t seem like enough.

  27. “Guys really aren’t the yardstick by which you should measure your self worth”

    Can I just add “ever” to that statement? And, like FJ said up the thread, the number of people you have slept with/made out with isn’t a good yardstick, either.

  28. My particular 14 year old self?
    – You are a likeable person. Those girls are just taking out the stress from their bad home life on you. You will find better friends soon, and they will genuinely like you.
    – You are pretty, and will be even prettier when you gain a little weight, do something with your hair, and get some cuter glasses.
    – Your focus on finding “a boyfriend” is misguided. What you should aspire to finding is somebody you genuinely like and want to spend time with, not just anybody who comes along so that you can feel like somebody feels you’re worth being with. And you’ll find that when you start putting out signals to the universe that you’re ready for that, for now you’re too young and immature and that’s okay. Being single is fine too.

    14 year olds in general:
    Adolescence is a shitty time for everyone. But it does end, and life gets so, so much better from there. Just hang in there.

  29. Can I just add “ever” to that statement? And, like FJ said up the thread, the number of people you have slept with/made out with isn’t a good yardstick, either.

    Amen to that!

  30. Dear 14 year old self,

    Don’t stop reading New Moon.
    Keep writing.
    Go on those walks when your parents ask.
    You really do have some of the best friends in the world. Hang on.
    And when you get to junior year and the shit hits the fan, be sure to get the pink dress for the winter dance. You look awesome in it, you are awesome in it and even though it’s just a dress, it’ll help.
    Finally, you KNOW you love your body. Stop parroting that fat-hate because everyone else is doing it and if they hate their bodies how could you possibly love yours? Because you do. Say those things long enough and you’ll believe them. Bad, bad, bad.

    your older self

  31. I would tell myself, “Go ahead, be yourself. Take some time, figure out what you like, who you are and who you really want to be. It doesn’t matter if other people like you, as long as you like yourself. The people who really like you will accept you as you are, and they’re the ones who matter.”

  32. My advice:

    Teenagers can be jerks and will find any excuse to pick on you. The ones that thought they were all that in high school ended up knocked up and dumped by their baby daddies before graduation. So there.

    Also, when parents and other authority figures “help” you by suggesting you lose weight or eat a carrot instead of a Life Saver, politely tell them that their help isn’t needed. You probably already eat carrots in the first place.

    Also tell the haters that you are more likely to die in car accidents, struck by lightening, etc. then simply being by a fatty.

  33. I would tell 14 year old me:

    – You have OCD! Get help!
    (that would have saved me yeeeears of suffering)

    – Learn Tae Kwondo

    – Start learning the fiddle now (Because I’d be awesome by now :) )

  34. I wish someone had told me that I WOULD be adored for who I am, that my size would be not only accepted by rejoiced in, that people do love and lust after those of us who don’t fit into Esprit….I felt so huge at that age, when looking back, I really wasnt.

    I felt that no one would ever love me. But I’d tell myself, and her, that falling in love with him, and ultimately myself, was the best thing ever.

    I’d tell her to wrap herself in who she is, and strut down the sidewalks like she owns them, as I eventually learned to do. Because I DO kick ass, literally and figuratively. I have never been afraid, I have never said “I can’t possibly eat that, I’m on a diet”. I am proud of these things, and me.

    And I’d tell her that 14 is over in a flash, and 15 is teh awesome. And 16….and 17 was pretty cool too.

    man…I’m so glad I have 10 years to think this stuff through with my daughters!

    – Your body is your own. Eat stuff that makes you feel good. Find another dance class away from the sniggering body fascists.- Oh, and go see the doctor – crippling period pains are not ‘just something every woman has to put up with’.
    – Your mother has issues that are nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the way she is. You can never make her happy. Understand that, let go of the obligation and do what you want to do.
    – Your dad is not angry with you. He just can’t face up to what he’s really angry with.
    – Take your creativity seriously.
    – Value your spirituality. It may be different from just about everyone’ s you know, but it’s yours, and that’s OK.
    – Realize that you have a right to privacy.
    – Live alone as soon as you can. No guys yet, and especially no parents. Get a cat – they’re great company. Oh, and learn to cook the kind of food you like; makes life so much easier.
    – Sex isn’t like the soft-porn novels. It’s messy, awkward, imperfect, deep, human, and real. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun. Discover it alone well before you get to sharing it with anyone, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
    – You don’t ever ‘have’ to do anything with a guy. Not to be loved, or be worthy, or for any reason other than you really, genuinely want to.
    – If a guy wants to do anything to you you don’t feel ready for, it is OK to knee him in the nads. Even if he’s old enough to be your dad. (Especially if he’s old enough to be your dad.)

    Oh, and one last thing…
    – You are beautiful, strong, capable, smart, wise, funny, deep and lovable. Even if nobody ever tells you so.

  36. You are beautiful, strong, capable, smart, wise, funny, deep and lovable. Even if nobody ever tells you so.

    I love you for this. Really, truly. Enough to write it down and save it for when my daughters are older.


  37. This is all absolutely wonderful, but the first one by occhiblu bothers me:

    We tell women that their bodies need to look a certain way, but if we all looked the same, we’d all be do-ing and be-ing and act-ing the same, and that’s not what this world needs.

    If we looked the same… we’d act the same? I thought the whole idea here was that looks don’t imply personality traits. She seems to be asserting the opposite.

    Maybe you can’t hear “You are beautiful” yet (though you are), but try “I am strong” or “I am fearless” or “I am flexible” or “I am solid” or “I am energetic.”

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but strength, fearlessness, and flexibility are not so much so. Telling oneself those things could well be lies, in an objective sense, since the 14 year old did not indicate any particular athletic ability or calmness under stress. If she does not posses such traits, which she might not, this is like telling someone complaining of financial trouble, “Well, at least you still have a job!” without knowing for a fact that they actually do. If they don’t, you will not have helped!

    The sentiment is good, but the execution is… lacking.

  38. Dear 14-year-old self:

    1. You have no idea how hot you are right now. Your body, which you feel so awkward about, has the boys quivering. I look back at you in pictures and think, “Damn! I had it going on!”

    2. Stop seeing exercise as a form of punishment and start seeing it as a form of refuge. Running on the treadmill helps me calm down and get perspective on my world. Doing push ups makes me feel empowered. Swimming makes me feel graceful. (It helps if you join an all-women’s gym, like Healthworks.)

    3. It took me so long to tell Mom to stop talking to me about weight. But when I finally told her to shut it, she started having better conversations with me. Now, instead of telling me I’ve lost or gained weight, she compliments me as a whole person. And best of all, I think it’s helped her own self-image, too!

    Using your body makes you feel better about it– whether it’s at the gym, or in bed with someone yummy. So get going! You’ve got so much ahead of you!


    ps. You rock!

  39. Not much new to say but, I’d tell myself:

    “It gets better.

    Highschool forces people together all day with nothing in common but the fact that you’re the same age, and live in roughly the same place. That’s really not much to go on.

    Once you get out, you can meet the people who ‘get’ you. They’re out there, they’re looking too, and they’ll find you. They just weren’t born the same year as you, and live down the street.

    And your mom was wrong. You will not, in fact, be happier if you lose some weight. She loves you, she’ll always be on your side (even when you don’t want her there) but she’s wrong about this. You *will* be happier, down the road, but because life gets better after high school, not because you lost some weight.

    (And when Sean tries to kiss you, you FOOL, don’t back away.)”

  40. Alice, I guess you missed the part where occhiblu also said “Look at your body and love your body not for what it looks like to others, but for what it does for you. Find the parts of it you like, the parts of it that are strong or flexible or hard or soft in just the right ways, and concentrate on those for a while.”

    I have to say, I’m a little taken aback that you would say “well it’s all very well and good to tell a 14-year-old that she can be strong and flexible, but what if she actually can’t?” Personally, when I was 14, I don’t think “search for your own positive traits, unless you don’t have any you loser” would have been particularly helpful for me.

  41. I would tell myself that THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME. That it is soo easy to get caught up in what you should wear and what you should look like and too easy to make yourself feel bad for dumb, dumb things like this.

    That it will get better when you get older and you just need to hang on.

    That high school and the people in it do not matter. That the prom queen will end up as an aerobics instructor, and her best friend will be a bookkeeper part time at her dad’s gas station. Not that there’s anything wrong with those jobs, but they were held up as shining examples of what you should strive to be, when you knew they were horrible, mean people who paid people to do their homework.

    That missing your prom is not something you will regret for the rest of your life. Save the money and do something really awesome with friends, or with yourself, or with your mom.

    You will not regret NOT having sex, or fooling around with anyone you meet in high school. You might, however, really regret it later if you do. But you won’t regret it if you won’t.

    Your friends are going through what you are going through, maybe worse. So if they start acting weird, it’s not you.

    Your parents don’t know what the hell they’re doing. But they mean well.

    If you are having complexion problems, make someone take you to a dermatologist. You might grow out of it, but it might be something that someone can help you treat. I know, no one believes that you wash your face three times a day and don’t live on french fries and chocolate. But there is no reason to suffer with horrible breakouts. I didn’t go until I was 30, and I will regret that forever.

    High school doesn’t matter, except to get you into college, or to wherever you are going next. It is NOT the best years of your life, no matter who tells you that it is.

  42. Everybody here has said amazing things that I heartily agree with.

    I don’t know if anybody else has said this yet… but looking back on my life I just wish I hadn’t spent so much time hating my appearance, punishing myself for things that aren’t my fault and denying myself the pleasure of sharing my body with a lover because I was so afraid of being percieved as fat. I wasted some of the best years of my life feeling bad about myself.

    One thing I’ve realized of late is that a lot of the reason why I never felt satisfied with my body was because other people told me not to, not because I don’t like my body when I look in the mirror. Instead of looking at myself and only seeing my faults, I force myself to look harder and find things I like about myself. It’s hard at first, but once you get used to it, those positive things will multiply and you’ll be walking around with so much more confidence.

  43. My advice for the letter-writer would be to take pleasure in defiance. Be nice and kind and smart and absolutely revel in not being like everyone else and not obsessing about what goes into her mouth. Find joy in food and the preparing of it, and try absolutely everything no matter how bizarre it might sound or look (it took me a long time to come around to bleu cheese).

    To my 14-year-old self…ugh, today is not the day. I can barely talk to my 36-year-old self at the moment.

  44. If I can add a couple more things:

    Mom really isn’t a bad cook but she’s not really creative or adventurous, and the reason you don’t like a lot of the foods that you think you don’t like is because they’re not prepared very well. You are right to suspect there has to be more than that out there, and you’re going to have a lot of fun exploring it. Hang in there.

    Keep reading and keep expanding your vocabulary. The short sighted people you’re stuck in school will give you hell, but you’re going to be very glad you did as you get older.

    You’re not a klutz, and you’re not hopeless when it comes to movement. You just hate gym class, gym teachers, and everyone in it. It’s a different thing.

    You won’t believe me (I know because I was there), but you’re so much better looking than you think you are. Right now, I’d give a lot to have the body you have. You’re not horrible, you’re fantastic.

  45. I would tell myself, those people you’re trying so hard to get to accept you and like you right now, will be long gone once you graduate. You will not see them again. Their opinions mean nothing, your true friends will be with you for the rest of your life. Those size 0 “popular” girls, they’re nobody. Jr High and High School feel like forever, but they’re over before you know it, and real life lasts so much longer. As long as you love yourself, others will love you too.

  46. First, I have no idea what happened to the punctuation in my quote.

    fillyjonkAlice, I guess you missed the part where occhiblu also said “Look at your body and love your body not for what it looks like to others, but for what it does for you. Find the parts of it you like, the parts of it that are strong or flexible or hard or soft in just the right ways, and concentrate on those for a while.”

    Yes, I do seem to have missed that. If you read the part I criticised as referencing whatever particular traits the girl found positive about herself instead of the example traits per se, I suppose it works. So maybe it could have been written better, but I don’t have as much of a problem with it as I originally thought.

    I have to say, I’m a little taken aback that you would say “well it’s all very well and good to tell a 14-year-old that she can be strong and flexible, but what if she actually can’t?” Personally, when I was 14, I don’t think “search for your own positive traits, unless you don’t have any you loser” would have been particularly helpful for me.

    Of course you wouldn’t find “search for your own positive traits, unless you don’t have any you loser” helpful, because that would be a horrible thing to say. But to use myself as an example, if someone told me, “Feel good about your body for what it does for you!” I wouldn’t have a lot to feel good about, because my body, well, doesn’t really do much of anything besides keep my brain alive and allow me to carry out personal care unaided. Not quite a list of accomplishments to boost one’s self-esteem.

    I now realized I might be projecting here. I apologize if that seems to be the case.

  47. * Stop listening to your grandmother. She has issues you can’t even comprehend and doesn’t know how to deal except by being passive-aggressive and mean. Thank her but decline any offers of “help”.

    * Do not wear a freaking tent dress to the Year 10 Formal, your body is not so shameful that it has to be hidden at all times like certain people said.

    * Get a job as soon as you’re 15 and buy your own clothes, so you don’t have to depend on people who say “I’ll buy you some nice clothes when you lose weight”.

    * (as TropicalChrome already mentioned) Your mother isn’t a bad cook, she’s just not that adventurous. One day you will try Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Greek, Moroccan, Mexican…and love it.

    * When people tell you you need to lose weight, do not agree with them in a mixture of shame and eagerness-to-please. Tell them to shove off.

    * It is not your job to make everyone else happy. Make yourself happy first, then worry about other people. It is OK if there are people who don’t like you. Really. It is OK to speak your mind even if you think there will be a negative reaction.

    * High school is teh suck, but very soon you will find friends with whom you actually have things in common.

  48. Alice, I did indeed mean it the way fillyjonk just explained, and part of the confusion may be coming from the fact that it was a looooooong comment (I was in the midst of drinking coffee, which makes me ramble), so only part of it is quoted on this site. I actually started out with:

    Think of all the things your body can do.

    Your body is probably pretty strong. Your legs are pretty amazing, right? They get you around, bend and move in all sorts of ways, keep you moving forward and progressing. Your belly takes food and turns it into energy; that’s a pretty amazing thing. Your arms and back can carry everything you need, or hug a friend in need, or deliver a sharp elbow jab to someone who’s being a jerk. Your hands can translate your thoughts into writing.

    That’s all pretty generic. I don’t know you, so I don’t know what other amazing things your body is capable of. Sports? Knitting? Cooking amazing dinners? Writing out kick-ass geometry proofs? Being a solid support for your friends, setting out fearlessly into the unknown, creating all sorts of never-before-seen art projects?

    and then went into the part quoted here. So there was a bit more context for it.

  49. (I did mention that I hoped people would go read all of them, and I still do, but I probably should have said that some were excerpted for reasons of space.)

  50. Hee, that’s ok. You did exactly what I always end up doing to my own writing, which is cutting the first two paragraphs.

    It always seems to take me two paragraphs to gear up and get to the point. It’s odd.

  51. I would tell my 14-year-old self the following:

    You are not the giant loser you think you are. You’re actually pretty cool, and there are actual people who actually exist who actually believe that.

    You are not so monstrously fat that you do not deserve to have anyone be nice to you ever. People are actually nice to you, you’re just not recognizing it through the veil of paranoia.

    You don’t suck at gym because you’re fat. You suck at gym because you suck at gym (like how skinny little Barbara sucks at gym). You’ll get through it, though.

    Most of the time, the problem ISN’T you. Stop blaming yourself for everything. You are not responsible for other people’s feelings and lives. Concentrate on your own life, you have it hard enough already. [That sounds harsh, but I mean it very lovingly.]

    You are incredibly lovable. You just need to be around people who are really capable of love.

  52. What i would like to tell my 14 year old self:

    *You are beautiful. Awkward… but beautiful, and in ten years you will fantasize about looking like you do right now, so appreciate it.

    *Don’t hang out with toxic people, and you know who I mean. You don’t do them any good and they don’t do you any good. So stop.

    *Dance, don’t be stubborn because you got rejected from Oregon Ballet Theater, take a dance class at Parks & Rec or find another studio, you love dance, so do it.

    What I would tell this 14 year old:
    *Being 14 sucks. For everyone. Once you get older you will talk to people about being 14 and they will all tell you how much it sucked. Even (especially) for the popular people who have to work really hard to keep up with an image. So thinking right now how much this sucks really just means that you are especially obsevant, not that you are experiencing anything unique.

    If you want to do or try something for the love of God do it. Try new things as often as possible.

    Try as hard as you can in school, but it’s okay if you’re not perfect because nobody is. It’s a good idea to go to Community College after high school, you save money and your first two years are kind of the same everywhere.

  53. 1. Getting ugly isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you, it’s much worse to be a boring person than an ugly one.
    2. Repeat after me “Go fuck yourself”. Use liberally on anyone who doesn’t treat you right.
    3. I’d hand my 14 year old self a copy of The Gift of Fear and explain about manipulative asshole men.
    4. (Completely not related to FA) Um, honey, you’re not straight. It’s ok to flirt back with cute girls you like.
    5. Rejection is also not the worst thing that can happen to you, carpe some diem.

  54. I would say to myself:

    1) Put down that goddamned can of Aquanet. NOW. (the eighties. *sigh*)

    2) Don’t be ashamed of being smart or getting good grades. Those are awesome accomplishments.

    3) Your high school transcript will not follow you everywhere, so don’t be afraid to fail.

    4) You don’t have to figure out what you want to be when you grow up for a really long time, so don’t worry if you’re not sure yet.

    This one really rang true for me, Emerald, so I hope you don’t mind my copying it …

  55. He didn’t break up with you because you’re fat. He broke up with you because he’s gay.

    All those shameful little things about your body that you’re certain make you an absolute freak? Most everyone else has them too.

    Don’t ever go on a diet. Your suspicions are correct: it doesn’t work, it will make you miserable, and your body is already exactly the way it is supposed to be.

    Stop reading fashion magazines. Your own aesthetic, your own belief in your beauty, and your own sense of style are perfect. Listening to other people’s opinions will only fuck it up.

    Take some self-defense classes as soon as you can. Read about feminism and misogyny so you will know that when those fucksticks mess with you on the street, it’s not your fault. You don’t have that ‘look about you’ that makes men want to hurt you. ‘That look’ doesn’t exist.

    Ask Dad to teach you oil-painting. And let him teach you to ride the dirt-bike. It would be handy to know how to drive, and you are obviously obsessed with racing. Again, this is an area where Dad can teach you.

    Not everyone is mean or bad or stupid. Your father is a wonderful man, but don’t believe in his pessimism. He’s wrong about the world. You are part of the human race, and other people will welcome you into the fold more often than not. Those who don’t, probably don’t mean anything personal by it. There is no inherent virtue in being a loner and doing everything the hard way. That’s just being stubborn and insecure.

    Take voice lessons. Don’t believe anyone who tells you your singing is ugly, because it isn’t. You are naturally musical, so take advantage of it. Don’t stop writing poems that rhyme just because it is out of fashion. You are getting good at it.

    Don’t drop off the face of the earth one day and decide friends aren’t worth the effort, and that you’d rather be alone. Read some books on CBT and practise it. Keep your friends close to you, at least three or four close ones. They are worth every bit of the effort.

    Your family loves you and always will, no matter what you do. They may not say it, and they may not be demonstrative, but they love you more than anything else. They think you know this. You don’t have to make perfect grades or be the perfect All-American girl for them to love you. They like you weird.

    Stay away from boys for as long as you can. Focus on yourself first, and I promise you, things will go easier in your relationships later on.

    Intelligence has no bearing on your self-worth. Neither do beauty or talent. Your sense of self-worth depends on your morality and kindness. Don’t ask me why it works this way; hopefully when you grow up, you’ll find out.

  56. – You don’t have to be perfect.  Thus, if you do something less than perfectly, it is totally okay.  People may not cut you slack now, but you absolutely should.

    (This may have forestalled years of “If I can’t do it perfectly, I’m not going to do it!” getting ingrained.)

    – Of course you don’t have anything in common with these people.  They’re grouped by age and geography.  Don’t get too caught up in social things just because you feel like these people should like you – they’re not your people.

    – Sweet god, woman, put down any magazine that involves diets or exercising to get thin, what the hell??  Your dad has a wall of sci-fi; go read it, instead.

    – You’re going to rebel in two years anyways, and I wouldn’t dream of taking that away from you, but I highly recommend not feeling like that is some gigantic black stain on your permanent record.  It’ll be a phase and a learning experience.

  57. Here’s what I wish I could tell myself at that age.

    1) When you look at yourself, look at your whole self. Not just your thighs, or just your zits, or whatever else you’re obsessing about at any given moment. No one else sees you in pieces; they see you whole. And the whole package is not so bad.

    2) Wear clothes that show off your waist. The stuff you wear isn’t hiding your body from anyone, it’s just making you think you’re 10 times bigger than you are every time you look in the mirror.

    3) Grow out your hair, and don’t listen to your mom and sister when they tell you you look cuter with it short. THEY LIE. And you have fabulous hair. (Also, get rid of the bangs. They’re awful.)

    4) Your zits are almost entirely hormonal. Retin-A and Erythromycin will help for a little while, but being on low-grade antibiotics long-term will fuck up your immune system, and the Retin-A will dry out your skin too much. Just get on the pill as soon as you can.

    5) Your friends really do love you for who you are, and they do not think you’re fat and ugly. Most of the people you just started hanging out with will still be your friends in twenty years. Relax around them. They’re excellent people.

    6) No guy will be good enough for you for at least ten years, so don’t even worry about it. You will be loved. That way. For real.


    8.) Most of the time, the worst thing that could possibly happen won’t. And when it does, having obsessively analyzed the situation beforehand and identified the worst thing that could possibly happen will not actually protect you from getting hurt. So you might as well just expect that things will be fine, ’cause 9 times out of 10, you’ll be right, and you won’t have to waste half your life freaking about shit that will never come to pass.

    9) That awesome person you’re sure you could be if you were thin and pretty and more organized? Is real. She is you. And thin and pretty and organized are irrelevant — the awesomeness is already visible to other people, and you will eventually see it yourself.

    10) You are more of a late bloomer than you think you are. Be patient with yourself. You will graduate from an excellent school and get an MFA and find the love of your life and eventually write professionally, but it will all take longer than you thought, and the road will be twisty. You will be learning every step of the way, and your failures will be useful.

  58. Ah, my fourteen-year-old self. Here’s mine:

    You are not fat: you just need a bra fitting.

    Stop reading fashion magazines and start reading zines.

    Cutting your hair short will not make you look like a boy; it’ll just save you a lot of time in the shower!

    My own ultra-personal one: Write down the stories Mom tells you, because she’s going to lose her memory way sooner than you’d think.

    But most of all, I’d borrow jamboree’s comment: You turn into me, and I love myself. We are a good person. We are living a good life.

  59. Oh, and 11) Inner beauty is hugely important, but frankly, so is outer beauty. People who tell you looks don’t matter are just as full of shit as you suspect they are. BUT — and it’s a big, big, big BUT — you do not have to be thin and smooth-skinned and fashionably dressed to be beautiful. You’re already beautiful every time you start laughing so hard you don’t care what you look like. You’re beautiful every time you get excited about something and start talking a mile a minute. You’re beautiful every time you’re so absorbed in something fun you forget to be self-conscious.

    The thing about inner beauty and the confidence that comes from it is that that’s what makes you beautiful on the outside. Not to everyone, granted. Maybe not to most people. But to plenty of people — and more guys than you could possibly imagine — you really are physically beautiful when you’re happy and not so screamingly insecure. Your entire face and body are transformed; the wall of fear comes down, and you are radiant. You don’t have to lose weight or have dermabrasion — just get a decent haircut, buy some tops with waists, and stop constantly thinking about how unattractive you are.

  60. My 14 year old self…hmm.

    1. Forget everything you are positive you know. You don’t.

    2. Those “cool kids” your mother would not let you “just hang out at the mall” with all turned into drug addicts or drop outs, just like she said they would. You will not miss out on anything, except maybe a stint in juvie.

    3. Stop flirting with the withdrawn, shy guy 3 years older than you. He is not cool and mysterious. He is creepy, possessive and should have been voted most likely to utter the phrase “It rubs the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again.”

    4. On the other hand, when the fabulously sweet and handsome John and asks you to be his partner on the science project – do it! Don’t be intimidated because he’s so darn cute!

    5. Accept the fact that your father is always right. Always. Let him teach you to change the oil and your tires. He’s right. You’re going to get stuck on the side of the road waiting for 2 hours for a tow someday.

    6. Your mother’s right. When its your house, you will care. Start caring about hers.

  61. I don’t think it’s just a fourteen year old question. It’s the kind of question everyone faces from time to time. I know I have. The fact that you are so sensitive already proves that you’re a wonderful girl (unfortunately one with maybe an insecure esteem) but you are WAY cooler than any skinny snob in gym class. Trust me.
    Everyone is the way they look because of the interesting things inside your mind. Your cheekbones, your eyes, your fingers, it’s all you and it’s all different from every single other persons. Be proud. You’re beautiful.
    i don’t really know how to read what someone posts if they want to comment back (I’m a little knew to the blogging thing here) but if you want to say anything or talk or anything at all, my blog is: http://www.staticity.wordpress.com

  62. 1. In fourteen years, you will love your curly hair.
    2. In fourteen years, you will mourn your lost ability to do splits. Keep stretching
    3. In fourteen years, you will be happily married and you will have friends.
    4. In fourteen years, you will realize your dad loves you so much he’s afraid you’ll break, and you’ll cut the old man some slack.

  63. Wow — the advice over here is great too, although for some reason people are being more practical on Shapely Prose. Here’s what I posted for the girl, but it’s of course what I would have said to myself at that age:

    “Your body belongs to you. It is yours to do whatever you want with. The way it looks is far less important than what you do with it.

    Use it to explore the world, to sample new experiences, and to enjoy being alive. Think of your body from the inside as you do these things, not from the outside. How does the cake taste? How does the rain sound? How does the sand feel? How far is the walk? How soft is the baby?

    Your body was designed by nature, and nature knows a lot more about building bodies than people do.

    Do not listen to people who tell you to try and change your body, because they do NOT know what is right for you. Doctors, mothers, friends, magazine editors — no one knows your body, because they are not inside you. Trying to be skinny is the wrong thing to focus on.

    Only you know your body. Oh, and nature. Nature knows your body. So be your a friend to your body, and trust it over anyone else. Listen to it, pay attention to it, treat it well.

    And by treat it well, I mean this:

    1) EAT. Feed your body normal amounts of normal food on a regular basis. Do not starve it. Do not try to change it. Give it the fuel it needs to work properly. Give it nutrients. Give it treats.

    2) SLEEP. Let your body rest. It’s okay to get enough sleep. If your body seems to work best on a lot of sleep give it a lot of sleep. If you feel best after six hours, go with that. Your body will tell you what it wants. It’s no one else’s business.

    3) MOVE. Give your body a chance to dance, hike, run, lift, climb, ride, swim, whatever it wants to do, and don’t worry about looking any certain way while you do it. Your body cannot see itself, but it can feel itself. Stretch it, move it, push it, exhaust it — then let it revive itself.

    4) BRUSH and BATHE. Practice good hygiene and take care of what you’ve got, and your body will last you a long time.

    5) DECORATE? Enjoy your body. Maybe most girls have straight hair, so you straighten yours too. But then again, maybe you have really curly hair that’s cool in it’s own unique way. Decide what YOU like, and do that. Whatever YOU think looks good is what you should go with.

    6) RELAX ABOUT IT and DISCOVER THE REAL YOU. One thing about beauty is that it’s different for everyone. Not everyone agrees on what looks good, though it’s hard to know that at 14.

    The bottom line is that nature decided what you would look like, and now it’s up to YOU to DECIDE to honor that. Practice knowing your body and you’ll learn what’s really great about it. Do the same with your personality.
    That self-knowledge is the core of your TRUE beauty.

    “Self-discovery,” starts when you are around 11 years old. Anyone who thinks they have the answers for you really doesn’t. YOU decide who you are. YOU decide that you are beautiful. And YOU accept and acknowledge that your personal beauty is unique, imperfect, and changing all the time. And always worthy of love.

    There’s a saying I rely on quite a bit: “You cannot belong to anyone, until you first belong to yourself.” You are so lucky to be starting on this journey with enough sense to write and ask for advice. I suspect you’re going to do just fine.”

    But now that I’ve seen it, I’d add this awesome bit that Jamboree wrote:
    “I love you. You turn into me, and I love myself. We are a good person. We are living a good life.” Beautiful.

  64. What would I tell my fourteen year old self? (These are mostly me-specific).

    First off, get Mum to take you to Dr Tan, and tell him about how you’re feeling miserable all the time. You’re depressed, it’s a family thing, and you’ll be amazed how much of a difference anti-depressants make to the way you look at life. Getting the medication isn’t giving up – it’s accepting a reality of life. Of course, if you’re going to ignore me on this one, do think about it when you start thinking seriously about how to kill yourself. That’s coming up soon, and trust me, you won’t enjoy it.

    Second, don’t worry about the opinions of the popular kids. You’re never going to see them once you leave school, so there’s not much to panic about. Perth may feel like a small town, but it isn’t – it’s a big city, and there’s a lot more people out there who don’t give a damn how weird you are. You’ll meet them, too – just not at Kelmscott High.

    Third, get interested in the computer courses at school. You’re smart enough for them, and you have the right mindset to do well in them. Sure, do the typing classes – you’ll find you’re earning a lot of money behind a keyboard one day, and the typing speed will come in useful. But ignore the little voice in your head saying that girls aren’t good at maths, and computers aren’t interesting.

    Fourth up, Mum has her own damn problems, and those mean she’s not able to provide you with the cheering on you need. So provide it for yourself. Remember what I told you about the depression thing first up? Yeah, well guess what? Mum’s depressed as well, and she’s in denial about it. Go to Dr Tan and get yourself on anti-depressants, and see whether that joggles something loose in her head.

    Fifthly, don’t worry so much about why you haven’t got a boyfriend. There’s someone for you, but at the moment he’s still in primary school over the other side of town. Don’t panic, the two year difference will be pretty much irrelevant by the time you meet. You’re attractive, you’re loveable, and you’re special – and he’ll see all of those things in you, although you may not realise it at the time. Oh, and when you meet him, you’ll need a clue-by-four to point out that you’re interested, because he has a lot of the same issues you do.

    Some other general tips: Being strange isn’t a fault out in the real world outside high school. Don’t be afraid to be different. University is very different from high school, or primary school, or any other schooling experience you’ve had. You’ll love it, because it’s pretty much paradise for someone like you – free range learning, and lots of new things to think about. Just try to learn how to research before you get there, because that’s going to be where you’ll have problems.

    I know I sound bossy, and I know I’m saying a lot of things which sound like “now just breathe the water, and you’ll stop drowning”, but trust me, I’m you about twenty-three years down the track. Things get better, and they get a lot better when you start taking the antidepressants. Trust me on this, kid.

    Oh, and quit the dieting. There’re very good metabolic reasons why you aren’t losing weight, and why you’re feeling frozen cold all winter and most of summer, and if you keep dieting, you’ll find them out. Here’s a clue: Michael’s going to start manifesting a problem with his thyroid in about two years. You have the opposite one. Get a blood test done to check your thyroid hormone levels, and keep it up as part of your regular checkups, because it’s another family thing (Dad’s side of the family this time around). But the dieting isn’t helping your metabolism, and it isn’t helping your weight either.

  65. 1) Tell your mother to fuck off. You’re all of a size 10/12 and the bitch has been on your ass about how you were fat since age 6. Umm if you were so horribly fat and it was so bad, how could you go to ballet classes all week long? She’s just projecting onto you.

    2) Okay. . .you’re going to max out the science classes at the high school this year. You know you can make them pay for you to take classes at CSM right? Go take freshman physics. Just make sure to read the course catalog so you don’t take the course from the professors daddy had there 15 years ago.

    3) The desert- you’ll love it. Guess what? The pool at the rec center is empty before 8:30 am.

    4) Don’t wait so long. Sex is boring in the beginning. It also makes you feel like you have to stay with guys- no you don’t. By the way, you are allowed to kick their asses out of your apt even if they “love you” because they aren’t paying shit for rent.

    5) Buy some conditioner and then do #1 again. it isn’t that your hair is horrible and tangly. It’s because the woman is too goddamn cheap to buy you a 99 cent bottle of conditioner which would make your life easier.

    5) I know you hate blood tests, but some day you should do a physical. Not a sports physical but a poke and prod and take blood one. If your thyroid is hosed then, they’ll be more likely to believe it than when you gain some weight and take the attitude of “well duh fat people are exhausted, that’s cuz they’re fat” (read – take advantage of health care now because the rudeness and a*holeness gets worse as you gain age and weight)

    6) Last but not least- don’t get down to eating an apple and a granola bar a day. Yeah it makes you lose weight eventually, but it fucks up your metabolism. So much so that after college you gain twice your body weight in 2.5 years. It’s not fun and it’s hurty when you wind up gaining that much weight that quickly and your body hasn’t had enough time to adjust.

  66. To my 14-year-old self:

    You aren’t fat, and if you were, it would be okay. You have a great smile. Your teeth aren’t yellow and the acne will go away by the time you’re 19. Please don’t shave your eyebrows off; they aren’t that bushy and it’ll make you look really stupid in every single picture taken of you until senior year.

    Don’t be nice to people who treat you like shit. They won’t stop.

    You can’t cure crazy. You aren’t a counselor and you aren’t a savior and it isn’t your job to fix everyone’s problems.

    Don’t go home with Nate. If he leaves you in the street, you can call a cab, but don’t go home with him.

    Please don’t start smoking. It doesn’t make you look cool and you’ll never be able to breathe properly again.

    love, aebhel (aged 22)

  67. Oh, and–

    Make Mom take you to see someone about the depression before you start failing classes. They can help you, but you need to talk to them. And you might get into Cornell if you don’t get a 51 as your final grade in 11th grade English.

  68. When I was 14, I was walking down a Manhattan street alone and a man made eye contact with me and said, “You’re so ugly, it’s a sin.”

    1) Don’t walk down 86th Street that day. If you can avoid it, much of your pain that year and for years after might be avoided also.
    1) Walk down that street and when he says, “You’re so ugly, it’s a sin,” give him the finger and say, “Fuck you asshole. I’m going to Yale in a few years and you’re still going to be the same pitiful, sad-sack, puny-dicked little man you are right now.

    2) Break rules a few times. You don’t always have to be the good girl to earn your parents’ love.
    3) Don’t skip PE because you have no hand/eye coordination. Keep on trying until you find some movement that you love.
    4) Grow your hair and don’t wear pastels. They wash you out.
    5) Don’t let everyone else’s shouting make you even quieter. It’s all right to laugh loudly, to fight with your friends and to stand up to your parents.
    6) Believe that writing is meaningful to you and not just a silly pipedream.
    7) Kiss boys! Running away will make you even more awkard later on.
    8) Be grateful that even though you don’t have any self confidence, you are smart enough for a scholarship to a privileged prep school.
    9) Eat bagels. With butter. With cheese.
    10) Fight the urge to disappear. If you disappear, you won’t feel the pain, but you also won’t enjoy the bagels and the kissing and the smartness and the writing and the New York autumn.

  69. 1. You don’t have to like high school, you just have to get through it. Every step you take afterwards will open up your life just a little bit more, and take you that much further away from it.

    2. Don’t be afraid to pick up and move, or quit that crappy job, or ditch that arsehole of a friend. Taking control can be scary, but it’s often exhilarating too.

    3. Once you’ve thought something through (college choice, lipstick shade, whatever), trust yourself to make the right decision. Sometimes you’ll get it right, and sometimes you’ll get it wrong, but it’s the only way you’ll be able to make peace with the decision you make, whatever the outcome. And it’s rare to stuff up so badly that you can’t work your way out if things go off the rails.

    4. Don’t be afraid of your body, even when it’s sick or falling to bits. Find something it’s good at and enjoy yourself, whether it’s embroidery or white water rafting (or both, natch). I’m 35 and I’ve only just figured this out. So much wasted time, right there.

    5. Appreciate the good things; your education, your books, your creativity, your ability to get back up off your arse and thumb your nose at the world that knocked you down, and every single person, family or friend, that helps you do this.

    6. Enjoy yourself; this is the most amazing time to be alive.

  70. I would tell my 14-year-old self:

    It’s okay that you have to keep buying bigger clothing sizes.
    Your body is growing. You are becoming a woman. The fat that has suddenly appeared on your chest, hips, thighs, and butt are completely normal. I know it sucks because you have no control over these changes, but you will become comfortable in your new skin.

    Go to the doctor about your back pain, insomnia, and headaches. These things are not normal, they’re making you unhappy, and there are solutions. Don’t wait another 10 years (as I actually did).

  71. These are amazing.

    I heart Shapelings.

    Oh, and:

    Dear Kristin:

    Don’t wait until 2/11/08 to cut your hair short even though you want to. Your sexuality and desirability are not tied up in your hair. It might be the only thing you think is attractive about you, but it’s not. You don’t need inspiration, even though it might be from some really incredible people you have never met on the internet, to try out short hair. And you don’t need approval from your boyfriend.

  72. Dear Jessica,

    Yes, your father really is that bad. He really really is. No one else sees it now, but they’ll see it eventually, and one day you’ll never have to talk to him again. You’re right to be angry. You’re right!

    You are going to have so much love. You are going to be happy.

    Please floss.


  73. To my 14 year old me:

    You can get angry and the world won’t collapse around you.

    You can punch and kick and scratch and scream at the boys and men who touch you in ways that you don’t want them to be touching you.

    There’s nothing wrong with you.

    You can be beautiful and your mother won’t hate you for it.

    Your father isnt’ having an affair because of you. Your brother isn’t doing drugs and running away from home because of you. Your family isn’t poor because of you.

    You will never be white. And that’s ok because being black is so, so, so wonderful.

    Don’t let your mother make you go to Weight Watchers like she did last summer. You weren’t fat then and you’re not fat now, you’re just getting breasts and hips and it’s freaking her out. And if you *were* fat, so what? You ride your bike for miles and miles nearly every day. You play basketball, volleyball and soccer, you’re on the track team, you swim and ride horses. If you’re out of shape, I don’t know what ‘shape’ is.

    Being tall is cool.

    You were right to smash John in the face with your history book when he wouldn’t stop calling you ‘fat nigger bitch’ every time you walked past him. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you could have ‘used your words,’ but he wasn’t hearing you and sometimes turning the other cheek really isn’t the way to go.

    You can tell about your brother molesting you.

    You have so much love inside you and are so worthy of being loved and one day you’re going to have someone wonderful to share your love and life with.

  74. To my 14 year old self I would say:

    1) You are never going to look like the other women in your family, so stop comparing yourself to some and being afraid of turning into others. They are fabulous, smart, strong women and you should accept them for that. Similarly, you will not look like your friends and that’s okay, too.

    2) Dance. You are very good at it and it makes you happy. It matters not one whit whether you will end up doing it professionally. In two years the painfully strict ballet instructor will single you out to show the waifs exactly how something should look and you will remember it forever.

    3) You’re right to not have sex. Trust your instincts. They will serve you well for years.

    4) Insist, immediately, that you stop seeing pediatricians and go to a regular doctor. And a gynocologist. That way, when you get toxic shock later this year, you might not end up parralyzed for three days.

    5) Your older sister will not always loathe you. Both of you will grow up and realize what cool (and different) people you are. And while we’re at it, spend more time with your eldest sister. You’ll wish you had when she’s gone.

    6) Accept that you are weird. Enjoy it. You are a gypsy at heart and you will find amazing people who are more like you than you ever thought people could be.

    7) Your mom doesn’t understand you but she loves you. Accepting that will help when she goes a bit mad in a couple years.

    8) Yes, you really are that smart, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. People who try to make you feel bad for it should be shunned.

    9) Keep writing. It tells you things you have a hard time telling yourself and others. Much of it is crap, but the things that are not will stun you when you stumble across them later.

    10) Wear what you want. Eat what (and when) you want. Trust yourself.

  75. 1. It gets better. Really.

    2. “The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white, neither need you do anything but be yourself.” Value yourself as you are. You have worth. It really doesn’t matter what other people say or think about you.

    3. Those kids you hate at school who make your life a misery? You will never see them again after you leave school. Don’t waste your time on them.

    4. Find something you love and do it.

  76. Ignore your parents. Starting now. This means get the extra help in math, take the advanced science classes, and when your chem teacher suggests RIT, do NOT brush him off until you’ve been out of high school for six months.

    You are intelligent. You are fucking brilliant, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You’re also good at far more than reading and writing if you let yourself be, don’t let people intimidate you because your interests aren’t “appropriate” for a young lady.

    On that note, fuck anyone who says you have to be a “lady” in the first place.

    Stop leading on your best friend from sixth grade. You both know you like girls, not boys, and you’re just going to hurt him.

    When the jocks go after the blond gay boy, don’t run and hide, call the cops.

    Your best friend? Cut her loose, NOW. She’s poison.

    The tall guy who’ll be in your creative writing class junior year? Stay away. He’s also poison and he’ll damage you.

    Take a self-defence class. Don’t be afraid to use what you learn when you need to use it.

    And remember, no matter how SHITTY things get while you’re living at home, it does get better at college when you’re around fellow geeks and freaks and gamers and people who accept you just because you’re you. Ignore the naysayers and the people who say “No you can’t” or “no you shouldn’t” and just DO IT. Do what you’re passionate about, do what makes you happy.

    And start working through that social anxiety thing now, it’ll make your first quarter of college way easier.

  77. Also, yes, your hometown is hateful and closed-minded and confining and poisonous and suffocating. Keep your good friends close, keep writing, avoid anyone who sets off your Creep Alert regardless of how nice they seem, and dammit ask out the cute redhead you’re going to meet in a few years.

    And as soon as you can, get the fuck out.

    It’ll be hard, and you’ll feel incredibly alone, and there will be times when you want to curl up and cry until you’re dead–but you’ll get through it. And you won’t exactly be HAPPY in college, but you won’t be miserable, and things will get better soon. Just don’t give up, ever. Especially on yourself because you are amazing.

  78. There’s a great phrase I heard recently: “Be the trouble you wish to see in the world.”

    I think when I was 14 I needed a variation: “Give the love to yourself you wish the world would give you.” You might be hard to woo over. But go ahead: dance in your living room, sing yourself love songs, yearn all the yearning that 14 year olds have, and remember that it’s yours and it’s good and you’re worthy of it.

    My mom DID say what I needed to hear at 14 and I was being teased. She said, “You walk into rooms apologetically, and I understand that, but it’s giving you trouble. People will believe you are the expert on yourself. Bullies will aim for your vulnerability. Others will assume you’re not someone they want to know.” This isn’t true of every 14 year old being bullied, but for me, the simple act of being conscious of my body language DID change things for me. A hugely sudden turnaround.

  79. Remember the way you love your friends, for those little silly things that make you feel warm and fuzzy. The way that one of them smiles, the way that the other ones hair falls across their face just right, the way that they look beautiful and perfect when they are just casually sitting around and talking. Although you don’t really say all of these things to them because it would sound strange and is hard to work into conversation.

    Now remember that they probably love some funny little silly thing about you also, but they just don’t tell you because it would be equally hard to work into conversation. It is these funny little thing that makes life interesting and worth living. That these little things are what make people actually beautiful.

    Remember that although it is hard to work into conversation try to every once and awhile tell them, because they need to hear it also.

    I once went into a professors office completely broken down and in tears because i was in a very horrible place in my life. He told me that i was a great and capable person and thats what other people were able to see in me that i wasn’t able to see in myself. He then told me that because I was so smart and accomplished that other people thought i already knew that about myself. When in fact i hated myself and everything about me, i questioned every move i made.

    Our own self doubts are not always obvious to other people, they think we know we are good people, so they don’t think to tell us or remind us. So we go about our lives never hearing the good stuff until its too late or we are at our lowest points.

    I know that i should find acceptance within myself, but it’s so much harder to see when your evaluating yourself. So when i do find myself very down now i force myself to ask my good friends around me why they like me or what they like about me. It sounds corny, but my good friends know that I’m not doing it to artificially inflate my ego, i just do it to remind myself of what makes me special, so now i try to tell others around me more often why I love them.

    Thats the advice i would give myself

  80. I really don’t know what I’d say to myself as a 14-year-old. I was a pretty happy kid. (I probably wouldn’t have said that at the time, but looking back, and reading these comments, I’ve realized that I was.) And besides, everything bad that’s happened to me has taught me something and made me who I am today.

    To the girl that wrote the letter:

    Find friends you love, and who love you. Not romantically, just love you as a friend. Don’t worry about whether they’re popular, or cool. Just worry about how they treat you. Spend time with people who build you up, not tear you down.

    Find activities that you love, and get involved. If you like playing basketball, find a team – maybe not the school team, but a rec league team or just a group of friends to play a pick-up game. If you like crafts, take a class, or make projects with some friends. Read books. See movies and/or plays. Learn how to cook or bake. Volunteer at a nursing home, or animal shelter, or cancer ward. Join clubs at school that interest you. Chances are you’ll meet new people that will like you for who you are.

    Get exercise. Too often exercise can be seen as a punishment or a chore, but it doesn’t have to be. Go for a walk with a friend or a dog (or a friend’s dog). Play Dance Dance Revolution. Go to a park and horse around on the swings and the monkey bars. Play sports that you like. Exercise will make you feel better about your body.

    Wear clothes, accessories, and makeup that you like, are comfortable, and flattering. You’ll be more comfortable and confident that way. The same thing goes if you don’t like a certain type of accessory or makeup (or any at all). I hate wearing lipstick, I feel uncomfortable in it, so I rarely, if ever, wear it. But if you like, for example, bright lipstick and lots of bangle bracelets, go for it.

  81. Oh, and also, know that there are people (quite probably lots of them) out there who love you just the way you are. Sadly, I think that many humans find it much easier to tell someone when they don’t like them then when they do. Try changing this by telling other people how much you appreciate them and how much they mean to you. That should make you feel better, too.

  82. That person you envy more than anyone? The one you’d give anything to switch lives with? You know who I mean. She gets everything she wants, because the things she wants just happen to be what we’re all told we’re supposed to want. She gets attention now because she’s good at those few things that supposedly matter.

    Here’s the secret: This is her peak. Life will never be better for her than it is now. That means that if she lives to be a hundred, she’ll spend the next eighty-some years wishing things were how they used to be.

    She’ll continue to do and be and want exactly what she’s told to, and that’s all she’ll get, nothing more. She’ll have the satisfaction of being “right” because she follows the rules and fits the mold, and she’ll never imagine that there is anything else out there.

    One day you’ll look at her – trust me; I know because I’m you and that day is now – and realize what she got is your idea of hell, a life not lived. And you wouldn’t switch for the world.

  83. I’ve often wished I could go back and talk to my younger self. I think this is what I’d say:

    Listen, honey, you have to stop abusing your body. One day, it’s not always going to bounce back the way you rely on it to do. One day, not many years from now, you’re going to get really, really sick. And really, really scared. You’re going to feel like you’re losing yourself, and like there’s no way out.

    And then you’re going to watch in amazement as the body you spend years abusing, starving, hating begins to heal from a place where you began to believe healing wasn’t possible. When you can walk up the stairs by yourself again, without feeling like you can’t breathe or will pass out, you’ll feel a little glow of love for this body and it’s from that glow that you’ll find the will to change your mind about how you’ve always seen yourself.

    Trust me on one thing: you’re going to get fatter and IT ISN’T THE END OF THE WORLD. You don’t stay a size 8/10 forever, and the moment you don’t, guess what comes into your life? Friendship, honesty, love, acceptance. Not because of your size, not because of your appearance, but because of that part of you that never gives up. Don’t lose that, kid, because things will be tough for you, but let me give you a glimpse of the future: by age 22 you’re madly in love, about to be married, and have a strong, powerful relationship with your family and friends. You’re not as physically strong as you once were, you have to make allowances, but most of the time you’re happy and content and pulling through.

    It gets better, darling, I promise you. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. It all makes sense in the long run.

    Also, stay the hell away from Tom. Just don’t go there. And keep in contact with Sophie. I miss her, and wish I knew where she was now.

  84. Wow, everyone, this is really intense shit.

    Dear 14-year old Denise,

    You’re smart and funny. You’re also cute and getting cuter. But you’re depressed. And anxious. And your dad leaving you when you were 3? That really continues to affect you, even though you won’t be able to face it until your early 30’s.

    Your mom really does love you and believe in you but she’s fairly beaten down right now, with three little ones besides you and a husband who basically takes up space. Just because your stepdad has ignored you for the past 8 years and your dad calls twice a year doesn’t make you unlovable.

    You don’t need to hide your body under billowy clothes. You don’t need to be in a relationship with a series of men from age 18 to age 37 with no breaks. It’s okay to be alone.

    Someday you will have a beautiful, smart 13 year-old daughter, and you can give her all the support you never got. Hang in there, and get therapy as soon as you can.

    Love, Me

  85. Oh, yeah, and this memory just surfaced:

    I’m almost 15 and in the hospital being prepped for an appendectomy. The middle-aged man who will perform the surgery comes in to talk to me and asks me what I had for dinner the night before. Lean Cuisine, I say. Why? he says. I believe him to be completely nuts – can’t he see how fat I am?! I make some bullshit comment that I like how Lean Cuisine tastes.

    I am 5′ 5″ and 120 pounds at the time.

  86. I’m famous on the internets!

    Someone mentioned how practical the advice is here, up the thread. I think that’s due to it being what we would tell ourselves, rather than another 14-year-old girl. I know what I tell my sister (who’s 16 and a champion athlete) is different than what I wish I’d told myself.

    Which would be: brush and floss every damn day; start going to counseling now, it will make you feel so much better; keep playing the violin; find some way of keeping active; don’t stress so much about grades, because once you get out of high school nobody cares; spend more time with your real friends instead of chasing after the cool theater kids’ approval. Oh, and try to be more patient with your sister. She’ll grow up into a pretty cool girl.

  87. dear 14-year old michele,

    Don’t believe everything the adults tell you. They’re just grown-ups, not gods. When they tell you to give up? Don’t believe them.

    Believe that your body is capable of wonderful things, and that there is no time in your Future Life when great events will be decided by how many pull-ups you can do. Don’t give up on being physical – the swimming, the hiking – because the adults tell you you aren’t fast enough.

    Believe that beauty matters less than people say it does, and believe that confidence matters a lot more. So does character.

    Believe that you have the right to go to the doctor when you hurt.


    Save your money, and don’t let Mom talk you into applying for a credit card in high school. Trust me on that one.

    (Some of the responses up-thread made me bawl. You all are amazing.)

  88. The question is making me cry. What I would say to my 14 yo self is: Get out now. Get as far away as you possibly can. The abuse will never stop. You will witness and experience more horrendous treatment at home. Try as you might, your mother will not leave them. You cannot have her all to yourself. You have taught yourself shorthand, even though you will become a speed writing freak and become a teacher at a Ladies College by the time you are 17, the pills you are taking for weight loss are messing up your mind. Do not degrade your mother like the rest of your family does – she is your greatest friend and best support. Do not follow their lead.

    I left when I was 18. My mother died when I was 24.

    There is no happy ending to this post.

  89. Katarin — I hope there will be…someday. (Maybe with your future daughter?) You’ve made it this far and your mother forgives you and is still on your side. And you are a good writer. Thank you for sharing this, it’s made a difference to me. S.

  90. Things I would tell my 14-year-old self:

    Yes, you really are bisexual, but I *promise* that it’s ok. You are a worthwhile person. People will still love you. Your parents will still love you. Your friends will still love you. People will want to have sex with you someday.

    Please get help for the anxiety disorder. You don’t worry because everything sucks. You worry because you’re sick. Please get help (10 years earlier than I did). You do not have to live this way.

    You’re not fat. Seriously. You’ll look back and be amazed, and you’re wasting so much time thinking that you are. But even if you were, people will still love you and think you’re beautiful and sexy.

    Don’t give up on the music. It doesn’t matter that Heather sings better – stick with it. There is no rule that says you have to give up on dreams and be practical, so don’t do it.

    Your mother is wrong a lot of the time. Don’t listen. You can’t change her. Just enjoy the things you have in common, and let the rest of it go. You know better than she does.

    Read The Mists of Avalon as soon as you possibly can. It will make you a different person.

    You’re allowed to take care of yourself. Be as kind to yourself as you are to other people.

    Take some risks. Be defiant. The world won’t end if you’re adventurous.

    You really do move out and get to be yourself one day. You will be unconditionally loved. The people who will love you unconditionally feel much like you do right now.

    Don’t date crazy people.

  91. Dear 14-year-old me,
    -You have awesome hair. Grow it out, and insist on going to a stylist who doesn’t suck.
    -People like you, really, even if you are a dork. Just because in kindergarten one mean little girl didn’t like you and wouldn’t let anyone be your friend doesn’t mean that no one ever will.
    -Get some Paxil. It will seriously help with the social anxiety.
    -You will meet a highly unsuitable boy next year…run. Ditto to one you’ll meet at 19. You don’t have to go out with anyone just because you think you can’t do better (which is not true, btw).
    -Go to grad school right after college. I mean it.
    -Step away from the credit cards.
    -Your mom is a very smart woman. Listen to her…about intuitive eating, even though she doesn’t call it that, living by yourself for at least a while, etc.
    -Your dad does love you, even though he has trouble saying it and buys you things instead.
    -Even if you don’t listen to a word I just said, you’ll still be fine thirteen years later, with a good job and good friends, and having come out of your shell like no one would have expected back then. :)

  92. I am proposing a new exercise for you:

    Visualize yourself in 20 years from now.
    See yourself feeling the way you would love to feel, doing what you’d love to do. Do you see yourself? Don’t judge what you see, or prevent yourself from seeing it because you think “it’s not possible”. Just go with it. You see it?
    Now visualize yourself turning around and looking at you now, today, at this very moment.
    What does your future self have to say to the present? Open your heart and listen. You are very wise.

    Much love,

  93. I have not had time to read all of this, so I may be echoing someone else’s idea.

    If we want money to start a real organization fighting for fat acceptance, put this all together in a book. I know that I would buy as many copies as I could for every girl and most women in my life. Get more guys to speak up and I’d buy one for every teenager I know. I sure wish someone had told me all of this when I was younger. This reminds me of the Sunscreen Song (Everyone’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)) which made an impact on a number of people my age.

  94. I guess I didn’t do mine yet.

    Um, dear FJ,

    People will like you even if they’re not scared of or for you.

    For some reason, when people acknowledge that you’re good at things, you get convinced you’re bad at them and then quit. This is going to dog you for the rest of your life and I wish I knew how to tell you to stop it. The best advice I can offer is this: take lots of beginner classes, where nothing is expected of you, and then practice and read a lot in private. You don’t have to prove yourself unless you want to.

    Don’t be afraid to switch schools again if you really want to.

    You’re good at science, logic, and electronics. You are for real, it’s not just because you have the world’s best physics teacher. It doesn’t matter that you’re bad at math. Please notice and cultivate this. Don’t join a club, maybe — see above re: proving yourself — but read more, get more tutoring, stay interested.

    You’re good at art, too. I know your mom says it’s not what the smart kids do. Fucking do it anyway. Go to art school if you want to. I’m incredibly serious about this.

    Your English teacher just wants to help. Don’t wait until she makes a huge embarrassing production about your “negativity” before going to her to ask for more challenging assignments.

    Your mom wants to help too, believe it or not. Just wait it out.

    This summer you are going somewhere that will change your life. Please enjoy every minute of it and don’t bother moping around. You only get one more year of this. Also, that Laura girl is trouble. ;)

    If nobody you know likes him, he might not be good for you. (Also, please get over the authority figure thing, and stay away from professors, even if everyone likes them. You don’t need to know this now, but when you’re 21 you’ll thank me.)

    It’s okay to be nerdy and even a little obsessive, but branch out. There’s so many great books and good comics out there, and you’re going to wait to encounter some of them because you’re so into the ones you already have.

    Fencing is actually how you’ll learn to tap into your tenacity, so don’t quit it, even for a little while. Because that is counterproductive.

    You may actually be more remarkable right now than you ever will be again. Enjoy it.

  95. I am sorry to hear all the sad things, but happy that we are able to share them.
    To my 14-year old self and the letter-writer:
    You frequently are, and will be, the coolest person in the room. Sometimes there will be people around who can match you, but you won’t be outclassed.
    And just to me:
    Being introverted is a TRAIT, not a flaw or a pathology. As bonus, while you may feel awkward, a lot of people perceive you as mysterious!

  96. I would have told my 14 year old self that I was going to look back at pictures of myself in ten years and wonder why I always thought I was fat at the time.

    I would have told her NOT to get that very short haircut two years later.

    I would have told her that her parents’ divorce that year was really hard, but it was also going to have several silver linings that were worth waiting for.

    I would have gently suggested that she spend as much time with her dad as possible, since she only had seven more years with him.

    I would have told her that she doesn’t have to go into the closet with that older guy and let him feel her up just because he says so.

    I would have reassured her that yes, breast reductions are possible, and in six years, you’ll get one and feel loads better, physically and emotionally. Hang in there.

    I would have told her to look to her right – see that friend who manipulates you? You don’t need her, and she’s bad for you. Look to your left – see that friend who loves you, helps you through the hard times, and makes you laugh? Don’t worry – she’s still going to be there, loving you and laughing with you, in 20 years. She’s the friend you deserve.

  97. Well, I have to say, considering how I’ve lived my life, 95% of what I would have to say to my fourteen-year-old self would have little or nothing to do with weight and body-type. :-)

  98. Hmmmm.

    Dear 14 year old Krista.

    1) you have a major congenital metabolic disorder. Don’t let people tell you that you are overweight and lazy, get it checked- by an endocrinologist, not a PCP.
    2) Change neurologists before he puts you on a toxic dose of your meds.
    3) Do not date anyone more than 2 years older than yourself. It is bad news.
    4) Life is hard, but worth it. Attempting suicide only makes things worse.
    5) Your dad is an asshole. Quit trying to win his approval. Nothing you do will be good enough, so do it for yourself.
    6) College first, children second. Repeat it after me. College first, children second.

    On the other hand, I love my children and am proud of who I am now, so would I really change anything?

  99. Being introverted is a TRAIT, not a flaw or a pathology. As bonus, while you may feel awkward, a lot of people perceive you as mysterious!
    Oh, man, I wish someone had told me this when I was younger. Hell, I wish I was better at accepting it now. I still feel like people think I’m stuck-up because I’m bad at making conversation with people I don’t know very well.

  100. This thread is amazing. Here goes nothing.

    To 14-year-old i-geek:

    You are absolutely adorable. Yes, the boobs are big. It’s not anything that you did. Look at your mom, your grandma, photos of your grandma’s mom. Genetics are quite powerful. But don’t worry, they’re done growing. Get fitted for a proper bra now or else you will end up with permanent dents in your shoulders in 15 years. Grow out the bangs now. Cut your hair to shoulder-length. Toss out the baggy T-shirts and wear clothes that fit your body. The baggy tops don’t hide the boobs, they make you look like you’re trying to hide a pregnancy. Don’t try to wear red lipstick. There’s not a shade out there that doesn’t make you look like a kid playing dress-up.

    You are NOT fat, not even close. You don’t need to go on a diet. Neither do any of your friends, and you should tell their parents about the diet drugs. You don’t need to starve yourself down to 95 lbs for your senior prom. You’ll only gain it back and then some when you go away to college and start eating normally. And your weight will yo-yo a couple more times until you figure out how to properly feed and care for yourself. Save yourself the trouble and eat properly now.

    The friends that came over to high school with you from junior high? They are amazing. Hold on to them. When you meet Julie in 9th grade, be her friend. She will still be your friend in 15 years. When you meet Colleen in 9th grade, run like hell. She will fuck up your life and 15 years later you will still regret that friendship.

    You are smart. You don’t need to hide it. If people make fun of you for it, they suck. You are good at math and science. I know that you can’t imagine yourself as a scientist, that people in your family don’t do such things, and that none of your friends like science. In 15 years you will be a scientist and you will thank God every day for it.

    Keep singing, even if your family thinks it’s odd. Trust me that the adult version of us is so glad that we didn’t pursue it as a career. It is a wonderful diversion from the everyday and in some cases will be the only thing that allows you to remain sane. One does not have to be famous to be a singer. You have an amazing voice. You’ll lose the upper two or three notes as you get older, but in about 14 years your voice will mature wonderfully and you’ll get even more enjoyment out of singing.

    The boys ARE interested in you. They’re also afraid of you and right now they’re really immature. You don’t need them to validate your worth. It’s okay that you won’t have a boyfriend until you’re 17. It means that you don’t waste precious time fussing over temporary romance with guys that are wrong for you. In 9 years you will meet the love of your life. You will marry him and be really happy.

    Your parents are wise and amazing and your biggest champions. Your mom, although she has obvious body issues of her own, loves you unconditionally and thinks you’re amazing and beautiful. If she makes any suggestions about your appearance it’s because she wants you to feel as beautiful as she thinks you are. Your dad is insanely proud of you. It’s unfortunate for the both of you (as well as for your mom) that you’ve inherited his temper and stubbornness, but the latter will serve you well in the future, as well as will the love for science that you’ve also inherited from him. Yes, the two of you fight almost constantly and sometimes can’t be in the same room together, but when you move out in 10 years, you’ll get along really well with your dad.

  101. To my 14 year old self:

    It’s not your fault when people don’t understand you. There is no one thing you can magically say that will make people ‘get it.’ Your parents aren’t bad, just limited. Seek help elsewhere. Find a therapist.

    Straighten your hair if you want, buy clothes you like. It’s not for them, it’s for you.

    If you’re angry at someone, you’re angry. Find a way to tell them, or let it out. Don’t pretend not to be because you’re afraid people won’t like you.

    On second thought, don’t do anything, or not do anything, out of fear people won’t like you.

    Keep reading, keep writing. Enjoy everything you eat.

  102. Dear 14-year-old self:

    1.) You are not fat. You are not ugly. You are, in fact, surprisingly pretty, as you’ll find out in five years when you’re looking at your winter formal pictures and saying “holy crap, I really did have great legs!” PS: you have great legs.

    2.) EAT. I mean this. Eat breakfast. Eat lunch. Eat snacks. Eat dinner. Eating will not make you fat. Not-eating will give you a nasty case of reactive hypoglycemia in a couple years’ time. Please, please, PLEASE learn to eat small, healthy, balanced meals NOW – also, they’ll help stave off the morning nausea.

    3.) You have fibromyalgia. It may take you another ten years to find a doctor who knows what that means. Be patient, but please – do start looking for that doctor now. Meanwhile, rest assured that you are NOT crazy and it is NOT all in your head.

    4.) Contrary to what everyone keeps telling you, high school is really not that important. It is most CERTAINLY NOT “the best years of your life” – in fact, it’ll probably be the worst. Even so, wring whatever enjoyment out of it you can, if only to show it who’s boss.

    5.) You are enough.

  103. Mom really isn’t a bad cook but she’s not really creative or adventurous, and the reason you don’t like a lot of the foods that you think you don’t like is because they’re not prepared very well.

    TropicalChrome, I have one word for you: cabbage. It took years to find out that it didn’t have to be boiled to a pulp. (Not that I really blame my mother in particular for that – badly cooked cabbage is a very British thing.) Also, not until long after I left home did I realize that ‘salad’ didn’t have to mean iceberg, tomato and black-round the edges cold hard-boiled eggs drenched in salad cream. Ick.

    Suzanne, you’re welcome. It can never be repeated enough, at any age.

    Aebhel, you reminded me of one I missed:
    Hey, 14-year-old me, in five years’ time you will have the choice of going home with him, or going home with Rachel and sleeping on her couch and having her mom shout at you in the morning. Go home with Rachel.

  104. There’s lots of little things I’d love to tell my 14-year-old self, but these are the biggies:

    1. Just because she’s your mom and she loves you, that doesn’t automatically make her right. Specifically, she’s wrong that:

    (a) you’re fat (you’re not fat, but it would would be totally okay if you were)

    (b) because you’re fat, you’ll never get a boyfriend (you’re a late bloomer, which will be a bummer during high school and college, but at age 25 you’ll meet a hilarious, kind, sexy man whom you will marry at age 28 — all while actually being fat, thus proving mom wrong)

    2. You can’t make people like you, so stop spending so much time and anguish trying to get those girls to remain friends with you. Really, it’s okay that they don’t like you anymore, because, when you think about the situation years later, you’ll realize that they treated you really poorly and you didn’t really like them anymore either. They’re totally not worth the suicide attempt that you’ll make at age 15.

  105. I’m struck by how many people really weren’t fat at 14. I wasn’t either, but I was already throwing up. (I was struck by this also when I visited a high school recently — I was looking at the crowds of kids thinking “how can you possibly tell which ones are convinced I’m staring at them because of how fat and gross and ugly they are?”)

    So… perfectly normal 14-year-old + conviction that she’s fat + social and parental pressure + dieting + lingering disordered relationship with food and exercise = fat. The outcome is okay in and of itself, but the path to get there is misery. When are we going to address THAT epidemic?

  106. Okay, here’ s the message to my FYOS that would involve food, health, and weight:

    You will always be at least a little bit overweight. During your late teens and 20’s, it will be easier to control your weight. After you turn 31, not so much. Combine that with your tendency to be rather asocial, and you’ll find that other gay men aren’t really drawn to you. Please for the love the Deity accept that and channel your energies elsewhere. You’ll end up so, so much less screwed up and full of regrets that way.

    And for fuck’s sake, stop responding to every disappoinment in life by wallowing in self-pity. That will only makes things worse. You need to devote yourself to making things better for yourself, not worse, because if you don’t, then nobody will. You will realize this when you notice what a scarily large percentage of the population is seriously mentally ill.

    While you shouldn’t obsess about your weight, do take care of your health. I’m tampering with the Temporal Prime Directive by telling you this, but on the path you are on now, you will develop systemic candidiasis by the time you turn 32. You can avoid this by 1) quitting smoking and staying quit (you might end up less overweight if you avoid eating junk like a garbage disposal when you quit); 2) only taking oral antibiotics when you absolutely must (not as a preventative measure, but only when you have developed an acutal problem for which oral antibiotics are the only conventional treatment); 3) trying to eat in a healthy, balanced way even when you’re living in an obnoxiously overpriced broom-closet of a room in an old boarding house; the place does have a kitchen on the main floor, however spartan, so *use* *it*! Convenience-store garbage-food = NO! 4) Avoid habits that you know are very bad for you.

    And generally speaking, be ready and willing to embrace change and let go when life appears to be telling you to do that. And avoid sacrificing long-term well-being for short-term gain and gratification.

  107. —“Being introverted is a TRAIT, not a flaw or a pathology. As bonus, while you may feel awkward, a lot of people perceive you as mysterious!
    Oh, man, I wish someone had told me this when I was younger. Hell, I wish I was better at accepting it now. I still feel like people think I’m stuck-up because I’m bad at making conversation with people I don’t know very well.”—-

    Have you guys read ‘The Introvert Advantage’? It gives you permission to be introverted. It really changed how I thought about myself. Highly recommended :)

  108. Every step you take off “the path” builds a new one. Ending up some place else isn’t failure.

    As several above have said, it gets better. Pretty much every year will be better than the one before, with a possible break for that mess with your dad.

    And speaking of that mess: it’s not about you. Other people are just as screwed up as you are, if not more. Their motives rarely take you into account. Move around it.

    It doesn’t have to be romance to count as love. Tell your friends and family how much you love them, instead of saving those words for random guys who won’t appreciate it.

    Your attitude will save you. When you grow up, it will be strong enough to save others, too. So stop apologizing for the wisecracks, stop feigning modesty because you think confidence is unfeminine, and don’t treat your smile like a cough to be covered up. If you let them, others will love you for the same reasons you love yourself.

  109. You will still want a tattoo at 30.

    At 30 you will remember how you wanted a tattoo at 14, and 18, and 21, but always talked yourself out of it based on the fact that only the cool, dangerous kids got tattoos and you were neither cool nor dangerous.

    At 25 you’ll still want a tattoo but you’ll figure that, now that you’re married, the opportunity window for tattoo-getting is passed and it’s time to get serious.

    At 27 you’ll STILL want a tattoo but then you’ll have a saggy mommy body and everybody KNOWS saggy mommy bodies aren’t adorned, they’re just disguised as well as the mommy in question can afford.

    At 30 you’ll be one kid saggier, but you’ll also get a good therapist and start reading Shapely Prose. And then you’ll just say “Fuck it” and get the tattoo already.

    (P.S. – Can someone recommend a good place to get a tattoo in Chicago? I’ll be making a day trip from South Bend.)

  110. Dear Me,

    There are a lot of things to just give up:

    1) You parents are screwed up and that’s just how it is. They love you in their own screwed-up fashion; it gets easier when you move out.

    2) Screw femininity. It makes you miserable. It’s only fun when you get to do it for play, not when you have to do it to get people to see you’re a human. Cut all your hair off and I promise you’ll instantly recognize yourself in the mirror for the first time since early childhood. It feels great.

    3) Don’t have sex with people who aren’t attracted to you.

    4) I’m not saying drop out of school, but do please have more fun with it. Nuns don’t deserve easy lives if they’re picking on you.

    5) You got in trouble for the zine and that shouldn’t stop you. Please don’t stop writing. Please. Please keep writing, talking, performing, and drawing. You have a voice and it’s valuable.


  111. So… perfectly normal 14-year-old + conviction that she’s fat + social and parental pressure + dieting + lingering disordered relationship with food and exercise = fat. The outcome is okay in and of itself, but the path to get there is misery. When are we going to address THAT epidemic?

    When someone finds a way to make money off it, of course. Duhhhh!

    Oh, here’s another thing I would absolutely tell myself: Take food with you to school. (There were no vending machines or convenience stores near school then.) Not just your lunch, but something you can eat between the breakfast you skipped or skimped on and your lunch, like maybe some Trail Mix.

    That’s why you are having headaches and can’t concentrate and then you come home and cram food into your mouth nonstop — it’s because 1000 calories a day is not enough food for anyone past their first birthday, even if they think they have an ass the size of Belgium. Even 1200 calories a day isn’t enough. Go ahead. EAT. Fill yourself up. Your skinny friends do, and you deserve food just as much as they do.

    Also, one day someone will be able to figure out that you have a metabolic disorder. Right now they don’t know that yet because nobody’s ever heard of PCOS. But you should still EAT.

  112. Dear M.–

    Hey. So, you are awesome. Don’t listen to the people who tell you to shut up because you are so “conceited.” You’re not. It’s called confidence, and it’s warranted.

    Really really soon, you will get to go out with boys and have sex with them. I promise. You will have a bunch of relationships. You will date boys who are crazy about you. Some of them will be losers, and some of them will be awesome, but you won’t want for love.

    Give your dad a break. He really is a great guy, and you have to cut him some slack. And he really is right about how you shouldn’t be smoking and sneaking out in the middle of the night. And those boys he doesn’t like? Yup, they’re assholes.

    You’re not fat. Don’t diet. Don’t try to throw up your food. Don’t skip breakfast. Keep playing sports because they are fun. Exercise is not for losing weight.

    Don’t worry so much. You are going to have a fantastic life. You will actually become fat, but people will still love you.


  113. Dear Girl,
    First, about your body. Yes, even the boys who smoke cigarettes in the back of the bus will start looking at you in ways that make you feel like you did something wrong. You didn’t. They’re just boobs. You won’t really get it, since you’ll still look in the mirror and just see fat.

    Soon you’ll start to get it, and start to kind of show them off, but you’ll always feel like the chubby girl surrounded by thin, pretty people. Guess what? Before long, you’ll be DREAMING of being the size you are now. Not to depress you – I just want you to enjoy where you are, because girl – you look good. Oh, and the boobs – they won’t stop growing for a while either. DDs, baby. There’s no escaping. You’ll grow to love them as much as you loathe the rest of you… until that changes.

    You’re going to fall in love. You’re going to break your heart, completely. Don’t try to avoid it; you can’t. And it’ll change you forever. One thing it will change is how you see your body, because someone who loves you is going to love your body so much – more than you ever have – that you actually start loving it too. You realize the comments about your lovely backside aren’t jokes – your enormous round backside is actually lovely. And attractive to someone! And you can love it and shake it and walk around proud to carry that thing behind you.

    You’ll still struggle with feeling fat, and with the heart that’s broken, and with worrying that no one else will ever love you or your body like that again. But deep down you’ll know that you still love, that you still can shake it, that you’ll dance again and that every little thing is a gift.

  114. A Sarah: I had one done at Chicago Tattooing Company, which is on Belmont Ave in Wrigleyville, and my other bunch (I say a “bunch” because I had nine fairly large stars done in one shot) at Jade Dragon Tattoo, which is also on Belmont Ave but west of the Kennedy (if you google either, you should find them without a problem). Both places were very nice, clean, all that good stuff, and the folks there were cool.

  115. The friends that came over to high school with you from junior high? They are amazing. Hold on to them. When you meet Julie in 9th grade, be her friend. She will still be your friend in 15 years. When you meet Colleen in 9th grade, run like hell. She will fuck up your life and 15 years later you will still regret that friendship.

    i-geek, this paragraph just totally fucked with my head, because my name is Colleen, and my older sister’s name is Julie, and because we spent our entire childhoods being addressed as “Julie&Colleen.”

    I was not in the ninth grade fifteen years ago, though, so I am confident I am not the Colleen from who you need to run. Also, I am nice, and have never (I hope) fucked up anyone’s life :)

    If I could talk to my fourteen year-old self, I would tell her that she doesn’t need to be ashamed of being smart, but that she also doesn’t owe it to anyone but herself to achieve academically. And when she brought home her report card, full of amazing grades, and her father’s only comment was on the fact that she had gone from a 98 to a 95 in math, I would tell her to ignore him. I would in fact tell her to ignore her parents in general, because they are deeply fucked up and have deeply fucked up world views, and she doesn’t need that.

    I would tell her that she is fat, but that it doesn’t matter. She is also kind, intelligent, and funny. And those “popular” kids are by and large douchebags, and the ones who aren’t stop hanging out with them, and are actually pretty much just normal people when you get to know them.

    Junior high sucks. It is the worst time. Things get so much better, though, so I would tell her to hang in there.

  116. “i-geek, this paragraph just totally fucked with my head, because my name is Colleen, and my older sister’s name is Julie, and because we spent our entire childhoods being addressed as “Julie&Colleen.”
    I was not in the ninth grade fifteen years ago, though, so I am confident I am not the Colleen from who you need to run. Also, I am nice, and have never (I hope) fucked up anyone’s life.”

    Don’t worry, I’m absolutely sure it wasn’t you. The Julie and Colleen from my high school life weren’t relatives of each other. Odd coincidence, though.

  117. Colleen(notprettypear): My 14-year-old self needed to hear that about report cards and achieving academically, too. If she had, I would have saved myself a lot of heartache (not to mention money) spent on the process of figuring out grad school wasn’t what I wanted right now.

  118. So… perfectly normal 14-year-old + conviction that she’s fat + social and parental pressure + dieting + lingering disordered relationship with food and exercise = fat. The outcome is okay in and of itself, but the path to get there is misery. When are we going to address THAT epidemic?

    When someone finds a way to make money off it, of course. Duhhhh!

    Hey, I’m trying over here!

  119. To my 14-year-old self,

    No matter what you feel, your feelings are valid. The fact that you are bipolar does not mean you should deny and undermine your emotions. You feel the way you feel, and that is perfectly okay, and you should never, ever let anyone tell you that you are being melodramatic.

    You are bipolar, as mentioned.
    You are also incredibly strong-willed and very, very capable. You’re ferociously intelligent, terribly clever, and extremely tenacious.

    Both of these will be painfully obvious to everyone you interact with. This means that you will become a target for insecure, awfully charismatic fucktards who will find it entertaining to systematically destroy your self-esteem. This is not okay, your intuition is right, and you are more powerful than they are.

    Those anxiety issues will make you THIN THIN THIN for the next four years, but you’ll lose about one of those years in cumulative sick days, because you are not meant to be 5’7″ and 108 pounds. You are not fat, and you will never be fat because it is not in your genes– when you start regaining the weight your freshman year of college, you will become a large-hipped, full-thighed size 8. And you will be strong and capable and gorgeous.

    Your 18-year-old self.

  120. Hey, Kate, OT, but have there been any developments in getting the stop sign stickers in bulk? I’m feeling a little subversive lately…in fact, I plan to start a secret society of forward-thinking medical students something.

  121. Gretchen: yeah, if my 14 year-old self had known that, maybe she wouldn’t have subsequently decided that she had to major in neuroscience in college, because even though she liked neuroscience, what she really loved was the humanities. But neuroscience was hard!science! and she felt the need to prove herself to her father, who thought that girls were just no good at math and science. So she worked her ass off and got her As in calculus and physics and the rest (although organic chemistry made her want to die), but the classes she liked the best were her German classes, especially the ones about culture and literature.

    I wish so hard that I could just go back and tell her that it’s okay to love what she loves, and that she doesn’t owe it to anyone to be a scientist, and that she definitely doesn’t owe it to her dad. I wish I could tell her that science is wonderful, and she is wonderful, but that doesn’t mean that she and science are right for each other.

    Although, having a degree in neuroscience is kind of rad when you get to shut down the evo-psych morons telling you, “that’s just how our brains work!” Yeah, I have your “how our brains work” right here, Mr. I-Am-An-Expert-In-Biology-Even-Though-I-Majored -In-Political-Science.*

    *Political science is a lovely major. I would have probably been happier had I majored in political. I maintain, however, that a major in philosophy does not make one an expert in: (1) evolution; (2) psychology; (3) brain function; or (4) why you need to stop trying to make me attracted to fat chicks, because I am like wired to find skinny babes attractive, okay?

  122. Wow, I suck at commenting tonight. I have no idea why I typed philosophy when I meant political science. Because I am an idiot? It’s a mystery.

  123. “Colleen(notprettypear): My 14-year-old self needed to hear that about report cards and achieving academically, too. If she had, I would have saved myself a lot of heartache (not to mention money) spent on the process of figuring out grad school wasn’t what I wanted right now.”

    My fourteen-year-old self needed to hear that it was OKAY to struggle and that it was okay to get HELP in math. She also needed to hit her mum over the head with a clue-by-four since the math struggles had been an issue since learning to count. Seriously, if we’d found out I’ve got dyscalculia at fourteen it would’ve made the rest of high school and college SO much easier.

  124. Have you guys read ‘The Introvert Advantage’? It gives you permission to be introverted. It really changed how I thought about myself. Highly recommended

    I also highly recommend Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto, by Anneli Rufus. I’m not even that much of a loner — I’m about evenly 50/50 introvert/extrovert: happy to meet new people and happy to go days without seeing anyone. But I can’t always switch from one mood to the other on command, so having to deal with people when I really want to be alone is fucking excruciating. That’s what this book is about, and I totally related to it.

  125. Let’s see…

    1) Yes, you are fat. But not as fat as all that, and even now you know that there’s nothing useful to be done about it. So move on – you’ve got much angstier things to angst about.

    2) Next time you go shopping, get some clothes that fit. Wearing too-small clothes doesn’t make you look smaller. It makes you look like you don’t know what size you wear. Plus, those jeans *hurt.* 14 is painful enough without hurtful clothes.

    3) Lie less. I get why you’re doing it. Some of it’s survival. But the rest is just… lying to fill the air. It’s not helping.

    4) You know all the stuff you say you want/like/care about, because you’re supposed to? You’ll go try a lot of it, with mixed results. Let me save you some time: you don’t like New York City, LA, international travel, camping, live theater, cosmetics, most jewelry, duck, truffles, gin, parties, children, your aunts, or your friend J. Leave these to people who actually do like them, and everyone will be happier. (But if at all possible, visit Paris.)

    5) Your friend C doesn’t actually like you, but has trouble ditching you. Let her walk away. Your friend K is lying to you. Call him on his bullshit. And as a general rule, if talking to someone makes you want to cry, talk to them less.

    6) Ask to go live with Dad again, and this time argue back when he says no. Walk there if you have to. Mom’s problems are not your fault. Mom’s problems are not your responsibility. You do not owe it to her to hold still while she convinces you that you have no redeeming qualities.

    7) In your future is a cluttered one-bedroom apartment. It’s full of books, it’s all yours, and it’s *quiet.* This is not the prize you were supposed to want. You’ll like it pretty well anyway.

  126. Dear 14-year-old Emsy,

    You are a beautiful and strong and loyal and opinionated person. Show her to the world, even when you think she’s dorky. She’s not, she’s cool!

    Stop pretending that what happened to you last December isn’t a big deal. The guy tried to abduct you. And the cops should have followed up, even though you were moving to a different town the day it happened. Get some help now, so you don’t sit on your windowledge every night trying to get yourself to jump. The pills aren’t the way either. They just mess up your kidneys.

    Your mom loves you, but she’s exhausted with work and your brand new baby brother, so she can’t be there to stand up for you. Your stepfather is a bit of a prick,and that won’t go away, but in the end he means well. He’s just a bit fucked up. Your dad is terrified you’ll be disappointed, so just ignore him when he questions your ability in any field. You will also remain polar opposites on most political issues. Let it go, but confront him every time he gets going on the femmy-lesbo conspiracy. It’s hateful and it hurts you.

    Stop assuming people (your classmates) won’t like you just because you’re not who they expected you to be. Their assumptions were wrong, but you’re the one who shuts them out because of it.

    Stop ditching school every other day. You’re good at forging notes, but once secondary school ends, you’ll need the study skills you get by without now. And you’ll regret not spending time getting to know the people around you. Most of them are pretty cool, but you missed out on them. On that note, go out on Saturday nights, even when you’re the only person who doesn’t drink.

    It’s not dorky but cool you already know what you want to be when you grow up. Go for it. It’s what you’re good at. You will go to medical school, and you will love it, but it won’t control your life. The exam anxiety stays, but you’ll do better than you think you will.

    Put some extra money aside for travelling. You’ll find out it’s one of the things you love to do. Alone or with a friend, you thrive on new experiences. And it’s okay to take time off from college to find those experiences. You don’t have to be the one who finishes first at everything.

    I love you.


  127. I was looking at the crowds of kids thinking “how can you possibly tell which ones are convinced I’m staring at them because of how fat and gross and ugly they are?”

    FJ: I was definitely one of them. I looked exactly the same at 14 as I do today (reference BMI picture). Back then, I was convinced the only reason anyone stared was because I was so fascinatingly ugly they couldn’t look away. I was the human trainwreck.

    I wish I remember how I stopped seeing myself that way, so I could tell other girls how to do it. But it just…stopped. (I’m sure getting out of high school had a lot to do with it.)

  128. You will not regret NOT having sex, or fooling around with anyone you meet in high school. You might, however, really regret it later if you do. But you won’t regret it if you won’t.

    Not always true.

  129. None Given, I believe that was coyote’s advice to her 14-year-old self, not anyone else’s. That’s how things are generally going in this thread.

  130. Dear 14-year-old self,

    You’re mother is a thousand times wrong when she tells you no one will ever love you if you’re fat. You’re probably too young to understand this idea, but she’s projecting all of her own weight issues onto you.

    When you go shopping, don’t let your mother pick out your clothes. Even though you trust that she knows what she’s doing because she’s a *designer*, she’s trying (though probably not consciously) to make you look frumpy in an attempt to protect you from TEH MENZ. Somehow she senses your already voracious sexual appetite and she’s scared to death of it (and maybe threatened by it or envious of it) and she will make every attempt to thwart it.

    Ignore all the diet books around the house, especially “Think Yourself Thin!” and “The Woman Doctor’s Diet for Teenage Girls.” They will try to convince you that you’re fat because you eat “wrong”, and thin girls are thin because they eat “right” and that you’re fat because your head is all messed up or you’re trying to protect yourself or you’re lazy and undisciplined and have no willpower and you have “issues”. Ignore it! *That’s* the stuff that screws up your head.

    You are not the huge, ugly blob you think you are, that you have been led to believe you are. You have NO idea how much muscle is under that flesh! Which is why your “weight” on the scale seems high even though you’re not that big

    You don’t know it but you exude confidence even though you feel perpetually lonely, alienated and insecure. There will always be people who adore you and want to be close to you– physically and emotionally– just for being who you are, in spite of your looks, or because of your looks, or looks may have nothing to do with it whatsoever. It’s your brains, attitude, intensity and sense of humor they love. Listen to them when they tell you how amazing you are. They’re not lying or deluded or saying it just to make you feel better. Trust their love.

    One last thing: when your school music teacher tells you you’re good at playing the guitar and suggests that you continue with it, for the love of god listen to him and take lessons, because when you get older you will regret—more than just about anything—not learning it when you were young and had time to practice.

    With much love from the future!

  131. Dear Me:
    You are hot. You are prettier than everyone else on the cheerleading squad. Stop obsessing about your looks, but don’t get any more perms.
    Dump. Him. Now. He’s about to start hitting you, and he won’t stop.
    Sex isn’t something to feel bad about. It’s great, it’s fun, and it’s actually Not That Big a Deal.
    Your religion should make you feel better about yourself.
    Exercise is your friend, not a punishment. You can run a mile–you can run 26 of ’em! Find one you love.


  132. I’d tell her that I have read her diary, and that she was right to be angry! Reading her words now gives me courage!

    I’d tell her that there’s nothing wrong with her. I’d tell her to decrease her course-load, make new friends who are nicer to her and hang out with them instead of the cruel “best” friend she has now. I’d tell her to spend more time doing the things she’s good at and finds truly fulfilling. I’d tell her to learn to study and write with other people around.

    I’d tell her to trust herself when she gets angry at people instead of turning against herself.

    I’d tell her that she can take care of herself. I’d tell her not to worry.

    I’d tell her that getting a B minus is okay. I’d tell her that getting a C is okay, too. Getting it done is what’s important, not being perfect. I’d tell her to take it easy on herself, and not give up, and if there is too much to be done, try changing the requirements.

    I’d tell her to take her time, to be patient, and to heed encouragement. It’s okay to start slowly and to build endurance gradually.

    And I’d tell her that it’s hard to resist following someone you love, but if you allow yourself to be lead away from your goals and intentions you are deserting yourself. Don’t let others talk you into doing things you are fundamentally uncomfortable with, even when you love them.

    And, I’d tell her to get plenty of sleep!

  133. I would have told her what I try to tell my daughter every chance I get…

    Beauty is different for everyone. What is beautiful to one person is not beautiful to another, and there are people out there who will find you jaw-droppingly gorgeous. You do not have to change to be someone else’s ideal – you only need to realize that you already are someone’s ideal; you just haven’t met him yet. And that’s okay because you have so much time in front of you.

    You do not have to earn the right to be here, to be loved, to be valued, by being perfect or thin or gorgeous or smart or anything. You are born with that right, and you are loved. There will always be people who don’t recognize the inner spark that makes you valuable and worthy and, yes, beautiful – but there will always be people who do, too. Cherish those, and forget the others, because THEY aren’t worthy of YOU.

    And always remember that your body is part of you. It’s not a separate entity to be despised or criticized or rejected. It’s part of you, and whatever you do to it you are doing to all of you. Take care of it, love it, accept it, forgive it for its weaknesses, understand and accept its limitations. There is no cookie-cutter image of perfection, despite what the media would like you to believe. God made us different for a reason, and different doesn’t mean less.

    Celebrate your differences, because they are what makes you special and exciting. Oatmeal is just oatmeal until you start tossing in some fruit, some spices, some flavorings. That’s what makes it interesting and yummy. Plain oatmeal’s just boring – nobody wants to be plain oatmeal.

    And most of all, I would tell her – you are beautiful, you are loved, and you are enough, right now, as you are. You are enough. You are not defective, you are not poorly assembled or designed, and you don’t have to be anything or anyone other than you are. Which, by the way, is way more and way better than you think. And in time, you will know that to be true.

  134. Oh man, can of worms (these kind of things always make me feel emotional anyway because I always think if I could just have caught myself before the beauty magazine indoctrination could things have been different).
    Coincidentally the 11th february was my birthday, and my 14th birthday was pretty much the origin of one of the most horrible times of my life (though looking back it seems just like a dream). In short, it was the start of some really vindictive bullying from my friends at the time which escalated into such aggressive emotional and physical abuse (once the boys in my class realised I was a pariah and got involved) that I had to be taken out of classes, escorted by a teacher between classes and eventually changing school, and it pretty much started in earnest on my 14th birthday.
    So, obviously number 1 would be do not listen to these people, stop trying to win them back, they can smell the desperation and they love, and just stop and think whether you want them back. Keep going, it gets better and hard as it may be to believe this is all for the best, you will move through this and it will make you strong and will put you on the path to wonderful things and people that you wouldn’t have got without it.
    2- You are not fat, you are not ugly, it is okay to like yourself. And it doesn’t matter anyway. There are a million things more important. concentrate on being kind and brave and generous and forget about the beauty rubbish, save your energy for the important things.

    The thing that really scares me is what would my 14 year old self think of me? Would she be so horrified at how big I’d got? Repulsed by her future self? My views on beauty were even more skewed back then than they were at say 18. Would she see me as a horrible warning, an incentive to work harder diet more. That idea scares me.

  135. Jane — Belated thanks for the tattoo recommendation! I really appreciate it. I think I will actually go to the same place you got yours. Woot!

  136. Dear 14-year-old self

    They’re wrong. You’re not hideous. You’re not unloveable, unlikeable or unfuckable. You’ve got fabulous hair (stop scraping it back, wear it loose, and lose the centre parting), your skin is holycrapPERFECT, and you have a cracking figure. You know when you pose around in your bedroom mirror trying to convince yourself that you could be pretty from a certain angle? You’re pretty from all angles, you dunce. Ten years from now you’re going to look at photos and pine for that body. Enjoy it while you got it.

    Also, you are active and fit. You ride horses, walk and cycle. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Just because you can’t climb the damn rope or hit a ball, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your fitness levels.

    I know you think now that you’ll never start smoking. But perhaps if I drop a hint in your ear now about the approaching asthma, you really won’t.

    And – stop comparing yourself to the other girls. Really. You’re not at all like most of them, and that’s just fine.

  137. I have told my younger self, “I am here for you. I will never leave you, any more than you can leave me. And I love you.

    I wasn’t smoking anything when I said that. I actually saw my teenaged self in my mind’s eye, and in that light, offered my assurances.

    That moment happened five years ago. I had just begun, at age 45, my current life–as a woman. So I was talking to the teenaged boy I was. I also said something else, for the first time: “I love you. Don’t forget that!”

  138. Dear 14-year-old self,
    Read every one of these posts.

    (Luckily, I can still make that happen in time! Thank you all so much, you just made my day a million times better!)

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