The Best Piece of Advice I Ever Gave My Teen Was One That Took Me 40 Years to Learn Myself

Image Source: Julie Scagell

Middle school is hard on all of us; and this last year of middle school for my 13-year-old daughter has been no exception. It was a year of changing friends; the kind where lunch tables are at stake and reputations are on the line. Her decisions this year have also been less than stellar — I’ll admit I’ve used the phrase “I’m disappointed in you” more times than I can count. I remember the sting of that sentence when I was her age, cutting deeper than anything else my parents said to me.

We sat together the other night, my daughter and I, a novelty these days, now that I am firmly at the bottom of the “Friends, Activities, Electronics, Boys” totem pole. But this night, I felt like she was really listening to me, searching for some inspiration after another ill-fated decision left her grounded for weeks.

How do you tell someone with so little perspective on the “big picture” of life just how important it is to love yourself? And that doing so will impact every single choice she will make for the rest of her life?

In the end, I offered this advice — one that’s taken me years to really comprehend myself: The only opinion of you that matters is your own.

This concept may seem simple enough, but how many people do you know, even as adults, who are still learning to grasp the enormity of what it truly means? It’s nearly impossible not to get weighed down by the opinions of others from time to time, and a certain amount of self-reflection of how others see us does makes sense. Consistently making choices that allow us to hold ourselves in high esteem is no easy task, but it limits the regret and shame we can feel, which only drags us down.

We can try our best to fool others, but at the end of the day, there’s no hiding from our own truth.

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