Stop being so hard on yourself. You’re so young, and you don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. I know you’re in a bit of a crisis right now, but it won’t last forever. Whatever you may have been brainwashed to think, the most important thing at your age (and any age) is your happiness. Everything must come second to that; your grades, the way you look, your ‘popularity’ – none of it matters if you’re not happy first and foremost. In fact, all of these things depend on your happiness, at least to some extent.
At 15, you may think your GCSEs are the most important thing in the world – they aren’t. Do your best, but don’t let anyone pile the pressure on you. These grades will not dictate your future. Yes, they are valuable and yes, you will do well, and that is something to be incredibly proud of. But all that stress leading up to those exams is not worth it. As your Dad has always said to you, you can only do your best. Listen to that simple but wise advice, because it is the absolute truth. Worrying will not make anything better, so revise, take time to care for yourself and take each exam one at a time. The thought of 26 exams is tough, but I promise they will pass in no time, and you will soon be out the other side. At 15, you will also experience your first heartbreak. At the time, it will seem like the most horrendous thing in the world, and you’ll wonder if you’ll ever heal. It will take a long time, perhaps longer than it would for most, but it will happen. You were born an incredibly sensitive person who loves really hard, which may feel like a weakness right now, but you will come to realise that it is actually one of your greatest strengths.
At 16 and 17, life will feel like a roller-coaster. Above all else, there will be a lot of self-doubt, but you need to remember not to take that out on the people who care about you the most. Pushing people away will become a defence mechanism, but in years to come you will realise that was the worst thing you could’ve done. You will become eternally grateful to the people who stuck by your side, even when you were a very difficult person to be around. At 18, you will experience academic failure for the first time, but it’ll work out in the end. You know by now that getting bad grades is actually not a huge deal, and you know that you will be OK. And you will be, because by 19 you will have grown so much as a person.
At 19, you will face your toughest year yet, but the strength you’ve built in the years previously will serve you well. It will be challenging, but you will get through it. This year will teach you more about yourself than you’ve ever learnt before; it will teach you that you are a lot stronger than you think, and that you have grown a lot more than you thought. Above all else, it will make you grateful for every hardship you faced as teenager, because you will realise that had you not been forced to deal with them, you wouldn’t have been equipped to deal with this. If somebody had said to you at 16 that you would one day be thankful for the way you were struggling, you would never have believed it. But in some ways I do believe the ‘everything happens for a reason’ cliché. Maybe not everything, but some of our struggles definitely do go on to shape our greatest strengths.
By 20, you will accept yourself completely. You’re human, and you will have days where you feel down about yourself or about life in general, but by now you will know this is normal. Your teenage years have been full of huge ups and downs, but they have created an incredibly self-aware individual who is in touch with her mind and body. By 20, you will be fully prepared to be the best version of yourself you can possibly be.