Our teenage years are littered with confusing messages about who we are and what we should be doing with our lives.

We can suffer pressure from parents, relatives, friends and teachers. We certainly face pressure from cultural influences pushing forward damaging ideals about girlhood, womanhood and ‘femininity’.

Here, we’re offering ten tips to help you work out how to navigate these challenging years.

1. Listen to Yourself

Regularly find quiet time where you can be completely alone for at least ten minutes. Try not to do anything in that ten minutes except sit quietly and listen to yourself. How are you feeling?

Try to hear the noise in your head in all its chaos and complexity – it might feel like you’ve stepped into a busy city in rush hour. Just be in that noise and accept it. Feel the emotions as they come and go. When they rise up, take a good look at them. If you’re able and it’s not too painful, pick a strong emotion and trace it back as close as you can to its true root.

What are your feelings telling you about yourself? There’s always something to learn when we look at our emotions analytically. But be patient, we can’t always pick up on the lesson first time around. Self-reflection takes practice.

2. Exorcise the Negative Voice

We all battle our own demons. And they’re spiteful. They’re bad friends.

We don’t always realise what an impact the negative voices in our heads have. We’re so used to them, it’s like they’re part of us. But when we listen analytically, we soon realise the extent to which those voices hold us back. They bully us, and like bullies, they often collapse when faced.

So, only if you feel emotionally able, take a moment and hear that negative voice. Let it have its little rant.

Do you recognise it at all? Where did it come from? It will have come from somewhere – a bad experience, or hurtful relationship, it may be born from a nasty bit of sexist culture. Is it telling you that you’re stupid, fat, disgusting, useless, ugly, talentless, a failure, that no one likes you? Thought so. That demon isn’t terribly original.

Sometimes airing that voice helps it expose itself for what it is. You’ll notice that it’s repetitive, it doesn’t have a strong argument. In fact, it’s clear that its main desire is to hurt you. Sometimes, listening to the negative voice with an analytical ear helps break down our fear of what our demons have to say.

Because you’ll discover that what the demon has to say is poorly argued, very cruel and not based in truth. If you were to make that voice your guide, you’d live an unhappy life. And that’s all it wants. It’s a proper out-and-out old school villain. It wants to make you miserable.

It might take you a lifetime to learn to control the power that voice has over you, but it’s worth starting that journey today.

3. What Do You Enjoy?

Usually the things we enjoy are the things we’re best at.

Notice when you enjoy something. What are the specific things that you’re enjoying about the activity? What do you think you did best during your experience of that activity?

Make a note of things you enjoyed and why you enjoyed doing them. Pay particular attention to activities you not only enjoyed but did really well at.

Measure the success yourself, you don’t always need feedback, you know if you did something well or not.

Ignore the demon. It’s bound to chip in.

4. What Do You Believe In?

Have a think about what matters to you. Not what matters to your mom, dad, best friend or favourite celebrity. There will be specific things that make you angry and specific things that make you happy. What are they?

Keep thinking about this.

As time goes on, think bigger. How would you like to be remembered? What impact would you like to make? Is there something you can do in your life, something special that you can do in your own special way, to make a difference to the world in which you live?

Keep asking yourself this question. At first, the answers will be stunted and the demon will almost certainly have a lot to say. But the more you ask and investigate your values, your beliefs, the more involved your answers will become and the demon will probably feel a little tongue-tied.

We believe this question is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself. We believe it’s where your potential lives.

5. Find a Role Model

When you’ve invested some time into working out what you’re good at and what you believe in, there will probably be five or six areas to explore. You never know, perhaps there will be one clear answer that emerges beautifully and cleanly from the wonder of your brain.

Start looking around for other women who’ve worked in these areas, or women who believe in what you believe in. Some of those women might be dead… but, they thought ahead! They went and did something so amazing with their life, they left you a legacy. They’re there for you to learn from. It’s so important to embrace the legacy of your sisterhood. Read about the women that inspire you, the women that think like you. Read their words, read about their contexts. You may find many of them in The Heroine Collective.

There will also be people who are alive and willing to help you! Research and drop them an email to ask for advice or inspiration.

6. Gathering Experience

Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back, as well as meet like-minded people. When you’re volunteering, ask around for advice on what you should do next to pursue your interests, skills and beliefs.

The same goes for internships, or apprenticeships. If you’re able to, apply for some interesting ones and when you get them, ask around, network, make friends and contacts.

If you live in an area where working as a volunteer, intern or apprentice is difficult, it might be worth thinking about what you can set up yourself. The world always needs the charity of others and the learning you get from creating your own initiatives is invaluable.

Never be afraid to ask for help – if someone is unwilling to help you, that’s just a reflection of who they are and where they are at in their lives. Accept it, forget it, and ask someone else.

7. Taking Guidance

Life is full of people who will give us good advice, and people who will give us bad advice. Sometimes of the people we love the most give us terrible advice without realising it.

This brings us back to steps 1 and 2. When you’ve worked on getting to know yourself and being kind to yourself, the best person to listen to will always be yourself.

If you truly feel the advice you are being given is right for you, take it. If not, don’t be afraid to say no. Even if that advice is from someone very close to you.

Your demon will have a lot to say about that. Pah. Let it talk to the hand.

8. Getting to Know Yourself

In order to be your own best guide, you do need to spend some real time on steps 1, 3 and 4 and exploring the many complex journeys they will take you on.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a country where there is a free health service, you might find you want to talk to a professional about some of the emotions you’re experiencing. We go to the gym for our bodies, therapy is a healthy step for our psychological growth. If you aren’t able to access this service, there are free online services, or you might find some one in your community to talk to. A person who you really trust. You might be happy to journey into getting to know yourself alone.

Whatever the case, quiet, reflective listening to our emotions, our passions, and assessing our values helps us work out what our impulses are. Spending time getting to know what’s best for you requires effort, stillness and an analytical approach, but it pays off lottery-style.

Make a commitment to be a really good friend to yourself. Make a commitment to listen to your needs, be kind, take space, reflect and be self-aware.

9. Remember the World is Full of Arseholes

Yep. Sorry. It is. They’re everywhere. They will probably always be everywhere. Treat them the same way that you treat your demon.  Listen to them for a moment. Do they make you happy? Do you believe they have your best interests at heart? No? Well, you don’t need them, then. Move on. They don’t fit into your life path.

10. Remember the World is Full of Amazing, Life-Affirming, Brave and Kind People

Yep. Loads of them. They’re everywhere. They will probably always be everywhere.

Find them, be with them and be one of them.

Be the best you can be, work hard to be the best version of yourself. Who is that person? It’s exciting. We want to know her.

Be the person who makes someone else’s day, week, month, life better. Be the person who works to make herself happy and her world a greater place.

Please note that these are just a few tips to support you, but if you are struggling with your mental well-being, there are a wealth of professional support networks which will be of use.

©The Heroine Collective 2015 – Present, All Rights Reserved.

Kate Kerrow

Written by Kate Kerrow

Kate is a freelance writer and researcher. She has a strong interest in gender, race and cultural diversity, with a particular focus on culturally suppressed narratives.

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