I remember being in such a huge rush to grow up as a young woman. I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license, buy my first car, vote, go to college, find the perfect man, get married, land a stellar job, and have kids. And not only did I have my impatience to deal with, but it seemed there was a lot of pressure to check all those boxes off before I was twenty-five.
Looking back, I wonder where all that pressure came from. Was it self-perceived? Did it come from my peer group and family, or was it the cultural norm at the time? Whatever the case, my reality didn’t match up with those expectations. And sometimes, I wonder how life would have been different if I hadn’t been in such a hurry.
I am often asked what advice I would give my younger self if we could meet for a cup of tea. What advice would I give young women graduating high school and facing the wide world of possibilities in front of them?
Here are five pieces of advice I wish I had known as a young woman and would offer to young women today.
5 Pieces of Advice for Young Women
1. Discover Who You Are
Finding out who we are is a lifelong process of discovery. However, it’s also essential to find out who we are not. It takes a bit of time to do this. Studies have shown that the human brain does not fully develop until we reach age twenty-five. Because our brains don’t finish developing until that age, we continue to be highly impressionable and are prone to impulsive decisions.
What does that mean? It means that you are more likely to make decisions on a whim, but those decisions could have a long-lasting impact at this age. Also, since your mind is so impressionable, you must be aware of with whom you are entering into relationships. Your brain is still learning what normal and acceptable behavior is at this age, so if you enter into an abusive relationship, the likelihood of your brain accepting it as normal behavior is exceptionally high.
Take the time to let your brain finish developing and start to learn who you do and don’t want to become as you become an adult and step into life. What things do you believe? What don’t you believe? What are the causes that are near to your heart? What passions and pursuits do you want to chase? Taking some time to learn these things sets a solid foundation for you in the future.
Exploring the world is one of the best ways to figure out who you are. Take the time to do some traveling outside of your regular stomping grounds. Meeting people from different walks of life and learning about other cultures will help you grow and gain the ability to see different perspectives. You may also discover something new that you are passionate about.
That bucket list that you have? Start checking it off by going places and doing new things. Remember that you aren’t guaranteed to live until ninety, and once you have a family (if that’s what you decide to do), it will be a little tougher to explore as much as you would like. On the flip side, it is so fun to explore the world with your kids and see it through their eyes. Whatever path you choose, make it a habit to get out of your comfort zone and neighborhood to meet new people and see new places.
3. Learn All You Can
While being well-read helps broaden your horizons and lets you explore the world from your living room, I’m not talking book smarts here. Learn all the practical, hands-on things that you can. Know how to change your car’s tires, oil, and jump a battery. Get good at balancing a checkbook, making a budget, managing credit card debt, and know-how to apply for a loan. Know how to use a hammer and drill, build things, splash paint around, and get creative. Learn how things work and how to repair them.
Why do all this, especially if you have a relationship partner willing to do them for you? It’s as simple as this: being self-sufficient will give you tremendous freedom. Even if your partner wants to be the one managing finances and doing the handiwork on the cars and house, stay fresh on your skills.
If you are self-sufficient, you will not have to rely on someone else to do these things for you. It feels great and empowering to do those things, and you’ll save a lot of money on repairs you can do yourself. Having these practical skills also helps you be a blessing to others. And, if you ever are in a position where you need to remove yourself from a relationship, you will not feel strapped because you don’t know how to do these things.
Remember, you are intelligent, strong, and capable. It will take practice, getting dirty, and making a few mistakes to start, but once you get the hang of these things, they will become easier, and you will become more confident.
4. Create a Strong Support System
Take the time to create a robust support system. A support system might include friends, family, counselors, pastors, professionals in the industry you want to work in, and mentors. Don’t force these relationships. You will know the ones who are supposed to be part of your tribe, and they will love you fiercely just as you are, quirks and all. These people will have your back no matter what.
Second, take the time to find a mentor who is older and in a different life stage than you are. Go out to coffee together, or find a shared hobby you both enjoy. Spend time together and learn from her. Watch how she handles the challenges of life. Ask her opinion and learn from her perspective. A mentor can help you grow and encourage you in incredible ways.
Lastly, start making connections and networks within the career field you want to pursue. People working in the area where you want to work can be a valuable resource to help you learn, grow professionally, avoid pitfalls, and break into that field.
A strong support system of people you love, respect, and who feel the same for you will help you overcome life’s challenges.
5. Take a Logical Look at Love
When it comes to love, the heart tends to kick the brain out of the driver’s seat. However, you must take a long, logical look at the person you want to be in a relationship with. Ending an unhealthy relationship, especially if you are married, can be traumatic.
Learn the red flags of abuse and watch your partner closely for them. Often, these signs are not flashing neon colors and can be super hard to spot. If you see abusive patterns in your partner, remember that those patterns will always get worse over time.
Also, get to know your partner’s family. Watch for red flags within that family that your partner may have inherited. Please take a look at the relationship you have with his parents and siblings. If you do not have a good relationship with them, are constantly at odds, and don’t like them, remember that this will not usually change. If you choose to marry, remember that you marry the family too, and you will be as tied to them as your mate.
If you have doubts or are seeing red flags, it’s better to cut off the relationship early than to get into a position where it is difficult to leave. If you are already in an abusive and dangerous relationship, have the courage to leave. There are resources and people available to help you. Remember that you are worthy of love and have the right to a safe life.
Time to Reflect
If you are a young woman reading this, what things do you want perspective on? What would you want to ask your future self?
If you’re in the 30+ crowd, what tips would you give to yourself or a younger woman? Leave those notes in the comments; your insight might be someone’s answer to prayer!