11 women share the advice they really needed to hear on their first day of high school.


“How was your first day of high school?”

“It was not as good as I thought it was going to be. Everyone already knows each other. They already have their friendship groups. I don’t know if they want anything to do with me. I don’t know where I fit in.”

This week, teenagers had their first day of high school. It’s an exciting time for some, but for others, not so much. Mamamia asked 11 women to share the advice they’d give their 13-year-old selves about starting at a new school, making friends and the big, bright, wonderful life waiting for them after high school. (Even when it might feel like that life couldn’t possibly exist.)

If your teen has just started high school, make this is the one thing they read today.

Leigh, 35

Dear 13-year-old me,

Everyone will tell you not to worry and that you’ll make friends soon. That’s true BUT, that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to feel scared or anxious now.

Your feelings are totally valid and real. You’re allowed to feel lonely, and like you don’t want to go back tomorrow. While it feels like everyone already has their groups or knew each other from before, there are other people there feeling exactly the way you feel right now.

They’re telling their parents they don’t want to go back and they hate it. They feel sick too. So while you feel so alone, you’re really not. Try to think positively but also know its okay to feel scared. Talk to your parents, your aunty or uncle, or any loved one. Sharing and not bottling things up can really help.


Jess, 23

Dear 13-year-old me,

I know it feels like you’re really lacking in confidence, you’re nervous around people and you have trouble speaking out in class, but change is slow and you’re working on it.

You’re unsure of yourself, but everyone else is too, and that’s something that’s going to slowly get better with age and life. One day you’ll look back at how different and more confident you are since you were that 13 year old, and smile.

Nama, 41

Dear 13-year-old me,

Making new friends is part of life. I’m starting from scratch this year, too, and I know it sometimes feels like no one likes you, but that’s not what’s happening.

Everyone has their own thoughts in their heads, and you’d be surprised to learn they are often just as nervous as you. If you just remember to respect yourself first, great friendships will happen. You are kind and funny and the right people who love that will come along.

And don’t forget the day is really short. Recess is 20 minutes, and lunch is 45. So even if you are on your own, it’s not that long, and it’s better than being with people who don’t respect themselves enough to be respectful of others.

LISTEN: In the wake of Dolly Everett’s death, Bec Sparrow speaks about bullying and how we can best educate our girls (post continues after audio…)

Jessie, 27

Dear 13-year-old me,

Before I started year seven my nana told me that it’s okay to sit back. To watch. And to let people come to you. I’m an innately shy person, and it always takes me a little bit of time to warm up. I think about this advice all the time.


I didn’t panic about making friends the fastest. I observed, and I found great friends, slowly and carefully.

I wish someone had told me, however, to do your best to separate from people who make you feel bad yourself. I spent a majority of high school with those people. They might be funny or popular, but they’re not worth it. If someone makes you feel awful – walk away.

You will meet so many people in your life. Don’t waste your precious time with people who do nothing for your self esteem.

Marta, 35

Dear 13-year-old me,

It’s absolutely impossible to believe it now, but there will be a time the problems you have today will be solved, and the things you desire will be yours.

The way you feel today, you may not feel tomorrow, or in a week, a month, or a year from now. Everything is going to change, and you will change. Just wait a little while, because that’s all you have to get through. Just that little while.

Abby, 19

Dear 13-year-old me,

It’s funny I am writing this to you because I suspect you don’t particularly need my advice. In fact, I know you ignore this type of ‘inspirational’ advice because rarely have you found it useful.

One of the phrases you hear the most is from a dear friend, Bec Sparrow, to find your tribe. I know you find that hard to listen to because all you want is a tribe – all you have ever wanted is a tribe – and you often sit alone in the library. WHERE IS MY TRIBE, gosh darn it?!


There’s a Lisa Simpson quote that’s my current desktop background, ‘You don’t understand. I don’t belong there.’ Most people find this depressing, but present-Abby finds it quite reassuring. I use it as a reminder that there are hundreds of people just like you and I – and Lisa Simpson – who sit alone in the library, but will eventually find one another.

Throughout every day and night that passes I want you know: You’ve got this. I’ve got you. And you will  also persist.

Sonia, 49

Dear 13-year-old me,

1. Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be greater or lesser persons than yourself.
2. Be yourself, and speak your mind with confidence not arrogance.
3. Listen to your mother. Her advice comes from a place of love so it should be treated with respect.
4. You will make friends. When you enter a room ‘smile’ people will be instantly drawn to you if you do that.
5. Be proud of your heritage. Don’t be embarrassed because you aren’t like a slice of white bread, celebrate that you are unique and encourage others to learn about your way of life.
6. Never give up your dreams or change who you are to accomodate a boy
7. Consult your parents for advice. They’ll respect the fact that you asked and probably have gone through your situation a hundred times before.
8. Never be afraid to break the ice with new people.

Lauren, 24

Dear 13-year-old me,

Stay true to yourself. Be kind to everyone, regardless of how they treat you. Make friends with all kinds of people, and don’t allow yourself to fall into a situation where you have to choose between being accepted and losing your self respect.


And study hard. Being smart is so damn cool.

LISTEN: Grace Halphen asked 50 Australian celebrities what they wish they knew when they were younger. And their advice to their teenage selves is brilliant (post continues after audio…)

Mia, 46

Dear 13-year-old me,

The first year of high school will be tough, I’ll be honest.

It will take you some time to find ‘your people’ and you will spend the first few weeks hiding in a classroom doing your maths homework every lunch time because you moved schools a couple of weeks into first term and everyone else had already found their groups. You won’t know where you fit in and you will feel shy and alone and horribly conspicuous. You’ll have to adjust to the different dynamic of being at a single-sex school after going to school with boys all your life and how that can be more intense.

You’ll try a few different groups of friends and have some false starts when it comes to finding the friends that make you feel like the best version of yourself. You won’t be in the popular group and you’ll be fine with that. But don’t sneer at the populars out of jealousy because often, the most popular people at school tend to peak too early. You will get your period this year and start to fill out your bra.

Try not to compare your body or your development or actually anything to other girls because everyone is running their own race at different paces. I know this is impossible and you’ll do it anyway. Try to remember that your value lies in what you do and who you are not how you look even though everything in society tells you otherwise. Listen to your mother when she tells you you’re beautiful and listen to both your parents when they tell you that you can do anything you want to.


You’ve got this. Go get ’em. xxxxxx

Jessica, 26

Dear 13-year-old me,

Right now your friends from primary school are starting to change and make new friends. And you know some of these girls are nice, but you’re not really sure where you fit in.

Don’t worry. It will take a few years, and you’ll make and lose friends in the process, but you will realise that boys actually make the best friends. You’ll find this lovely group of guys who make school interesting, and who you’re still friends with in 2018.

Lauren, 36

Dear 13-year-old me,

You know, I know you’re going to say “but you don’t know what it’s like” but 23 years on – I’ve earned the right to say that I do.

You should know that everyone else feels just like you feel. They’re just as confused, just as scared and just as lonely (even if they’re surrounded by people). You really should just be yourself because now that you’re 36 and you care less about what others think, you realise that people like you best when you’re being you.

I wish I’d known earlier to put “kindness before all else” because if you are kind you can’t fault yourself and then others can’t fault you and even if they don’t say thank you; it will make their heart sing.

And another thing. Stop wearing mid-riff tops.