This letter is to my younger self, but on reflection, it is as much a letter to my current self because this knowledge and advice is still relevant today.
At fifteen, I remember feeling plagued by self-consciousness and doubt. This meant I tended to stay in my comfort zone in terms of who I would mix with, the things I would do and the aspirations I had for myself both personally and professionally.
Self-doubt and seeking the approval of others can be crippling, as I came to discover.
I fell in with a friendship group of girls who defined themselves by virtue of their popularity with the boys we hung out with. If a girl was popular with the boys, then she was popular with the girls.
Being popular turned on how we dressed, how we looked and how we acted, which required passively observing the various activities of the boys, rather than participating in them ourselves. You will eventually outgrow this group, but the experience will teach you that you should always back yourself and trust your inner voice.
Self-assurance, especially when it comes to relationships, is an attribute I respect and admire. While I’ve developed it with age, at times it still evades me (as it will you!). And that’s fine – it’s all part of the journey.
Fortunately, you will continue to grow up with a supportive family where gender equality is normal.
Your mother and father will instil an inherent strength that will help you stand up to people who may try to dominate or exploit you, but some people are highly persuasive and persistent when it comes to this – and it can be very difficult to resist the pressure.
Your parents will give you the tools to know how to deal with such situations and for that, you will be grateful. You have the right to expect and assume respect and gender equality in all your relationships, now and in the future. When you’re older, this will become the cultural and social norm too.