15 Things Adults Wish They'd Known as Teens


So heaps of adults in your life are giving you advice, but it feels patronising and hard to believe they could understand anyway, right? Well, while not every adult in your life will give you great advice – some may even offer damaging and hurtful wisdom – there are a lot of things adults wish they had known as teenagers, and advice they were given that they now wish they’d listened to. So, usually when they’re telling you about it, it’s because they want you to live better than they did, and hopefully have fewer regrets by the time you get to their age. There are a lot of things we have to learn for ourselves and sometimes that means doing things the hard way, but if there’s wisdom we can learn from others, why not consider it?

After talking to a range of people, here are 15 tips I’ve come up with that many adults wished they’d understood more as teens:

1. The drama’s not worth it.

‘The older you get, the more intolerant you get of drama – life’s complicated enough without it!’ This is a common sentiment of those who have escaped high school and the drama that comes with it. After getting into the real world, you begin to realise that no one is really interested in who’s talking to who and why, who’s dating who, and who’s looking to bash who. In fact, it suddenly seems petty and time-wasting! It may feel important now, but in the big scheme of things …? Gossip brings you down, so try not to get too caught up in it.

2. You don’t need a lot of make-up and gel to look good.

In fact, it makes you look like you’re trying too hard to prove something, or that you’re actually not totally happy with who you truly are. Don’t hide behind a mask of foundation or perfectly gelled hair – find a way to be comfortable with yourself and be proud of that person. Beauty products should accentuate your good looks, not cake them over!

3. It really is the best time to get an education, and it really can set you up for life.

Many adults who didn’t take school seriously have commented that it takes a long time to make up for it. It’s harder to get a job, particularly a skilled, well-paying one, and it’s harder to advance in any sort of career. ‘I stuffed around a lot at school and my teachers would always say “it’ll catch up to you later!”’ says Peter. ‘I never listened to them, and now I’m only just going to uni to get into the career I want at thirty.’

Life gets busier as well, so why not enjoy the time in your life when you can just learn?

4. It’s okay to ask for help.

If you’re struggling with school work or family/friend problems, talk to someone about it. Many said they used to think they had to be in a deep pit before accepting help, but know now that’s not true. Seek support and help as soon you feel like you’re not coping as well as you’d like to. Accepting help is a skill, just as important as learning to write or make new friends, so make sure you take the time to acquire it.

5. You don’t have to rush into romantic relationships.

Many said they got involved in romantic relationships at high school for all the wrong reasons – peer pressure, they were set up, everyone else had a partner … ‘It’s better to be single than in the wrong relationship,’ Katie says. ‘I did something I regret with a boy because other people pushed me into it. Now I know that’s not a good enough reason. I should have done what I felt comfortable with and not gone past that until I was ready, even if that took another ten years!’

 6. You can’t punch everyone who annoys you.

So maybe you’ve won a few fights at school, but what happens when you get your dream job and your boss begins to irritate you? Hit them, and you’re likely out of a job and with no reference. It’s important to learn how to control your anger before you get out of school, as it can determine how successful you will be professionally and otherwise.

7. Swearing doesn’t make you tough.

‘I used to swear a lot because I thought it gave me respect amongst my friends,’ Grant says. ‘It was fun; I felt tough. I liked the shock on people’s faces. Mum always said it wouldn’t give me credibility in “the real world” but I laughed. Then I went into my accounting job swearing like a sailor, and people looked at me like there was something wrong. I wasn’t tough to them – I just came across like I had something to prove, some insecurity I was hiding with extreme foul language. I suddenly felt like an idiot – why did I feel the need to be tough anyway? Who cares how people think of me? It was quickly more important to be respected for my talents than for swearing. A word every now and then isn’t so bad, but every second word? I watch what I say now because I want to be better than that, and because I know it doesn’t have the impact you think it does.’

8. It’s okay to say no to your friends.

It’s said all the time – say no to drugs, no to another drink etc, but teens frequently end up doing something they didn’t want to do, just to impress their friends or prove something. As you get older, you begin to ask yourself what’s more important – betraying yourself, or impressing your friends? ‘Get new friends,’ Tom says, ‘if you don’t you can end up in all sorts of trouble, even with the police. How “cool” are you going to be then?’

9. Listen to your parents.

It’s true not all parents treat their kids as well as they should, but the majority of them do have good experience and want what’s best for you, even if they don’t always express it well. They were teenagers once, and most of them can remember what it was like, so if they’re advising you about something, think twice before dismissing it as irrelevant. ‘Both my parents died when I was in my twenties,’ says Yvette. ‘I wish now I’d learnt as much off them as I could while they were still here. Looking back, I know I threw a lot of their wisdom back in their faces.’

10. Don’t delve into the occult.

‘My dad told us not to do it, but my friends and I experimented with a Ouija board anyway,’ Samuel says. ‘Afterwards we all started having nightmares and hearing things. I don’t know what we got ourselves involved in, but I do know there’s bad stuff out there and we sort of woke it up. ’

The teenage years are often when people form their beliefs and are experimenting with their spirituality. While this can sound like fun, it’s important not to get involved in anything that’s dark, leaves you feeling oppressed/haunted, or that begins to draw you into things you’re not comfortable with.

11. You don’t have to take on what the bullies say to you.

‘For years I spent many nights worrying about what people had said to me,’ Anna says. ‘My sister was always saying, “don’t worry about them, you know you’re alright!” but it was hard to believe. Now I finally changed my thinking. Who are those people anyway? Why did I waste so much time worry about what they’d said to me? I finally realised they were the ones with issues, not me!’

12. Your thinking does matter.

‘Think positively’ does sound like a cliché, but the more you try it the more it works. ‘I was always telling myself that I couldn’t do something, that I didn’t have what it takes,’ Blayden says, ‘and so I started to believe it. I didn’t achieve anything! It wasn’t until I started to think differently that I started to act differently as well.’

Our thoughts form our beliefs about ourselves, which in turn forms our identity, so be conscious of your self-talk and make changes if you need to. Don’t speak to yourself in a way you wouldn’t speak to your friends!

13. It’s true that if you want something, you have to work for it.

‘When I got into the workplace, my colleagues would joke about me having an “entitlement attitude”,’ says Catherine. ‘I didn’t even know what that meant until I looked it up! Then I realised it was true – I’d somehow developed this mind-set that I deserved something without earning it. I felt like I deserved a pay rise, or the day off, or a better office or better opportunities, but I wasn’t willing to earn it! I complained all day and slacked off, and then wondered why others were getting ahead of me. For a while I was even bitter about their success, but then I realised they’d earned it. They’d done the work.’

There are no short-cuts in life, and laziness gives you nothing in return. If you really want to get ahead, it’s not going to be a walk in the park, so be willing to work hard (NB: that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun along the way!)

14.  Being a teenager can be fun!

‘I spent so much time worrying about my relationships, the bullies, how I looked, how heavy I was, how well I was doing at school and what everyone was thinking of me that I totally missed the fun part!’ India says.

While many teenagers do have it tough, generally it is the time in your life when you have the least amount of responsibilities. Make the most of it! Without compromising your education, make time for fun. If family or school problems are getting you down, then it’s especially important to make sure you balance that out with time for you. Write, paint, run, swim, play music, hang with friends – do whatever makes you happy and what gives you a voice whenever you can. Create memories!

15. You really can do anything!

There are many obstacles out there to hinder us on the path to success, but they are merely that – something to overcome! Other people, uncontrollable circumstances and our own thinking are the three main obstacles you will face, but nothing can stop you from being who you want to be. You may have to work hard for it, but you can truly do anything you want if you are passionate enough.

So don’t settle for second best. Don’t assume you’re not smart enough, good looking enough or supported enough. Do whatever it takes to make the most of your life – it’s too short to waste, and you’re never too young to start making an impact!