The Advice I’d Give 18 Year Old Me

A friend asked me the other day what The Advice I Would Give 18 Year Old Me would be. Being 18 feels like a million years ago and also like it was yesterday. I had so many exciting things ahead of me and yet the things I worried about most turned out to matter the least. Reflecting on this question has inspired me to write this list of the 10 things I’d tell 18 year old me and anyone else who is about to embark on their journey into adulthood, I’d love to know what advice you’d give your 18 year old self over on instagram by tagging me in your stories or on direct message. 

1. Enjoy this time – When I was 18 I was always looking forward, forward to going to uni, to getting a job, to being taken seriously as an adult. Looking back, so much was happening in the moment that I wish i’d spent more time thinking about rather than the future. Don’t rush – you will never be 18 again, make the most of it.

2. Success looks different for different people – being at school in a classroom environment it can be challenging not to compare yourself to others, we all wore the same uniform and had almost identical daily routines and yet we are all individuals, all about to embark on totally unique and totally amazing journeys. It can be hard to not compare yourself to others, but often the parameters we use to compare ourselves don’t really matter. I remember when I was 18, worrying about whether my A level results would match up to my peers, in reality I would never measure my life by exam results now and my friends and I are all on our own amazing paths and are all uniquely successful in our own ways.  

3. You don’t have to go to uni – when I was 18 I thought if I didn’t go to university I would have no opportunities, I didn’t realise then how many other options there were out there and I put so much pressure on myself that university was the be-all and end-all. I was so lucky to travel to Australia to go to Sydney University which totally shaped my path and inspired me to start taking care of my health and spread that message to others but I was more inspired by my part time job when I was studying, at a health food cafe, which showed me that a typical office job might not be for me, than on my course at university itself.

4. It’s normal to not know what you want to be yet –  Just because other people can give an impressive sounding answer when someone asks them what they want to be doesn’t mean they really know or they will stick to it! Nowadays most people have 2 or 3 careers within a lifetime so don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to be, the joy of life is finding out.

5. SAY YES – take every opportunity that comes your way being 18 is one of the most exciting times of your life as you h ave newly found independence without many of the responsibilities and commitments that come along as you get older. Don’t be afraid of failing or that you aren’t worthy of an opportunity, every experience is one to learn from.

6. Look after your health over bodyweight – you may think that being skinny is everything but actually feeling good and looking after yourself is a lot better. Learn about what makes you feel good and follow that rather than what magazines tell you, we all have different bodies and that should be celebrated, you don’t need to change your body to be beautiful you just need to learn to accept yourself as you are and you will feel beautiful.

7. Value your fertility – even though you aren’t necessarily thinking about having children your actions now will have a long lasting effect, be conscious of your period, not being on the pill for too long and sexually transmitted diseases.

8. Family is important – although you may feel like this is your time to be independent and run away don’t take your family for granted, you will appreciate all that they have done for you so much in the future, they really are your best cheerleaders.

9. Prioritise travel – while you have the freedom to do so travel is the most important learning experience you can have. Travelling when you are younger is the best as you are so open to new experiences, relationships and much less committed to creature comforts and happy to stay in hostels and share experiences, and rooms with strangers.

10. Wear your heart on your sleeve – Don’t feel you have to hide your emotions, communication is key to the best relationships so don’t be afraid to share how you feel, the best people will always welcome your openness

Follow me on Instagram @madeleine_shaw_