To Grow, Teach Your Younger Self

College age (the late teens and early twenties) has become a time of rapid transition and change. Many young adults may have more addresses during this time of life than they did from birth through high school. Along with different addresses are different roommates and different neighborhood experiences. They also experience a changing, developing sense of identity as they move from childhood to adulthood, from a stage of dependency and living within the rules of family to independence and developing their own life rules. They may even experiment with behaviors we don’t especially like. Importantly though, they also exhibit a growing sense of wisdom and insight. A study from the University of Surrey capitalized on that growing wisdom and insight. They had participants between the ages of 20- and 24-years-old look at photographs of their teen selves while reflecting aloud, offering advice and reflecting on life. Many told themselves to set clear boundaries, let go of bad relationships, or embrace change.  In general, their reflections clarified three lessons they learned.

  1. Create a safe space. Creating a safe space includes choosing supportive friends and walking away from negative relationships that might harm their well-being in some way. It also included setting and maintaining clear boundaries to support their growth, self-respect, and emotional health.
  2. Take a broader perspective. These young adults encouraged their teen selves to understand that everyone faces challenges. They reminded themselves that they were not alone in their struggles but that their struggles represented the common struggle of humanity. They reflected on the importance of valuing themselves for their character, not their appearance. This broader perspective also led them to resist social labels that try to “pigeonhole” them and instead live a life of character based on personal values.
  3. Trust yourself. In this category, participants emphasized the importance of taking care of themselves, focusing on personal growth, and avoiding comparing themselves to others. They noted that failure represented an opportunity for growth as much as success did, that persevering through challenges actually promoted growth and development in a positive way.

Those lessons sound like excellent advice for everyone to learn, especially those in their late teens and early twenties. Maybe you have a child in that age range. If you do, you might enjoy a fun family night of giving advice to your younger selves. Give everyone a picture of their teen self and allow each one to spend several minutes reflecting on themselves before offering any advice to their younger self that they would like to give. Parents could do this as well as young adults. You and your young adult might just learn some important lessons about life, family, and self. You might find yourself having some great discussion as a family about life, meaning, and important lessons we all need to learn.

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