In an age where snapchat and instagram rule, and where self-harm can seem fashionable, I wanted to find out what growing up in 2017 as a teenage girl is really like. I met with Maisey* to find out more.
LJ: What is it like to be a teenage girl growing up in 2017? What is good about it? What is hard about it?
Maisey: The thing about being a teenage girl growing up in 2017, in the age of the introduction of social media, is that it is neither solely good nor solely bad. Some days I wake up and I see a body-positive quote on Instagram or empowering video on Facebook and for a moment I’m thinking “wow, I’m inspired today, I feel validated and not alone in this” until the next day when I wake up to seeing pictures and videos that make me loathe my body, where I am in life and/or make feel belittled and ashamed. It’s been a complete, mostly unaware, shift in dynamics from the world of my childhood, where social Medias didn’t exist and I spent my time outside constantly or on Club Penguin, the only virtual world, to this completely different world of my teenage years, where no one of any age had a clue how to healthily navigate this new world of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, let alone a 12 year old still figuring out whether to shop in the kids section or the teen stores. What’s good about this new world is that there is now a platform where I can feel less alone, positivity can be spread on a global level and I’ve been able to educate myself on things I wouldn’t have possibly been able to learn without social medias and other media platforms. However, it’s the same great platform that has mostly dearated my self-confidence, my child-like spirit and created conflict, within myself and with others. It’s a complex period of time, prominently the ages 14 to 17, with friendships, sexuality, family and school, only managed with various sources of support, growing, forgiveness and understanding.
LJ: What is the hardest thing you have ever been through?
Maisey: I can’t pinpoint the hardest thing I’ve been through. I’ve been through times, rather than distinct experiences, that have felt like having my heart ripped out or other times that I’ve felt nothing at all. I moved across the world when I was 11, from Oxfordshire, England to Melbourne, Australia. There were hardships in that but I believe it’s had a positive effect in the long run. I’ve moved high schools, went a year without really any friends and at a time when I was really anxious, socially and with what I was realising about myself, that was not fun and it was the start of some very challenging years. I was questioning a lot about myself and it was really scary, because there are so many different factors to think about at the age of 15, especially when you’re an over thinker, like myself, or when you’re a people pleaser, like myself. The thing people don’t tell you about growing up is that you won’t always have a complicated thing end and then it will be okay for a while, that’s not how it worked for me, things can happen one after the other or even simultaneously and it can be overwhelming. What I’ve learnt from experiencing this is to acknowledge there are hard chapters in life, not just singular experiences and from there I can acknowledge that there will be good chapters too.
LJ: How did you, or do you get through those more challenging chapters?
Maisey: To get through the harder chapter of high school I’m trying as best as I can to accept that I am doing the best that I can and that this chapter won’t last forever. Whilst I’m a big dreamer and put a lot of hope into what the future holds, I also have to remind myself to soak in and be grateful for the great things going on around me in day-to-day life, no matter how small. For me, it’s staying close to my family, trying my best to be open with my mum and I’ve come to realise, the more I am, the more I feel safe and know someone always has my back.
LJ: How do you keep your mental health intact? What practical things / activities / practices, keep you emotionally healthy?
Maisey: I’ve recently started going to counselling. Not because I think I need it for anything in particular but because talking to someone, with no emotional strings and pressures attached, just helps to unload my brain a little before carrying on the week. At this point in my life, the fork in the road when being months away from finishing high school, I’m really attempting to learn more about what kind of people I feel are healthy to surround myself with; I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that the kind of friendships that benefit my mental health are those where support is a given, making each other deep and authentically laugh comes naturally and pressure, gossiping, games and belittling is replaced with acceptance, encouragement, understanding and a sense of adventure. Face to face, open, conversation with friends is SO important. Setting goals has always helped me, whether it’s “I’m going to tidy my room this week” or “I’m going to travel to this place by 2018”, it’s a way to keep myself motivated, focused and have hope in the lowest of times.
LJ: If you could give one piece of advice to a girl just a couple of years younger than you, what would it be?
1) Stay grounded in your goals. and remember to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself consists of not getting swept up in other peoples thoughts about you, especially of those who don’t really know you. That you are not going to please everyone your whole life, and sometimes that’s you and sometimes that’s because not all people want to like you, for whatever reason they battle with.
2) It’s okay to say no, you’re not going to have all the same interests as your friends, and you don’t need to justify not wanting to do something, as long as you know and know your reasons. Be kind.
3) Try your hardest to fight battles with kindness. Kindness always wins in the long run, maybe not with the opposition but, always with yourself. Be kind to yourself, laugh at yourself, people won’t remember that stupid thing you said a week from now. Hang in there!
LJ: Massive thanks to Maisey for sharing her story with us. If you are a teen going through a hard time, why not check out some of the other pages here: www.thelilyjoproject.com or have a look at some of the advice over at Young Minds.
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Lily Jo x