One of the most important parts of growing into our lives as women is the ability to learn from our own pasts, as well as from the strong, independent, female forces around us.
When I was about 18 years old, my mother gave me a piece of advice that I’ve always remembered. She said, simply, “Do everything you do with dignity, and you won’t have many regrets.” Though I certainly have not lived up to this sentiment all the time (I worked at a karaoke bar for three years for Christ’s sake) and certainly have regrets, it always stuck with me. Though I may not have incorporated my mom’s advice when I was younger — “dignity” constantly lost to “one last round of Jameson shots at 3 a.m.” — now, as a 30-year-old-woman, my mom’s passing comment holds weight in my everyday life.
Sometimes the best way to grow up is to (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) listen to your mother. And if it’s not your mother, never underestimate how many amazing women are around you, who have important life-lessons under their belts.
I asked several women of different ages what would be the most important piece of advice they would give to women 10 years younger than them, and here is what they said.
Nadia Imafidon, 27, Nav.it Editor
Forgive yourself. Often. Love yourself stubbornly through every illness. And don’t be afraid to hold onto someone else. They see the sun in you.
Kimberley Cunningham, 29, Art Dealer
Don’t be afraid to be young.
My own two cents, 30, Writer/Editor
Life: Try to live in at least one other country before you have serious responsibilities (like kids, or a mortgage) and immerse yourself in other cultures vigorously. Even if it’s just studying abroad for a semester, do it. It will make your life fuller. Also, it’s never too late to go back to school. I got my B.A. at 26 and am getting my Master’s at 30. You get to set the pace of your own life, so listen to your gut.
Love: Never relinquish your self-esteem or respect for the attention of another person. It will become a habit. Set your standards high (for lovers, friends, and yourself) and never feel bad about them.
That being said, allow yourself the room to fail. Your 20s are for failing… in an upwards trajectory. Don’t let your mistakes be etched into your future, just identify what made a bad experience bad (if it was in your control) and learn from it.
Amanda Page, 31, Nav.it Creative Director
When faced with a challenge or dilemma. Go with the most difficult choice. We tend to choose familiar suffering over the unknown, and I believe in challenging that every time. Going the difficult way always proves to be more rewarding.
Samantha Strelitz, 31, Actress
Don’t let anyone dictate your value. Build your self-worth by exploring who you are through your interests and experiences. Find a way to learn more about yourself from the pain of disappointment, failed professional and/or interpersonal relationships and mistakes. Financial independence is paramount.
Jessica Asante, 37, Event Director
There is this amazing thing called auto transfer. It transfers money automatically for you every month from checking to savings. Do it. Now. Saving seems so daunting but even a couple of hundred bucks a month becomes thousands before you know it with how fast time flies in your 20s. And the time for buying real estate or starting a business or rearing a newborn comes FAST and money makes it easier. So just do it in a thoughtless way.
That being said, stay in school. For as long as you can. You will work for the REST OF YOUR LIFE and if you are lucky it will be long. But tomorrow is never promised so learn as much as you can when you can–it always makes you better.
Lyndsey Powell, 40s, Free Agent
On work: I wished I hadn’t gone for the easy route by just enjoying myself for the now. I wish I’d put more effort into creating my future for a short time to have long-term gains and fulfilment.
Love: I wish I’d known back then that love was incredibly important and that finding a life partner was one of the most profound and spiritually rewarding things we can do!
And that children would add to the depth of joy life had to offer, by having my own family unit who would be my purpose and inspiration and comfort.
Wendy Rhodes, 52, Graduate Student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Class of 2018
It’s funny, I’ve been thinking about what advice I would give my 10-years-younger self. I’m 52, and the advice I would give a 42-year-old would vary vastly from what I would tell a 32-year-old or a 22-year-old. That being said, here is what I would tell a 42-year old woman:
Do it now. Whatever the first thing was that came to your mind–do that. Do it right now, today. You are more than just a daughter, sister, wife, mother or friend. You are you. And you should be the star of your own life, not just a supporting cast member in everyone else’s. You are braver and stronger than you know. Trust in that.
Lisa Resnick Doty, 54, Real Estate Broker
Always take time for yourself. If you have a job that is demanding don’t be afraid to take a long weekend here and there for yourself. Never settle. I know it’s cliche, but life is short. If you are not happy with your job and you have exhausted every way to make it better, then leave! And you know, [that goes] for your love life as well. Always take time for you.
One more thing…Have the confidence to know you will be okay.
Ellen Sabbah, 62, Wellness/Spa Manager
Your body is a temple, treat it that way. Eat healthy, exercise often, drink water always and have a spiritual practice–meditation, yoga, some form of stillness. It’s ok to cheat once in awhile and temporarily break away from a healthy routine, but moderation is key. Don’t deny yourself that occasional ice cream or lazy day on the sofa binge watching your favorite show.
Be a lifelong learner. Read often, take courses, educate yourself daily.
Trust your instincts and follow your heart, but always take your brain with you. Practice this in life, love and career.
Surround yourself with positive people who raise you up and not bring you down.
Save money always! Keep saving for a ‘rainy day’. Life can throw you off course and you want to be prepared. I learned this the hard way after a terrible divorce.
Don’t be afraid of aging, it had its own wonders as long as you stay curious and active.
Love yourself first before others and believe in something greater than yourself always.
Barbara Nadler, 87, Jewish Grandma Extraordinaire
This is a revolting question. Is 77 an age? Okay fine. Sow your oats. Enjoy your life.