What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

Model, Muay Thai fighter, and body activist Mia Kang recently published a letter to her 18-year-old self in Vogue. It was a raw, honest, and revealing write-up that shared a lot about her physical and mental struggles as a young woman finding early success in her modelling career.

It got me thinking about where I was at 18; at the beginning of university, overwhelmed with change, and trying to navigate the transition from teen to adulthood. While those years hold many cringy fashion and beauty choices, they also have hidden struggles I wish I could tell the younger me not to worry about.

What are the three things you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self? Here’s what I’d say.

First thing’s first – when people show you who they are, believe them. Stop putting effort into relationships with people who don’t make time for you. Those who love and support you will show you and if you wait just a little longer, you’ll meet a friend who feels like a soul sister and you’ll learn and experience the value a true ride or die friend. Stop lamenting friendships of old, you’ve outgrown them and the loneliness you feel now is temporary.

Believe in your power and your voice. Yes, you’re very sweet, but sometimes you need bite. Stop holding back on what you want to say, stand up for yourself when you know you’ve got a right, no one has the power to make you feel less than, and you’ll earn more respect for using your voice. This is an ongoing battle you’ll face well into your 20s, but it’s a lesson worth enduring – you’ve always been strong, it’s time to show it.

Take care of your body. Stop thinking about working out and just do it. Go try every class you tell yourself you’re going to try but are too intimidated to. Your future body will thank you if you start early, trust me you won’t get the body you want by wishing for it – and this metabolism that seems to demolish burgers and fries in a day? Yeah, that’s not going to last. Eat better, work out, and please take up martial arts sooner.

It’s OK to follow your dreams and believe you are worthy of them. You will always doubt yourself and wonder if you’re good enough –you are. Don’t shy away from the challenge of chasing what you want. Yes, it will require very hard work, grit, sweat, and tears – but man, will it ever be worth it. Your vision is clear and your plans to achieve your goals are sound, don’t let anyone tell you different – especially that voice in your head. You’re not afraid of hustle and hard work, and this trait will take you far, even when it feels like everything is working against you. Dig in deep, don’t stop writing, keep showing people your worth and your gifts, nothing will be handed to you, but it’s all good, you’ll be bold enough to get after it anyway. You’ll see.

When I look back at my own advice, so much of it applies to me today. Goes to show that while we grow up, we’ll always be haunted by fears and insecurities, but we are better equipped on how to handle them, so much so, we may grow out of them altogether. Take some time and reflect on what you’d say to a younger version of you, it could give you some eye-opening perspective – it did for me.