Lessons for my 19-year-old self.
My teenage was hard.
All my early school days, I was the loner, the philosopher everyone considered “weird.”
Then, I turned 12 and found a girl who thinks exactly like me. Her ideas gave wind to the fire of my imagination, and together, we’d spend hours talking in school, another hour talking over the landline in the evening, and multiple minutes later spent writing and reading letters to each other.
We met every day, and yet, our stories never ended.
We had so much to share and this made our love the purest.
On my 15th birthday, I had to leave the school for “better prospects elsewhere.” Or at least, that’s how my parents convinced me.
I was a shy teenager, and the already-forged bonds of friendship in the new school left me lonelier than ever. I craved for meaningful conversations, and felt myself unworthy of friends.
My teens were spent wallowing in self-pity. I never made any real friends. All the people I connected with, I couldn’t relate to their thoughts half the time. It felt like I was destined to be alone.
I wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough, sporty enough, open-minded enough, talented enough.
It was me. Always me. I wasn’t enough.
Now in my 30s, I understand life’s so much bigger than my limited imagination at 15 allowed me to believe.
I felt this rush, this constant need to prove myself to the world. I thought I needed to deserve any happiness that came my way.
Now I know better.
The world is full of magic, but you’ve to believe in it. You’ve to make space for it in your life and in your head. You’ve to prepare room for it, and when it comes, you’ve to welcome it with open arms.
If I knew this at 19, I’d spend more time on becoming the best version of me. It’s never too late though, and I can implement these learnings in my 30s.
This article is like a letter to my 19-year-old-self. I want to tell the shy, under confident, always anxious Anangsha that she’s fine. Life won’t be easy on her, but she’ll meet her battles head on. She’ll face insane odds, but will power her way ahead because she’s a fighter.
She’s always been a fighter.
Here’s a list of things I spent hours overthinking over, that I now know are meaningless. If you resonate with any, please share your insights in the comments.
1. Some books are judged by their cover
The way you present yourself matters.
The world isn’t perfect, and looks matter. How people perceive you define how they treat you, which is turn is decided by what you look like.
I knew this, and I always obsessed over the details:
Is my paunch too apparent?
Are my dark circles too visible?
I hope my hair isn’t too frizzy.
And so on.
A truth I’ve realized as I step into my 30s is: Looks matter, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a perfectionist. Is it really worth looking good if your face doesn’t pay your bills? What if you spend that time honing your craft?
A quick hack to look good is to invest in classy clothes. When your clothes look great, people automatically assume you’re rich. Money buys respect, and you’ve hacked your way into it.
The little imperfections like extra hair on your upper lip, or visible fat on your tummy don’t matter. If someone notices your flaws and judges you, it’s on them not you. You don’t want people like that spending time with you and filling your head with their negativity.
2. Everyone’s fighting their battles
You might be shy, impatient, imperfect, but you aren’t the only one.
Every person has their insecurities, and that makes your pain not so special. Push ahead and keep fighting even when things go wrong.
It’s an empowering thought that you aren’t alone.
It’s also an unfair advantage you can use to rig the game in your favor.
All you need to do is figure out what a person is insecure about. Observe and learn, and then turn around the rules to suit you.
“I’ve never found it hard to hack most people. If you listen to them, watch them, their vulnerabilities are like a neon sign screwed into their heads.” — Elliot Anderson, Mr Robot.
3. The only thing that matters is how you see yourself
You might not be the most attractive person in the room. But if you behave like you are, everyone else will see you as the same.
People are confused by confidence. If you’re confident in your body language, everyone seeing you will be shocked at where this confidence is coming from. Usually, good looks grant confidence, at least that’s what the perceived societal notion is. The reverse is also true: if you’re confident, you must be attractive.
This is a socializing hack I’ve picked up over the years.
If you walk into any room like you belong there and you’ve been there hundreds of times before, people will be drawn to you.
If you talk to people like you dictate the conversation, everyone would want to talk to you.
This is almost like “fake it till you make it,” except you won’t be faking it for long. The confidence you feign will soon become real, and after a few trials, it will become your second nature.
In my teens, I hated myself for being so shy. I thought no one wanted to be friends with me because I could never initiate a conversation. Now, I know better.
Now, I know if I act like I’m the most eligible potential friend in the room, everyone else will believe it.
A letter to my 19-year-old self
You think the world’s hard, but it’s going to get harder.
You think you need friends, but your friends need you too.
You think all the bad things in life happen because you deserve them. But the good things in life happen because you brought them upon you.
You may not be the most beautiful, talented, or smart person in the room. But you’re you, and that’s enough.
You deserve everything you ever dreamed of, and more.
The secret to making your dreams come true lies within yourself. You’ve to work for them, for sure, but first, you’ve to believe.
Believe that you’re deserving, that you’re worthy.
That you’re capable of giving yourself every experience you ever wanted.
And once you do, the world will be rigged in your favor. And no one can stop you.