lessons for younger siblings

If growing up is a test, older siblings are cheat sheets. As a big sister, I feel like I can provide my preteen sister with advice she can trust. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” These aren’t necessarily guidelines for surviving your teenage years, but lessons I’ve learned and am still learning in my twenties. You may not fully understand them until you experience them yourself, but at least you’ll have a head’s up.

You do not need the friendship of anyone who treats you poorly.

When it comes to friends, quality trumps quantity. This actually applies to most things in life.

Your friends are equally as lost as you are, so don’t always trust their judgment. They are good for advice and a listening ear, but they will embellish occasionally, and pretend to know more than they do.

Friends do not peer pressure you. That doesn’t mean they won’t push you out of your comfort zone, but they won’t ask you to compromise yourself and your beliefs.

Have a diverse group of friends. You’re not going to grow if everyone in your life thinks exactly like you do.

Don’t waste time comparing yourself to others. Happiness comes from appreciating what you have, not chasing what you think other people have.

The “love of your life” right now probably isn’t the actual love of your life. You should still fall in love though. It’s fun, and exciting, and if it falls apart, trust me—it isn’t the end of the world.

Be kind, not nice. As wrier Marcia Sirota says of this, “…kindness emerges from someone who’s confident, compassionate and comfortable with themselves. A kind person is loving and giving out of the goodness of their heart. At the root of extreme niceness, however, are feelings of inadequacy and the need to get approval and validation from others. Overly-nice people try to please so that they can feel good about themselves.”

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Respect, for both yourself and others, will make things a lot easier for you. Respecting someone doesn’t have to mean you agree with them. It simply means that you take them seriously and see them as important in their own right. If you learn to see everyone as valuable, you’ll be comfortable both living your own life and allowing others to live theirs.

Give back to the world. There are 7billion people on the earth. If this life was just about you and what you could do for yourself, there’d only be one. You don’t have to save the world today, but start somewhere. Donate your old clothes, volunteer at a shelter, plant flowers. Whatever it is, do something to make the world a better place.

Find something you like to do and stick with it. If you can find something you love, you might as well try to become really great at it now. You’re young—imagine what you could do!

Change your mind and try something new. Your teenage years will be hard as you try to figure out who you are. That means you’re going to change your mind about things, but you should. Always be open to trying new things.

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Understand that trying something is an accomplishment, even if you fail. You’ll never get anything if you don’t go after it.

Karma is real—do good things and they’ll come back to you. The same goes for bad things. Your gestures don’t have to be grand, just genuine.

There is no set of rules on how to be a girl/woman. You define who you are.

Don’t do anything you don’t want to. “No” is a complete sentence, and you don’t have to explain that to anyone.

Read books. It’s seriously silly to say you don’t like to read, and books make you smarter.

Wear clothes that fit you and make you feel good. No one can see the label on the inside, so it doesn’t matter what size or brand it is.

If you’re going to wear heels and drive, bring flats.

Do not wear heels you can’t walk in. Your intention is to be really cute, but you will look ridiculous.

Always keep a tampon/pad in your bag. Aunt Flo can and will make surprise visits.

The horrors you learned about in that awkward sex ed class are real. Please be smart, and if you’re unsure or curious about something, ask about it.

Our parents are going to cramp your style, but it’s because they love you. Sometimes it hurts to admit it, but they often know best.

Share your opinions and hear others’. It’s only going to make you a better-rounded person, and you might improve on some of your own ideas.

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It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. There’s plenty of time to figure it out.

Be aware that with social media, we’re in the age of over-share. If you wouldn’t want anyone else to see something, keep it to yourself.

“You can be anything you want to be” is one of those hackneyed pieces of advice we all heard numerous times growing up, but it’s left at that, as if all you have to do is want something to get it. You can definitely be anything you want, but you’re going to have to work for it. The best things likely won’t fall in your lap, and you’ll feel much more satisfied if you actually work for what you achieve.

Be you and let people love you for that. There’s no need to make yourself out to be something you aren’t. The people worth having in your life will love you just as you are.

Be you and love yourself for that, because if you don’t, who else will?

All of these tips hopefully will be useful to you as you continue to grow up, but the most important thing I want you to do is live your life. Follow your own path, make your own mistakes, and learn your own lessons. After all, that’s how I’ve gathered these lessons to share with you.

What advice would you pass on to a younger sister? For those of you who are younger siblings, what’s the best advice your older siblings gave you?