6 Things I Would Tell My 20-Year-Old Self

At twenty I was like many kids at that age: A youthful mixture of  bravado and immaturity. Every thing seemed SO important. EVERY decision was larger than life. Yet honestly, I didn’t have a clue who I was. In reality, I was just a girl who would struggle with frizzy hair for almost forty years before figuring out how to tame it, amongst other things. Yeah, I was that girl.

Here is my best advice for twenty-year-olds. The six things I know now, but wish I would have known then. (Though, according to my mother, I wouldn’t have listened anyway.)


1. Learn to be patient, uncomfortable and alone, because, as your mom likes to say, this too shall pass. Time will heal the loss and pain of a broken heart, so don’t be in such a rush to replace a person or a boyfriend. Sometimes the uncomfortable transition period is necessary for learning and growth; and rebound relationships usually aren’t built to last, though you’ll have your fun trying this anyway. However some losses, like the death of your father when you were young, will last a lifetime. The pain diminishes, but the wound never fully heals.

2. Don’t base your self-worth on a man and don’t make men your first priority. Very hard to do when growing up to be a wife and mom are deeply ingrained in your head. Try to really know yourself before you get in a serious relationship or marriage, though the romantic in you won’t listen. Remember, if you’re not with someone who makes you feel like the most beautiful, loveable and special person in the world, walk away. (And if it makes you feel any better, just know karma’s a bitch. One of your ex’s never got married and regrets not marrying you. I heard this from a reliable source, I swear. And the other was recently indicted. You didn’t really need that headache. You’re welcome.)

3. Finish college and/or grad school before you get married and have children. After a full day with the kids, being a wife, tackling homework until the wee hours of the morning, only to do it again the next day, is exhausting and won’t do your dewy complexion any favors, either.

4. People will try to discourage you. Don’t let them. Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid of not succeeding. (I don’t say “failure,” because there is only failure in not trying.) Be more afraid of NOT trying and living with regret. If you fall, pick yourself up, and keep moving forward. Twenty some years later, you’ll be saying this to your kids a lot, too.

believe in yourself

5. Worrying about what other people think of you is a waste of time and energy. Don’t let someone else’s perception of you (unless it’s absolutely fabulous!) become how you see yourself. And for God’s sake, don’t be so hard on yourself all the time. Don’t get caught in the trap that everything needs to be perfect, or nothing will ever get done. And take it easy with the worry part too. That just gives you wrinkles.

6. And, on a lighter note, if you’ve been blessed -or in my case, possibly cursed- with a full head of kinky curly hair, that looks different and unwieldy each and every morning, here’s a tip on how to tame that head of hair of yours that only took me 40 some years to learn. (If you were blessed with super fine, silky straight hair, I don’t hold it against you. Please relish this is one less thing you need to work on.) After you wash it and put in a little leave-in conditioner, put on a tight ponytail (use two if you have long hair, with the second towards the bottom of the tail). With ponytails in place, blow dry on the highest heat setting for five to ten minutes. Leave ponytails in and then leave it to air-dry for several hours. Voila!


  1. Deanna Baron says

    Great advice and its advice that I wish I could insert in a chip into my daughters brain. Unfortunately like you said, its advice that they won’t listen to and lessons I guess they have to learn to believe.

    • Carpool Goddess says

      I’m pretty sure my parents said this to me, but it was a concept my 20 year old self (30 too!) wasn’t ready to accept.

  2. says

    That “believe in yourself” message. 20 years old isn’t exactly mature, but nor is it being kid. It’s remarkable how many times that theme comes up for all of us. How unsure we were. The lack of confidence.

    Fortunately, with time and experience that changes for most of us. But the years it takes (for some of us) – wouldn’t it be better if we could find that place in ourselves much sooner?

    • Carpool Goddess says

      I think it’s rare to have that kind of confidence at such a young age. I’m in awe of those that do.

  3. says

    Screw my 20-year old self. Your advice is what I needed at 50 to hear today! Thank you.

    I sense a theme in our bloghop that men and our desire for them has played a huge role in forming us as women. Now I’m really starting to wonder what a men’s midlife bloghop would read like. Do men regret frittering away so much psychic energy on girls?

  4. says

    I feel like I could have written much of this one. I love your advice about men…they cannot be the center of your life. A partner isn’t your nexus, he’s your equal and your friend. So much easier that way.

    Accepting disappointments is hard when you’re 20, it’s life when you’re 60! Time does change things.

    • Carpool Goddess says

      I think most of us had boys on the brain. All. The. Time. My parents should have put me in an all girls school 😉

  5. says

    Loved this jewel of a line: “Remember, if you’re not with someone who makes you feel like the most beautiful, loveable and special person in the world, walk away.”

  6. says

    Great advice! I especially like the part about learning to just sit with the uncomfortable feelings. That’s so hard to do sometimes–we’re always rushing to solutions–but it’s so essential to learning the meaning of what the hell just happened. :) And not letting it happen again.

  7. Gina Osher says

    This has to be one of my favorite posts of yours! All fantastic advice (& so funny about the exes)! It’s so crazy how we all have to learn things the hard way, isn’t it? I do like to think that the 20 year old me would be awfully pleased with the woman she’s become. I’m sure you can say the same.

    Great post!

    • Carpool Goddess says

      Thank you, Gina! I’m so glad you liked it. Yeah, the part about the ex’s always gives me a good laugh. Ha!

  8. says

    I loved this! I don’t know what I would tell my teenage self – other than stop frowning Botox is expensive! Oh, and stop eating that fast food. It may not show in your thighs yet, but in a few years all those Big Macs are going to get together and make your ass the size of Montana.

    I also might have to explain to my teenage self that I never grow out of being shallow :)

    • Carpool Goddess says

      Thanks, Manic! Your list is great too :) Your Botox comment made me realize that I forgot include the biggest ager of all… #7: Wear sunscreen.

  9. says

    I would tell myself to travel…travel…travel….spend any extra money and travel…Go do the study abroad, find a way to pay for it! Wish I would have done it.

  10. Kristin CruZ says

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, and your site. My first visit here. Love your style. Keep up the fun! You have a new fan :)

  11. says

    I wonder if it is instinctive that we all seem to have put such a high value on our relationships with men. I agree with you, completely, on the need to base your self-worth on something other than a man, btw. Well done!

  12. Whitney says

    I will keep these all in mind for the next 5 years…when you then have to teach me about being in my 30s. Thanks Aunt Carpool Goddess!

  13. Amanda Frank says

    This is a fantastic post and some awesome advice! I think that sometimes as we age, we lose that natural confidence we had when we were younger, and even though we are much, much wiser now sometimes we long to be young again. I know it’s cliche but as I’ve aged, sometimes I read self help books. I actually just finished reading a great one called “Borderless Broads, New Adventures for the Midlife Woman” by Morgana Morgaine. You can check her out and get the book right from her website, http://www.morganamorgaine.com/. It’s a great read for women, especially those like me who are middle aged. It was pretty interesting and instead of telling me “it’s all going to be ok”, it gave me a sense of inner peace and confidence in myself again. I’d love to go back and give my 20 something self a bit of advice. Thanks again for sharing this great post!

  14. says

    Knowing yourself before you get into a relationship – very solid advice, CG. I always grew up hearing how important it was to find a career – that depending on a man for my livelihood was a bad deal.

  15. says

    Really sweet post, Linda. I also grew up with the mentality that a partner (a prince charming) was the most important piece missing from my life. Many a frivolous relationship later, I came to realize that romance wasn’t necessary for happiness…haha, and NOW I’m with a lovely, caring partner! 😉

  16. says

    I’d love to send my 20-year old self to my current stylist — a curly hair specialist. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t even be born for another five years.

    Great bits of advice! It’s taken me forever to begin to value that transition piece and not try to push forward too fast into new relationships and things.

  17. says

    What I would tell my 20 yr old self–wow, that is awesome! I would tell myself to leave that first marriage early right after the babies were born because they are the best thing that would come from that union…save myself years of unnecessary heartache and get on with finding that guy who treasures me. I would tell myself to get on with living a life worthy of looking back on because that special guy really is out there and God / the universe will bring us together when the time is right. I would tell myself not to worry, that I will feel treasured and honored when that guy finds me.

    Yep, it all comes back to the GUY doesn’t it?

  18. says

    What a great post! The one that jumped out at me was “Don’t base your self-worth on a man and don’t make men your first priority.” I see so many young women making this mistake. I made this mistake when I was that age. You live and learn.


  19. says

    Love this. Great advice to yourself. :-) I wrote a couple of posts about advice to my former self as well. My 17-year-old self, in particular, needed a serious talking to. Visiting from SITS. Have a great weekend.

  20. says

    I can’t even tell you how much I love this post. If I wrote a letter to myself at twenty it would be pretty similar except I still don’t know how to give my flat hair actual volume.


  21. says

    I’m too angry at my 20 year old self to write her anything. Kudos to you for being on speaking terms with your 20 year old self. You’ve inspired me to forgive 20 year old Andrea. I just may write her a note. Visiting from SITS.

  22. Courtney says

    Thanks so much for this post. I’ve been so scared about going to college, especially since my ex boyfriend broke up with me on prom night for my best friend that I invited to go with us because her date ditched her. Forget both of them! I will meet many new friends and guys in college, but I’m not going to rush it. Someday I will meet people that won’t do crap like that to me, and their rebound relationship won’t last in high school. They’ll both realize they lost a really good relationship with me when I become a successful nurse and he still hasn’t become a soccer player, and she is still working at a fast food joint (that’s what they both told me their future plans were haha) They will grow up one day.

  23. says

    I am in my 20’s now and can definitely relate, especially to the part discussing how every decision seems larger than life, it does! Thank you for the advice.

  24. says

    All such good advice and I do find myself telling my teens this stuff already…as for that hair drying technique, wow – I am so going to try that!!

  25. Tiffani says

    At 19 years old, these sure are hard lessons to go through and hard habits to break. but like you said “With age comes wisdom” and we have to learn. It feels like everything you wrote was just for me. Because at this time in my life I sure needed to hear these things. Reassurance. Thank you (:

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