Boost Your Wellbeing by Giving Lessons to Your Teenage Self

Reflecting on the past can often bring clarity and a sense of growth. The University of Surrey conducted a study using a “photograph prompted think-aloud” method to see how advising their teenage selves could affect young adults aged 20-24. The results showed that giving advice to their younger selves boosted self-esteem, resilience, and mental health. By urging their younger selves to embrace change, set boundaries, and trust themselves, participants learned valuable life lessons. This reflection method could be beneficial for young adults’ development and offers insights for educators, counselors, and mental health professionals.

The Power of Advising Your Teenage Self

The study reveals that asking young adults to advise their teenage selves can positively impact their self-esteem, resilience, and mental health. Reflecting on past experiences helps them understand their growth, recognize their strengths, and learn from their mistakes. This process allows young adults to build a stronger sense of self, better cope with current challenges, and develop a more positive outlook on life.


Navigating a Complex and Rapidly Changing World

Young adults today face a rapidly changing world and are constantly under the scrutiny of online exposure. They are often labeled as fragile, but the study shows they are deeply complex individuals. They navigate social pressures, academic expectations, and personal growth, all while managing their online presence. This complexity makes them resilient and adaptable, capable of facing and overcoming various challenges.


Key Lessons from the Study

  • Create a Safe Space – Participants emphasized the importance of choosing supportive friends and letting go of harmful relationships. Setting clear boundaries and standing up for oneself is crucial for maintaining mental health and self-respect. For instance, a high school student might decide to distance themselves from a toxic friendship, leading to better emotional well-being and academic performance.
  • Broaden Your Perspective Participants advised their younger selves to broaden their outlook and understand that everyone faces challenges. This lesson helps young adults realize they are not alone in their struggles and encourages empathy and connection with others. For example, a homeschooled teenager might join a community group to meet peers facing similar challenges, fostering a sense of belonging and support.
  • Trust Your Intuition – Listening to one’s intuition and focusing on personal growth without comparison to others was another key lesson. By trusting themselves, young adults can better navigate their paths and make decisions that align with their values. A college student might choose a major they are passionate about, rather than one they feel pressured to pursue, leading to greater satisfaction and success.
  • Embrace Change and Uncertainty – Participants urged their younger selves to embrace change and uncertainty. Understanding that growth often comes from facing new challenges helps young adults become more adaptable and resilient. A high school senior might embrace the uncertainty of moving to a new city for college, viewing it as an opportunity for personal growth and new experiences.
  • Value Yourself Beyond Appearances – Valuing oneself for actions and character rather than appearance was a significant lesson. Resisting societal labels and focusing on personal integrity and achievements helps build a stronger sense of self-worth. A teenager struggling with body image might focus on their talents and accomplishments, improving their self-esteem and mental health.


Advantages and Disadvantages


  1. Enhanced Self-Esteem: Reflecting on past experiences and giving advice to their younger selves can help young adults recognize their growth and achievements.
  2. Improved Resilience: Understanding past challenges and how they overcame them boosts resilience and the ability to face future difficulties.
  3. Better Mental Health: Focusing on positive changes and personal growth improves overall mental health and well-being.
  4. Increased Empathy: Recognizing that everyone faces challenges fosters empathy and stronger social connections.
  5. Personal Growth: Trusting their intuition and embracing change leads to continuous personal growth and development.


  1. Potential Regret: Reflecting on past mistakes might lead to feelings of regret or guilt.
  2. Overemphasis on the Past: Focusing too much on the past might hinder living in the present and planning for the future.
  3. Comparative Analysis: Comparing past and present selves could sometimes lead to unnecessary pressure to meet self-imposed standards.


Top Facts

  1. Reflecting on past experiences can help individuals gain insights into their values and motivations, leading to more informed decision-making.
  2. Positive self-reflection is linked to reduced stress and anxiety levels.
  3. Adolescents who engage in self-reflection tend to have better academic performance and social skills.
  4. Encouraging young people to reflect on their past can help them develop a stronger sense of identity.
  5. Self-reflection practices are increasingly being incorporated into educational and therapeutic settings to support mental health.


Expanding Research and Advocating for Policies

Professor Ogden emphasizes the importance of expanding research to include diverse voices. Understanding the unique paths of young adults’ development can provide more tailored and effective support. Advocating for policies that integrate these insights into educational and community programs ensures that young adults from all backgrounds receive the necessary guidance to navigate growth and change. This approach could lead to more inclusive and supportive environments that foster resilience and well-being in young adults.


School or Homeschool Learning Ideas


  1. Reflection Journals: Encourage students to keep a journal where they reflect on their daily experiences and write advice to their future selves.
  2. Role-Playing Exercises: Use role-playing to help students practice setting boundaries and making supportive friendships.
  3. Group Discussions: Facilitate group discussions on the importance of valuing oneself beyond appearances and resisting societal labels.
  4. Perspective-Taking Activities: Create activities where students put themselves in others’ shoes to understand different challenges and develop empathy.
  5. Goal-Setting Workshops: Hold workshops where students set personal goals and reflect on their progress, learning to trust their intuition and embrace change.


What Our Children Need to Know

  1. Self-Worth: Understanding that self-worth comes from actions and character, not appearances.
  2. Empathy: Recognizing that everyone faces challenges and practicing empathy towards others.
  3. Boundaries: The importance of setting clear boundaries in relationships to protect mental health.
  4. Growth Mindset: Viewing successes and failures as opportunities for growth and learning.
  5. Adaptability: Embracing change and uncertainty as essential parts of personal development.


The Big Questions

  1. How can reflecting on past experiences improve your current mental health and well-being?
  2. What are some ways to set clear boundaries in relationships to protect your well-being?
  3. How can you practice empathy and understanding towards others facing challenges?
  4. In what ways can embracing change and uncertainty benefit your personal growth?
  5. How can you value yourself for your actions and character rather than your appearance?



Reflecting on the past and giving advice to one’s teenage self can significantly enhance self-esteem, resilience, and mental health. This process helps young adults understand their growth, recognize their strengths, and learn from their mistakes. By creating safe spaces, broadening perspectives, trusting intuition, embracing change, and valuing themselves beyond appearances, young adults can navigate the complexities of life more effectively. Expanding research and advocating for policies that support these insights will ensure that all young adults receive the guidance they need to thrive.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Upgrade to become a Premium Member and avail 20% discount on all courses.