By Alexandria Roswick
Over the years, as neurologists have found more evidence about the development of the prefrontal cortex, it has been widely debated at what age the brain is considered completely mature. The latest research suggests that our brains don’t completely finish developing until we reach the golden age of twenty-five.
This data has created an interesting internet debate that’s persisted for many years. Among the discourse, it’s been argued that people have weaponized the findings of this research in order to invalidate or act superior to teenagers and young adults. I can understand that it probably feels completely demeaning to hear people addressing you as if you can’t make any decisions. However, I also believe this topic is important to talk about — specifically with young women. In fact, I do my best to warn them about impulse-control all the time.
This isn’t because I feel I am smarter or better than young women. It all stems from an honest passion for helping women to live their best lives. Regrettably, it also stems from the many facepalm moments I’ve had over the years due to previous impulsive decisions. Here’s the deal: I’m only twenty-seven. I know I’m not the picture of wisdom and maturity. However, I truly believe that the past two years have woken me up in a life-changing way. Not to be dramatic ladies, but society is structured to keep us down by distracting us from our power. Once you begin to look at the world this way, you’ll start to pick up on certain patterns. Until then, we are often led astray or even put in serious danger. Below I’ve listed eight things I wish I could have learned before I turned twenty-five, and want to impart on the younger generation.
1. Decentralize romance from your life.
In various forms, society is constantly sending us the message that single women are miserable old cat ladies. Because of this, we grow up thinking that romantic relationships are completely imperative to our existence. They can be fantastic, but they are not a requirement. You are destined for much more than a happily-ever-after-riding-off-into- the-sunset-moment. It’s a nice little fantasy, but it shouldn’t be what gets you up in the morning. Many women are so genuinely afraid of winding up single that they transform their personalities in order to appear more dateable. But the ideals they attempt to live up to are based on the desires of other people. Do you know what actually needs to be romanticized? The process of finding yourself. It’s much more valuable to learn about your own desires, whether they are professional, emotional, or sexual. What are your passions? What do you want to work hard for? What experiences do you want out of life? Make sure you figure that out! If romance blossoms along the way, that’s great! But relationships should only complement your life — not be your life.
2. It is not a special compliment when an older man is interested in you.
Do not make the mistake of valuing the opinion of an older man more than you value your own. He may be preying on the fact that you will. There’s no reason for you to feel extra grateful for a man’s consideration. That’s giving him way too much power. Television shows, books, and movies often make this type of unbalanced dynamic seem appealing. We fall into it so easily because certain older men know exactly what to say. It’s almost as if there’s some skeevy guy script. News Flash. You are not mature for your age, or smarter than all the other young women. You may be different from the other girls, but only because every single one of us is unique. This trope was created — probably by a male writer — for you to buy into it. Men who are not dating women their own age usually are unable to attract them for one reason or another. They could be immature, emotionally unavailable, or non-committal. Not all the time. But definitely ask him about his history. If he’s only dating women under a certain age, it’s usually because he knows younger women won’t call him out on his bullshit and, for the most part, are much more agreeable. Remember that there is no reason for a man to grow if he’s dating someone so much younger. Earning your affection may be his ticket to the fountain of youth. Don’t let him use you for that, it’s exhausting. Not all men who date younger are predators, but the ones who prey on vulnerable women are capable of seriously dangerous behavior. These are uncomfortable truths that many women don’t want to acknowledge. Maybe you think I’m being cynical, but trust me. You’ll thank me later.
3. Self clarity and communication are key when it comes to setting boundaries
Before dating, make sure that you are clear on what behaviors you will not accept from potential partners, and take these things seriously. Prioritize them. Young women often forgive and excuse abhorrent behavior from their partners. It goes along with that concept of centralizing romance. A lot of us would still rather have a disrespectful partner than no partner at all. Another factor is that in our society, the act of standing up for oneself is often perceived as impolite when women do it. But there is nothing wrong with holding someone to a standard that you have already outlined. Respect yourself enough to know when to walk away. It’s very difficult to wake up to this when we’re young. In fact, I still struggle when it comes to standing up for myself. That’s why we not only need to acknowledge our boundaries but live them and breathe them. Know them like the back of your hand and do not waver in your determination. These small disciplines will protect you from time-wasters and abusers.
4. The male gaze is totally overrated!
As you are growing up and consuming media every day, you are going to be involuntarily inundated with the male gaze, which can feel quite violating. Movies and television shows treat the female characters as eye candy, accessories and are always viewed by male characters as an object of desire. This will make you feel as if male eyes are always on you, and without noticing you may feel the need to perform femininity. The tendency to feign a false and unrealistic identity can severely hurt the way you view yourself, talk to yourself, and can waste a ton of your time. Shaping your mannerisms or physicality around the preferences of others will make it impossible to nurture true self-love or confidence. It’s not easy to unlearn these patterns, but the sooner you realize you are so much more than your physical appearance, the sooner you can focus on living a fulfilling life.
5. Surround yourself with a diverse group of female friends and mentors.
You have the ability to change your life just by carefully selecting the people you surround yourself with. Cultivating meaningful friendships with other women is one of the single most important things you can do for your growth, development, and self care. Women understand each other’s experiences in ways that men never will. Because many of us are encompassed by the male perspective for most of our lives, girl-time can feel like walking on a cloud. You will almost always experience a mixture of catharsis, joy and validation. There is also so much opportunity for enlightenment. If you engage with women from different backgrounds, generations, interests, talents, you will always have something new to take away from an experience with them. Most importantly, do not let a romantic relationship take priority over these beautiful friendships. You will benefit greatly from mastering the art of balancing the two. Befriending women you admire can provide you the inspiration and motivation to elevate yourself. Plus, I can’t tell you how many of my female connections have actually saved my life by helping me out of abusive relationships. If you are an introvert, or lack female friendships, there are many other ways to surround yourself with feminine energy such as podcasts, books/audiobooks, ted talks, articles, workshops, or any media that centers the female perspective. You’d be surprised how validating the voice of another woman can be, even if she is a total stranger.
6. White-washed and heteronormative ideals shaped your views of love, sex, and relationships.
Heteronormativity is the concept that heterosexuality is the standard, and anything outside of that is ultra progressive or different. This is a concept we should have left behind ages ago, but sadly it’s still present in our media. There are countless tropes in the movies and television shows that you watch that may mold your view of what a normal relationship should look like, or what normal sex should be like. These heterosexual relationships are not normal, they are contrived examples in order to appeal to a wide audience. Don’t let media define what is normal. They have the tendency to misrepresent most people and experiences. The popular stories we see or read can provide a very narrow view and lack nuance. Decent queer and diverse representation does exist, but not commonly in the mainstream, so you may have to do some research. I recommend you do! If you stick to only reading or viewing mainstream art, you will live in an echo chamber of the same handful of tropes. There are so many uniquely beautiful relationships and cultures in the world. Keep an open mind and stop expecting love to look a certain way.
7. Demand pleasure from each sexual experience.
Few young girls actually receive the comprehensive sexual education that they need. Most of the sex ed I had was very male or pregnancy-centered. There was no explanation of the clitoris or female ejaculation. This lack of representation factors into how a lot of young women feel as if sex is something that is done to them as opposed to something they are actively and equally involved in. It is so important to explore your own body and learn about your physical and sexual needs. I wish more women were aware of the fact that their needs are just as crucial as their partners’. There certainly will be instances when a person doesn’t need an orgasm to be satisfied or doesn’t want to orgasm. But seriously, the orgasm gap should not be this significant. Not only do you have to know your needs, but you have to learn how to articulate them to a potential lover. Sex shouldn’t be assumed to be over until all parties are satisfied, which is why communication and clarity are necessary. Define what satisfaction means for each person before you begin.
8. Conserve your time and energy.
Repeat after me: you do not have to be accessible to everyone at all times. You do not owe anyone your time. Your time and energy are the most precious resources you have. We waste them when we buy into these people-pleasing myths. This applies to work, friends and family, and dating. Are you working on projects that are in line with what you want to do? Are you putting your energy into things that will benefit your life as much as you pour it into the support of others? Ladies, I truly believe we have to start being more selfish. Usually only men can get away with this, but it’s our time now. I’m stressing this because a lot of women tend to believe that they are grateful to be considered for any date or professional meeting, but they don’t think about it the other way around. They value their own time less than (typically) a man’s. There are so many things you could be doing, but instead you chose to be there. You’re in control. This is your life and you decide what you’re going to do with it. Think of it as if you have a savings account, but instead of money, it is of time and energy. Respect yourself enough to only spend these things when you are able to and truly want to. I highly suggest you get rid of people who make you feel as if you owe them your time or have to spend it a certain way. When you enter a relationship with someone, you are choosing to gift a person with a larger amount of your time and energy. Anyone you select to be a part of your life should appreciate and respect what you have to give — not demand more!
One of my biggest downfalls as a young woman came from prioritizing my love life instead of forming my own identity. I wasted a huge chunk of my time because I was living a life based on who I thought I had to be.
Each of these lessons came with a side of deep regret. If I could, I would instill them all into the minds of every woman in the world. This is what drives me to never stop writing about women’s experiences.
I strongly believe that we need each other in order to progress into a society that values authenticity over performance. Imagine such an environment where it is possible for all of us to thrive.