If there’s one mantra that seems to hold true throughout all seasons of life, it’s that hindsight is 20/20.
There are things we’d all like to go back and tell our younger selves if we could — stop over-plucking your eyebrows, don’t cry over that boy, step away from the gaucho pants — but just because we can’t go back in time doesn’t mean we can’t spread the same wisdom.
From the CEOs of our most-loved companies to our favorite cast member of Pitch Perfect to Marie Kondo herself, we’ve profiled a lot of amazing women throughout the years, and we’ve ended all of our interviews with the same, burning question: what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
From advice about relationships to the most important hair lessons they’ve learned (from experience, unfortunately), these are the things 25 of our badass features would tell their younger selves if they could — with a bonus section of each member of our team’s guidance. (And as I go into my last week as a 22-year-old, there’s no other group of women on earth I’d rather take advice from — trust me, you’re going to want to hear this).
Jaclyn Johnson, CEO and Founder of Create & Cultivate, age 33
Resiliency will be required.
Kristin Ess, Celebrity Hairstylist and Owner of Kristin Ess Hair, age 37
You’re doing just fine — keep doing exactly what you’re doing. I’m proud of my journey, and I wouldn’t change a thing, not even the struggles.
Katie Sturino, Founder of The12ishStyle and Megababe Beauty, age 35
Having a smaller body will not make you happy. Having a boyfriend will not make you happy. Your life begins when you decide to make an effort to find out who you are.
Loretta Ciraldo, MD, Founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare, age 65
You are enough. Listen to your gut. Life is long, so be patient and work hard and eventually, you will accomplish your goals — but nothing good comes fast or easy.
Anna Camp, Actress, age 35
I would tell her to breathe, relax, and stop and smell the roses. I’d tell her you’re gonna get busy soon and not to be so worried about success. Take some time to know that this is the one life you get and not to stress out so much.
Jeni Britton Bauer, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, age 45
Honestly, the real answer is that I would not give my younger self any advice. I needed to be scared and take nothing for granted or I would not have made it.
Karen Okonkwo, Co-founder of TONL, age 30
Don’t be so invested in Corporate America — jobs are not a form of job security. Fly under the radar and build your empire on the side.
Rachael McCrary, Founder and CEO of Jewel Toned, age 38
Do not ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. There will always be negative people trying to knock you down or being jealous of your success. If you have the passion and drive for your dream, you have to completely ignore those people and go for your goal with full force. Ignore the haters and stay focused on what’s really important: making your dream a reality.
Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton, Founder of Chillhouse, age 34
Stay away from that loser boy, stop partying, and read more books.
Marie Kondo, founder of the KonMari Method, age 33
Be mindful of people, not just items.
Nicole Gibbons, Founder & CEO of Clare, age 37
I would remind myself that the things that matter most in life are things that can’t be quantified. As I get older, I realize more and more that cultivating relationships with loved ones, taking care of your health, and other similar intangibles are what matters most. A great career won’t comfort you when you’re sick or down. You have to nurture both yourself and your relationships with others constantly.
Lauren Duca, Freelance Journalist and Teen Vogue Columnist, age 26
You can’t control any of it, except for your guiding principles, energy, and ethics. If you’re committed to that, then you can direct yourself through life with a forcefulness you can be proud of, then it almost doesn’t matter what the end results are or if you check the things off the checklist, get the title, get the book deal. If you can look back at the doing, being, becoming, and feel proud of the way you committed yourself to every life challenge, that’s the only thing you can be sure of, so be sure of yourself.
Jamika Martin, Founder of ROSEN Skincare, age 22
(To her younger self:) Keep doing you and love yourself a little more. You’re going to complete everything you’ve set your mind to, but never doubt your self-worth or what makes you beautiful.
Kristen Welker Hughes, NBC Journalist, age 41
My advice to my 23-year-old self: believe in yourself. If you work hard, you will achieve all of your goals. I would tell 23-year-olds to always be prepared and always have self-confidence.
Christina Stembel, CEO + Founder, Farmgirl Flowers, age 40
1. Stop being scared and just go for it. 2. Care about people, but don’t care about what they think of you.
Iva Pawling, Co-Founder and CEO of Richer Poorer, age 34
I would tell myself to be patient — about everything. I still tell myself to be patient. I want everything to happen yesterday, and really for no good reason. The cliche of enjoying the journey and not the destination is so painfully true. This IS it, the day-to-day.
Katlin Smith, CEO of Simple Mills, age 28
Sweat some of the small stuff a little less. Some of the details do really matter. But some of the details do not matter. I still try to impress on our team to be really detail-oriented, but you learn what you need to worry about and what you don’t. Some of the things I thought would be really important in the early days weren’t as much, especially as I started growing the team. You learn it’s important to let people do their jobs because it takes care of a lot of what your business needs.
Erin Oprea, Owner of Oprea Personal Fitness & CITYSTRONG; Author of The 4 x 4 Diet, age 41
At 23, I was married with two kids and in the Marine Corps. My life was different, but I can’t think back and say there’s anything I would’ve told myself back then. Everything that’s happened has led me to the next thing. Without any one piece of that journey or puzzle along the way, I wouldn’t be where I am. It all happened the way it was supposed to, even though it wasn’t all easy.
Alexa Stabler, Sports Agent and owner of Stabler Sports, age 31
It’s not the critic who counts.
From our team…
Alaina Kaczmarski, Co-founder, age 34
Not moving to New York City will not be the end of you. In fact, it will be the beginning.
Danielle Moss, Co-founder, age 36
I would tell myself to not worry about where I’ll be or what I will have done by the time I’m 30. I was so afraid of the future — of where I would end up personally and professionally — but was so focused on deadlines. Nothing worked out when I thought it would, but it all ended up being better than I could have imagined.
Allyson Fulcher, Editorial Director, age 29
Girl, put on sunscreen and stop wasting your free time crying over fuckboys. It’s all going to be okay. And don’t EVER let a stranger cut your bangs. You’ll spend a year regretting that terrible decision.
Lauren Schumacker, Assistant Managing Editor, age 28
Take deep breaths. Get more sleep. Drink more water. Say yes to what comes your way because things aren’t going to go the way you planned.
Kelly Etz, Graphic Designer, age 26
It’s OK to not know you who are — “figuring it out” is a life-long kind of thing. BUT you have to put effort into trying. You have to search and question and dig for passion and meaning and actively ask yourself, “What do I actually want? Why am I doing this? What am I reaching toward?”
If I could go back, I’d ask myself these questions a little sooner. A little louder. But I’m actually really glad there’s no magical hot tub time machine. I think I want to change things, but it always leads to more and more and more things I would change. It’s all me. Maybe that’s the best and worst and most challenging and interesting and defining thing in the world.
Abigail Yonker, Social Media Coordinator, age 25
No one cares what you’re doing nearly as much as you think they do. Kiss more boys, buy cheaper wine, live with your parents as long as you possibly can, and stop feeling guilty about opening up the snacks before you leave the Trader Joe’s parking lot.
Maddie Galassi, Editorial Assistant, age 23
Everything in life is seen through a different lens when you love yourself. You’re always going to look back and wonder why you weren’t more confident then — always. Shutting the voice off that’s telling you you aren’t good enough is something you’ll have to work at every day, but it’s worth it.
Josie Santi, Editorial Assistant, age 23
Make laughing your daily goal, find the people that bring out the nicest you, and eat the damn cake.
Beth Gillette, Editorial Assistant, age 22
No one is looking at your body as much as you are. Start saving earlier. You will NEVER need a man to feel good about yourself.