If you’ve been on the side of the internet that is ~for the girlies~ recently, chances are you’ve heard people refer to themselves as “twenty-something teenage girls,” “thirty-something teenage girls,” and so on. At first, this term made no sense to me, because I’ve had such a good riddance mentality about my teenage self—that is, until I spent an entire weekend listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS album. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to the album all the way through, allow me to sum it up for you: GUTS is about the everyday pains of growing up, from dating older guys to facing unrealistic beauty standards to quite literally just having more personal responsibility. As I bawled my eyes out to “making the bed” and “teenage dream,” I realized that I am, in fact, a twenty-two-year-old teenage girl. More importantly, there’s a part of myself that I’ve been shoving aside for years that deserves some healing: my inner teen.
Given the recent “adult teenage girl” chatter on social media and the collective obsession with Rodrigo’s new album, I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who wants to seize this moment as an opportunity to heal my inner teen self. In a world that often tries to gloss over the more uncomfortable realities of female adolescence, from puberty to jealousy of other women to inexplicable shame, it is a powerful act to have compassion for the teenage version of ourselves. While most of us have heard about the benefits of healing our inner child, our teenage selves probably need healing too. Here are the lessons I’ve learned about my teen self from Olivia Rodrigo, and the steps I’m taking to heal my inner teenager.
My Inner Teenager’s Takeaways From Olivia Rodrigo
Being jealous of other women does not make you a bad person
My favorite song on GUTS is “lacy” because Rodrigo is vocalizing a human emotion that women have been shamed out of feeling: jealousy. This is why it is frustrating to see people on the internet repeatedly speculating about who Rodrigo is singing about in songs like “lacy” and “the grudge.” When women publicly express jealousy for one another, the dominant narrative becomes a feud between the two, and comparisons take over the internet (think: Hailey Bieber and Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera). At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who Rodrigo is singing about in “lacy”—the point is that envy is a normal human emotion, and women are often shamed out of expressing it and pined against each other.
Awkward moments are inevitable and infuriating–and that’s OK
When was the last time you heard someone scream-singing about the awful human experience that is literally tripping and falling in a mainstream pop song? In “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” Rodrigo belts out details of some of the worst parts of being a teenage girl that are rarely addressed in our culture, from the discomfort of wearing clothes that don’t quite fit right to stumbling over the words to a song that everyone else knows. The fury in this song as Rodrigo sings about somewhat mundane events is vindicating. She’s telling us that these awkward moments will happen, but also that it’s OK to be frustrated that they do in the first place. Being pissed off about the lack of seamlessness in life is normal.
Taking responsibility for your own actions is a painful process
The songs on GUTS that remind me most of my 19-year-old self are the ones that address the pain that comes along with making and holding yourself accountable for indisputably “bad” decisions. My late-teenage years were peppered with making terrible dating decisions and then proceeding to beat myself up for making those terrible dating decisions, just as Rodrigo expresses in “bad idea right?” Listening to that song makes me want to go back in time and tell myself that each “bad idea” was definitely a bad idea, but each one was also a crucial learning experience that was essential to bringing me to where I am today.
How I’m Healing My Inner Teenager
Given that this album has me seriously in my feels about Emma from ages 13-19, it’s become clear to me that I need to take some steps to honor that version of myself in my day-to-day life. While I’ve learned to honor my inner child by doing things that brought me joy as a kid (eating my favorite childhood foods, picking up childhood hobbies, and journaling to my younger self), Olivia Rodrigo has taught me that taking the time to connect with my inner teenager is just as important. Here’s how I’m healing my inner teenager, in all of her awkwardness and angst:
Honoring emotions that I previously felt shame for feeling
When I was in middle school, I struggled with the emotion of jealousy daily. I felt so ashamed of the fact that I was envious when my friend would receive more praise from the teacher in class, when the guy I had a crush on was clearly interested in a different girl, or when someone had more friends than I did. As an adult, I know that jealousy is a normal emotion—commonly an indicator of where you want to be in life, a sign that you have aspirations that you are capable of achieving—but when I was young, I hated that I felt those feelings. Today, honoring feelings of jealousy, anger, and resentment looks like journaling them out, being honest about them in conversations with friends, and never attempting to push them down like I did in the past. Fearlessly expressing my negative emotions, as Rodrigo does in GUTS has been one of the most positive things I’ve done for my inner teenager.
Talking openly about topics that once made me cringe
The “tripped and fell” line in “ballad of a homeschooled girl” immediately flashed me back to one of the worst days in my middle school experience: I was in sixth grade, wearing a brand-new pair of pink jeans (yes, it was the colored jeans era), and I tripped and slid in mud, which covered my jeans and earned me lots of teasing from my peers. Even just writing that painfully embarrassing story out feels like it heals a little bit of my inner teenage girl, as does talking about anything that made me cringe in my youth. Every time I produce a podcast episode in which we talk about periods, a little weight comes off my shoulders; every time I write an article about sex or dating, I feel a wash of relief come over my younger self who felt so ashamed of discussing those topics. Being blunt about taboo subjects and embarrassing stories fortifies the confidence of my inner teenage self in a way that she desperately needed.
Practicing gratitude for every “bad” decision I’ve made
As I mentioned, in my late teenage years, I beat myself up for every “bad” decision that I made. I was frustrated with myself for hooking up with that guy even when my friends warned me not to, for engaging with diet culture when my parents and mentors warned me against it, and even for watching too much television when my favorite podcast swore that less screen time would improve my quality of life.
Today, I know this: If I hadn’t hooked up with that guy, I never would have learned how I deserved to be treated by the people I’m dating. If I hadn’t gotten obsessed with diet culture, I never would have learned how to overcome and move past disordered eating and intrusive thoughts about my body. If I hadn’t watched too much television, I never would have found a healthy balance with my screen time. Each “bad” decision I made as a teenager led me to make better decisions in the future, which is why the question mark at the end of “bad idea right?” is there in the first place. Olivia Rodrigo knows just as well as the rest of us: Our teenage selves are there to show our current selves just how far we’ve come—and I love 19-year-old Emma for that.