Recently I posted an article about what men regret most about their teens which displayed both obvious and unexpected responses, so, it was only right that I asked women the same question too.
If you are interested in what the men said and haven’t already seen the article you can click this link: https://thethinkbay.com/2018/10/16/what-men-regret-most-about-their-teens/
Reddit was the platform that I decided to pose the question. If you are not familiar with Reddit, you can read the next paragraph for some background, if you want to jump straight to the article you can skip over the next paragraph.
Reddit is a social news and discussion website. Depending on what part of the website you are on, you may find the silly videos you regularly see on Facebook or discussions about serious topics. Users can use screen names and don’t need to provide a profile picture. This allows people to speak honestly without their personal image or character being judged, just their profile. What happens as a result is people feel they can speak freely and can add their input without feeling self-conscious.
The subreddit (subcategory) that I chose was AskWomen, which has over 730,000 subscribers. I asked, “What do you regret most about your teen years?”. A question that cuts straight to the point. Over the course of two days, the question was answered 171 times by redditors (users of the site).
You don’t have to scroll through 171 comments because I’ve already done the hard work of categorising each comment and highlighting some that capture the essence of what many people are saying. To reiterate, the subreddit in which this question was asked is AskWomen, so answers are more than likely all from female respondents. Although I have no full-proof evidence that they are men, you may be able to tell that some are female solely based on the language they used.
So here we go, what women say they regret most about their teens…
Listening to others
One of the most frequently mentioned topics in the responses given was listening to others. The most up-voted comment was, “I should have spent more time standing up for myself and pursuing what I felt was right for me and not concentrating on what everyone else thought was right for me”. The majority of people can relate to this woman’s regret because we all make decisions that are influenced by others and they don’t always turn out the way we want them to.
It is apparent from the responses that women regret spending so much time “caring about what others think” and not focusing on themselves. Parents were a common features in comments of this nature. Our parents are who we deep down always want to please and make proud, sometimes that can lead to people feeling a bit of pressure from their parents to do what they want or follow a path that they have chosen for their child.
“Pleasing them shouldn’t have been my main priority in life. I should have taken more risks and forgotten my parents’ approval/issues when I was young enough to actually explore things and make mistakes.” This quote encompasses the general gist of what women said but there are some different opinions on the roles of parents for each individual.
Some women regret simply following whatever their parents said in their teens but aren’t resentful towards their parents because of how things turned out. One woman for example regrets, “applying to college just because that was what I was expected to do. At 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I did what I was told”. It is not necessarily the parents fault that the person didn’t know what they wanted to do so steering them towards going to college isn’t the worst thing in the world.
This is the standard procedure for parents it seems. If you don’t know what you want to do, go to college and figure it out. You might regret what you go to college to study or some of the things you did while you were there but they can’t be solely blamed on the parents.
Another woman regrets listening to her parents so much and letting them make a lot of decisions for her but then again, “my teenage years shaped a lot of who I became later, and I think I’m becoming someone I’m happy with”. Someone actually had a similar opinion and actually admitted to putting her mother through some tough times and a lot of arguments but “looking back she was only trying to help”.
However, not only parents are culprits of swaying teenage girls opinions in certain directions but people that aren’t even close to them can. A popular comment was from a woman who “let the opinions of people who have absolutely no impact on my life today shake my self confidence and make me feel bad about myself”. This may refer to peer pressure at school or even bullying that led to issues for someone who already has issues accepting themselves for who they are.
Of course relationships was going to be a big part of what people regret from their past, especially relationships in their teens. The relationships I’m talking about are with boyfriends, friends and relations but the really glaring factor in a lot of these regretful comments are the boyfriends.
Mentioned quite often is the time spent with the now ex-boyfriends instead of female friends. The most up-voted comment on this topic was from a woman who, “had a high school sweetheart that I gave most of my social focus to. I’m no longer with the guy, and now I don’t have any female relationships strong enough to withstand the test of time”.
The belief among the women that responded to this question is that boyfriends wasted their time and they made “hanging out with him a priority” instead of “cultivating female friendships and independent interests”. If you have read what men regret about their teens, what they say is they wish they hadn’t chased certain women or in opposite cases, wish they chased more women. No men said they had experienced any toxic relationships or wasted time with girls which is a major regret of women. Men might have regretted not dating as much but some women wish they “took more time to develop friendships with girls instead of worrying about dating so much“.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just wasting time and missing out on friendships in their teens that women regret about boys. From the sounds of it, there was a lot of abusive relationships that women had been through in their teen years which isn’t encouraging in the slightest. To know that guys can be abusive and forceful from an early age doesn’t inspire confidence in the next breed of teenagers.
Some women said they were with “emotionally abusive guys” that led to them “being super depressed in high school”. For others, it wasn’t just emotional abuse that they were experiencing. One woman said she let her boyfriend “pressure me into doing things I didn’t feel I was ready to and not being brave enough to leave”. Someone else said she had done the same with boyfriends and offered a reason for why she would have done so, “I thought they would hate me if I said no and I wouldn’t have any friends”.
One regret that women share with men is wasting their free time. Teenagers have less responsibilities in their daily life than adults do, while that doesn’t necessarily translate to less stress, it does mean that teenagers find themselves having more free time.
A lot of women liked a response that came from a woman that spent a lot of her free time indoors and “not being as outgoing as I could’ve been, preferring to stay home scrolling through Tumblr and watching YouTube videos”. Another respondent shared the same thoughts and would’ve preferred to do anything more productive than sit at home, “I could’ve taken more career-oriented classes, volunteered, literally anything but scrolling on the internet”.
Some others didn’t say exactly what they did in their free time, but wished they had also used it more wisely, “I should have went to parties, talked to more people, had more fun rather than worry”.
Not addressing mental/self esteem issues
Something that cropped up a few things although less so than in the male comments is regretting not seeking help to deal with mental illnesses. The women that commented on this subject, more often than not, kept the comments short and direct. Whether they did this to avoid going into more detail or just to be helpful with another response is open to interpretation.
Just like the men, women wish they had decided to get help earlier than they did rather than suffering in silence, “I should’ve gotten into therapy years earlier than I did. I probably wouldn’t be quite as messed up if I did”.
Something that is talked about everyday is how the image of women in the public eye influence how women feel about their weight and their image. Young people are the most impressionable and the teenage years when our bodies are changing most, it is easy to feel inadequate about our image.
Women realised later in life that they had bodies they would love to have now, “I wish I had loved my body. Nowadays, my body would have been celebrated”. Not only did women feel like they had wasted their time online and not with friends but also worrying or “obsessing over my weight”.
Everyone has their own opinions about their time in school. Some people wish they had taken it more seriously whereas others with they hadn’t been so strict about their schoolwork.
All of the comments from the male side of things were about wasting their education and not taking the opportunity to better themselves and put in more work to allow them to pursue different careers. There were some similar responses from the women, some simply wished they hadn’t spent so much time “pissing about in school”, whereas another woman “didn’t take advantage of all the AP courses and other opportunities because I hated high school”.
Unlike men who responded to the same question, there was a response that received some positive reactions of a woman that wished she hadn’t put so much time into her academics.
“I spent way too much time focused on academics. I believe that education is super important and studying hard did set me up for later success in university, but I neglected to explore hobbies and passions.“
Access to the internet so young
Probably the most surprising regret that was mentioned was exploring the darker parts of the internet. Having “unlimited, unregulated access to the internet with my own personal laptop at a young age” isn’t necessarily something that is a teenagers fault. Teenagers have exploratory minds and seek thrills of seeing what they are not allowed to.
However, when you have unlimited access to the internet and a lot of time on your hands you can find yourself looking at websites you wish you had never seen. “I was exposed to porn, gore, violence, disgusting videos way too young. There are so many horrible, traumatizing videos I wish I could erase from my memory, so many stories I wish I could unread”.
Now every teenager has unlimited, unregulated access to the internet via their phones. What adult women now regret about seeing on the internet, will be available still for the teenagers of today along with a plethora of further dark and damaging images and stories.
Everyone has regrets, especially about their teenage years because that is when we try different things or feel our most emotionally vulnerable. That will never change and yet while men and women always talk about things that they regret to their children or other young people around them, there is no stopping teenagers making mistakes and regretting the same things.
There are some positives that can be taken from talking about our regrets. A very popular response to this question actually had nothing to do with what someone regretted but how helpful it was to see what other women had said.
“This is actually a really helpful question, especially as i’m in my teen years now and to be quite honest-have no idea what i’m doing.”
Hopefully some of you who read this article can relate to some of the topics mentioned above and maybe if you are like this teenager you can take something from it that may help you in the future.
Did you relate to any of these regrets? Is there something you regret that wasn’t mentioned? Was this helpful? Let your thoughts be known in the comments below or share the post on Facebook and Twitter.