I was once really selfish…

….see? Even the title of this post is self-centred! It’s funny, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a lot less self-centred (please discount the amount of times I’ve already written ‘I’…).

I was a selfish teenager. You might argue that many teenagers, by their very nature, are inherently more selfish than many adults. I’m not trying to insult teenagers, but I do think that with maturity comes a heightened sense of empathy. Of course there are very selfish adults, and very selfless teenagers but I feel that my own personal self-centredness was intrinsically linked with my youthfulness and lack of life experience.

Hint: I was the baby lion

Hint: I was the baby lion

I wasn’t necessarily a bad person. I suppose I just wanted to fit in with my peers. I was primarily motivated by self-interest- I wanted to be pretty, popular and all those meaningless things that society convinces you that you absolutely must be. In my search for almost complete vapidness, I hurt people. I hurt people and I didn’t really care.

Before you try to reach through your computer screen in the hope of throttling me, let me tell you, I was horribly insecure. I simply wanted to be liked. I had to attend every party, every sleepover, every binge drinking session with my friends. This meant missing family occasions, snapping at my weary and overwhelmed father and ignoring the needs of my siblings. I was the class clown in school, constantly cracking jokes and acting like I hadn’t a care in the world. It was fun, sure, and it made me popular among my classmates, but I never thought about my teachers. Now that I’m in their position, I see how utterly distracting a class clown is. I also see the effect they have on any students in the class who struggle with the onslaught of brand new information each and every day. Someone writing ‘boobs’ on a calculator definitely doesn’t help. *Sniggers*

I think worst of all, I was mean to my family. I put my friend’s needs ahead of theirs, and not necessarily because I was an amazing friend, but because I never wanted to miss out on a social occasion that might bolster my social status. Gah, I even feel like punching myself reading this. I lied to teachers, because when you’re trying to be Queen of Everything, who has time for homework? Even when I met my wonderful boyfriend, I didn’t really change in the beginning. Sure, he is probably the most selfless and kind person I’ve ever met, but it didn’t rub off on me for a while. I actually think, in the early days of our relationship, I became worse. My parents, like any good parent would, tried to get me to focus on my schoolwork and attempted to convince me that a serious and committed relationship probably shouldn’t be top of the agenda for a normal sixteen year old girl. From my perspective, THEY JUST DIDN’T UNDERSTAND OUR LOVE! I still can hear my bedroom door slam even as I write this, like it’s echoing through time. I expected a lot of people to drop everything to help facilitate our long-distance relationship, something I wouldn’t dream of doing now.

213d1932fd2000e34aa010c9b587a24e

Probably what my parents were thinking…

I think that most teenagers tend to have two emotions: complete and utter apathy (which I like to call the ‘meh’ feeling) or unbridled passion verging on fanaticism. I loved various boy bands with an intensity that should only be reserved for cheesecake. I loved my boyfriend so much that it brought me to the brink of insanity. I was blinded by the intensity of my emotions; I couldn’t see reason or rationality and I certainly couldn’t see that I was being a selfish git. Not everyone loves what you love. Celebrities shouldn’t define your reason for living. A relationship shouldn’t mean that you all your love and respect can only be directed at that one person. The older I’ve gotten, the more compassionate I’ve become. Don’t get me wrong, I was always compassionate. But it was like that compassion was weighed against self-interest, and losing out. I find myself thinking far more about how my actions affect other people, and far less about the way I look or whether or not people like me. I try to be good, kind and generous. I don’t always succeed, but at least I care enough to try.

So why the hell this post, eh? What made me suddenly reflect on my personal growth? The short answer is Twitter. If you ever give a cursory glance at worldwide trends, they are more often than not dominated by teenagers. They usually revolve around bands like One Direction or 5 Seconds of Summer, or YouTube stars that I’m not even nearly hip enough to know anything about. What has bothered me in the past is the sheer obsession and fanaticism these teens display on a regular basis. And woe betide anyone that disagrees with them, or expresses a dislike of their chosen bands. I don’t care what they post on their own timelines, that’s their business. But sometimes, something creeps into my vision that genuinely concerns me. Recently, One Direction cancelled a concert in Belfast after one of the members became suddenly ill. A local television presenter, seemingly innocuously, pointed out that the remainder of the band could have at least appeared on stage to apologise to the thousands of people who had come from miles away to see them perform. Bad move. He got absolutely slaughtered by the throngs of 1D fans who came online to defend their honour. Of course they have the right to do this, and some eloquently defended the band. The majority, however, spewed such vitriolic bile at him that it made me genuinely angry. After the fifth ‘go kill yourself’ Tweet, I logged out.

I sat in anger for a while. The tweets were disgusting, of course, but what was worse was the support from other fans they garnered. None of them seemed to see how utterly disgraceful it is to tell anyone to kill themselves. I know this kind of online hysteria gets stirred up on a daily basis, and horrific insults get thrown around willy-nilly. What really struck me as sad, though, is how desensitised Twitter users have become to it. I couldn’t be a hypocrite, though. I was once a teenager, and I know what it’s like to feel such inexplicable love and loyalty to something or someone you barely even know all that well. It’s irrational in many ways, yes, but it feels so real, so authentic, so personal. If One Direction and Twitter had existed when I was a teen, who’s to say I wouldn’t have been first in the queue to call Eamon Holmes (the TV presenter) ‘irrelevant’ or ‘ignorant’. I know for sure, no matter what, I would have drawn the line at telling him to kill himself. That’s just plain nasty.

This person was trying to convince Channel 4 that not all 1D fans are crazy. Great job.

This person was trying to convince Channel 4 that not all 1D fans are crazy. Great job.

In many ways, I was just like many teenagers are today. I was a self-centred (and hey, I’m still not perfect), passionate, insecure and all that other Marilyn Monroe crap. But there’s one very important difference: there was no social media. My actions rarely had an effect that extended beyond my immediate family, friends, or classmates. I don’t think many teens today grasp the fact that what they choose to post can potentially reach an audience of millions and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Ask any adult if they would have liked Facebook or Twitter around when they were a teenager and you’ll find that the answer would be a resounding NO. It just takes one ill-conceived tweet to be screenshot and re-tweeted or one expletive-laden Facebook status to be shared for you to be thrust into a very unfriendly limelight. Remember: the internet is forever. Once something is out there, it cannot be taken back. It’s a virus that you can’t prevent from spreading. Just be careful.

I don’t want any teenagers who may be reading this to think that I am generalising you all, or deliberately insulting you. I know you are not all raging 1D fans. Some of the best blogs that I read are written by teenagers. I have great respect for teens, that’s why I chose a career dealing with teenagers. I have taught some of the most inspiring and compassionate minds and I know what wonderful things teenagers are capable of. I have also seen plenty of teenagers with their priorities all screwed up. I was one of those teens, once upon a time. It caused me to act pretty horrendously at times, even if the pain I caused was unintentional. I look back now and I regret it, but I’ve grown from it, so I guess I do have something important and useful to take from it all. I just thank the universe on a daily basis that social media did not exist back then!

funny-pictures-success-kid-meme-stupid-opinions-teenager

It’s important for me to reflect on the way I acted during my formative years. I’m glad that I can now look back and realise that I hurt some people, and focus on making it up to them, as well as being a better person. That’s what’s most important to me.

What were you like as a teenager? What advice would you give the teenagers of today?

37 thoughts on “I was once really selfish…

    • janeybgood says:

      I was very similar. I was very up and down as a teenager, and could fly off the handle very easily. That’s true. As much as I have tried to warn some of the ones I’ve dealt with, they don’t listen. In their defence, neither did I. Thanks for your comment Josh!

  1. Jessie Reyna says:

    I wasn’t a crazy teenager but I had my moments. I had a boyfriend once that my whole family couldn’t stand but I couldn’t see why because in my eyes, he was amazing. Of course, now I know he wasn’t the best. Basically most teenagers have to understand that majority of the things they obsess over are frivulous and won’t matter in a few years because there will be bigger problems to deal with.

    • janeybgood says:

      That’s basically it. I remember in class once, I referred to Justin Bieber as a ‘boy’ (because he was 17 at the time) and some of my students sulked with me for DAYS. They were absolutely obsessed with him. I know how that feels, but they can just be so defensive!
      Adulthood really does put the word ‘problem’ into perspective!

  2. pensitivity101 says:

    I was insecure as a teenager. I didn’t seem to fit, didn’t have a boyfriend, wasn’t fashion conscious, didn’t really have many friends, certainly none coming out of school. Like you, I wanted to be liked, I tried to be helpful and considerate, and ended up being put upon and taken for granted. I got married at 21, big mistake, and after my divorce left the area. That was the making of me. OK, the relationship I was in didn’t work out either (not the
    reason for my divorce by the way), but I saw an awful lot of things that woke me up enough to shatter any illusions I had through rose coloured glasses.
    I turned my life around following depression, and the rest is, as they say, history. It is a closed chapter of my life, but part of my life nonetheless, one I learnt from, even if it was a hard way. Any advice I would give? Be yourself, stand up for what you believe in, don’t let someone else do your thinking for you, and don’t be afraid to say No because you think it will offend.

    • janeybgood says:

      Wow, this is a really great response! I’m really glad that you too were able to learn from those difficult years. I think that’s all you can do when you’ve been through something challenging. I also suffered from depression, and while it’s a terrible thing, it did cause me to become a lot more introspective.
      Your advice is brilliant and something I really wish I myself had followed. Sadly, I think it’s only getting worse as society’s fascination with the media and ‘trendiness’ only deepens.
      Thank you for your comment!

      • pensitivity101 says:

        Too much peer pressure these days. In mine it was whether to smoke or not, and to fit in, I did. I gave it up, only to start again after my divorce, but gave up permanently in 1991. I don’t think it helps that individuality isn’t encouraged in schools anymore, and pupils have to conform to a tick list.

      • janeybgood says:

        My sister had the exact same issue. She started smoking at a young age because literally everyone in her social group did. She has since quit too.
        Luckily, I don’t think smoking is in among teenagers today. My own pupils have told me that, although maybe I’m just insanely naive.

  3. SJ says:

    I think this is a really important post.

    I’m sixteen and I know all too well about heightened emotions and being blinded by the intensity of what I’m feeling, but I don’t believe that this – regardless of how strong your emotions might be – is any excuse for behaving in a way that is so immoral.

    At early ages, we know right from wrong. We know that, under no circumstances, is it acceptable to tell a person that they ought to kill themselves. Unfortunately, I see this on social media far too often – and, more often than not, by the very teenagers that preach “how dare you tell someone to kill themselves”.

    I believe in intense talent and real emotions at young ages. I don’t believe that someone’s feelings or aspirations should be set aside simply because of their age. What honestly makes me feel ashamed to belong to this generation, however, is the hypocrisy and immaturity that young people so often display online – and that’s not to say that it’s just young people, either. For me, it completely discredits our generation. Rather than celebrating teenagers for their intense ability to love and their raw talents, we focus on the negative aspects and how teenagers are whiney, spoilt and immature, because that’s exactly the message that many teenagers are sending online.

    A really great post.

    • janeybgood says:

      Thanks SJ, not just for your thoughtful reply, but for not taking what I said the wrong way. You are just one example of the intelligence and articulateness that I know many teenagers are capable of showing.
      You’re right about teenagers knowing right from wrong- they do. I did. Yet I still behaved in a predominantly self-centred manner, because my priorities were wrong. I think for many teenagers, this is the case. Not all, of course. You seem to be far more mature than I was (and possibly am now lol).
      Once a week with my class, we would find a teenager who had achieved something amazing. Someone like Anne Frank or Malala Yousafzai. There would be a large portion of the class interested, but there would always be some who remained apathetic and would have preferred to discuss the Jenner sisters. It made me sad, but my own generation was no better.
      I think I’ve probably been unfair using Twitter as my representation of teenagers everywhere, but it’s really the only place I see them act en masse. Some are articulate and well-spoken, but some are among the most aggressive and vile I have ever seen. Maybe I’m just getting hyper-sensitive in my old age!
      Thank you for such a reasoned and fair comment. If only they were all like you, eh!

      • SJ says:

        I’m no exception, really, though. I like to consider myself quite mature but I am a teenager – and I am human! – and I do stupid things and act in stupid ways and am completely blinded by my emotions. There’s no denying that. But what I pride myself in doing, or at least I think this is what I’m doing, is doing the right thing in regards to other people. To hurt another person, especially willingly, isn’t something I’d ever strive to do.

        I completely agree. I think many teenagers get caught up in their own lives and make stupid decisions based on that and I definitely don’t think that that makes them bad people.

        I completely get you there.

      • janeybgood says:

        You do have incredibly maturity for one your age, and I don’t mean that in an condescending manner. It’s wonderful. I remember being a very emotional teenager, and I spent quite a lot of my time writing. I often saw the ability to be so introspective as a curse, because I seemed to feel things with an intensity no one else my age had (at least, no one I knew).
        I suppose all the silly decisions are all part of growing up. I still make mistakes, and I’m still somewhat of an idiot, but I’m certainly more considerate now.

      • SJ says:

        Thank you. I’m much the same. For me, I definitely write as an outlet. My blog is one but I have notebooks and such – you might call them “diaries” – that I write in too, however irregularly. It’s all a part of dealing with life.

        I don’t really think there’s much wrong with making mistakes at all.

  4. Gary Lum says:

    I’m still self-centred but social media has made me more aware of the feelings of others. When I read the behaviour of others, it makes me look at myself and what I write/communicate. Sometimes I’m bold if I feel strongly about something, but mostly I try to think about how others will react before clicking ‘send’. I enjoyed your post Janey🙂

    • janeybgood says:

      Thank you Gary! You are right; social media has certainly made me more considerate in many ways. It would be so easy to hide behind a computer screen and be aggressive, but I try my best to be constructive. Although sometimes I myself feel a little mean on Twitter lol!
      Thanks for your comment Gary🙂

  5. Erika Kind says:

    Wow, Janey, my respect! First of all for your confession (which was actually necessary to go into the subject) and secondly how you made aware of this really scary development. Being a teenager means finding your place within this world and actually becoming aware of who you might be, growing out of the kid’s shoes, which scares totally at times. I was one of those shy, insecure teenagers. I was bullied and wanted to be one of the cool kids but then again I was too shy. Although the others drank and smoked I didn’t. I was more scared of that than being called boring. But I totally understand when some teenagers try everything to be seen and respected. I also understand the hysterie about celebrities. But of course what you told us about what is going on on Twitter or example is going much too far. I hope your article is read by some of those people in order to make them see the danger.

    • janeybgood says:

      Aw, Erika, it makes me sad to think of anyone being unkind to you as you are such a beacon of positivity and kindness! Actually I think it’s amazing that despite being bullied that you are such a positive and upbeat person. That’s very admirable.
      I really was a total mess as a teenager. It was a combination of many things. I guess sometimes when I’m on Twitter, I see myself in some of the teens and I just want to tell them that there is no need to act the way they do. Luckily I didn’t have access to Twitter. I think many of them will regret their actions when they get older!
      Thanks for your comment🙂

      • Erika Kind says:

        That you find your former self in some of teen messages is a good thing. Only because you went through those times and stages you understand them. But today you also see the other side. And that together is of such a value. That you are working with teenagers is wonderful. You can give them so very much for their lives.
        That is why I don’t regret anything I went through. Only because of that I can understand others who go through similar situations. As you understand those teenagers! It’s OK and it’s wonderful when we can make something of what we experienced.

      • janeybgood says:

        That’s very true. I feel like it’s the only way that I can empathise with them, because I know exactly how they feel and what motivates them. I think they appreciate it too. I know plenty of them act inappropriately because they have low self esteem. It’s sad, but luckily, as we get older, it doesn’t matter as much to us what people think.It’s very liberating!

      • Erika Kind says:

        I am sure they appreciate it. The worse they act the more empathy and understanding they need. And you are absolutely right, the older we get the less we care what others think about us. That’s when we stop limiting ourselves ☺

  6. Garfield Hug says:

    My advice for teenagers…live life by not being selfish. Life is more than seeing what your parents give you….every smart gadget that you own hamper your ability to socialise with human interaction.
    Our teenagers (generalising) in Singapore are spoilt and have maids carrying their bags to school etc. We call this our “strawberry generation” – sad as they are our future.

    • janeybgood says:

      Wow, that’s insane.We have nothing quite so bad here, but I do feel that technology is having a serious effect on teenage interaction. I suppose it is on adults too.
      I have noticed that they are far less verbal than I was at that age. I assume this has something to do with digital interaction, as opposed to speaking. It’s sad.

  7. motherhendiaries says:

    This was an excellent post Janie, and the point well made. This is one reason why I am rarely active on twitter. I just cannot deal with all of the vitriol, or the time it takes to scroll through 1,000,001 opinions that I may or may not actually be interested in. Having said that, I too am a graduate of Selfish University, and had more then a few ugly moments I regret and am unable to retract. What some of these trolls do not realise is that future employers have access to the Internet too. If they honestly believe they can say something today and it will not swing around and hit them in the head tomorrow, they are very much mistaken. Oh, has swiftly once future can change in 140 characters…

    “I loved various boy bands with an intensity that should only be reserved for cheesecake.”
    Best. Line. Ever!
    PS–it’s great to see you back here!
    Mother Hen

    • janeybgood says:

      Mother Hen! Lovely to hear from you, and a great comment as usual🙂
      I have warned students on countless occasions about being careless on social media. It’s happened plenty of times in Ireland that a student has been suspended/expelled from school for making inappropriate comments about teachers on social media. I’ve also heard of plenty of occasions where someone has been fired from a job for a throwaway remark on social media. It’s all very scary!
      Yes, I do love cheesecake! But don’t we all? And if not, I’m immediately suspicious haha.

  8. Ann GrubbsnCritters says:

    A VERY honest account. Ah..you are one of “those” class clowns! Hee.heheh. Teens angst! One does get a little wiser as one gets older..but none less weirder. I’m glad there was no social media when I was a teenager.

    I just realised you’ve got an owl up there – one of my favourite animals, too! I’m in love with snowy owls, especially and I have only ever seen them at the zoo!

    • janeybgood says:

      I’ve probably matured…I’m sure I have😀 But yep, no less weird. I often wonder what I would have been like on social media and shudder…it would have been so embarrassing haha!
      I LOVE owls! I just think they look hilarious, and I love snowy owls too. Although I mentioned it in passing to my family and literally every gift I get now is owl=related LOL!

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