Feeling like the odd kid out? Here’s what we wish we knew!

The best advice I have for my 11 yo self (and all those other kids who are wired differently)

by | Feb 21, 2024 | Kids and parenting

A thought cloud with a castle in front of a rainbow

It’s weird being an adult. Taking care of my 2 bonus kids and listening to my friends about *their* kids’ struggles, I wish I could tell all those kids who feel different that it’s okay! They are okay! Just the way they are! But I also remember all of those things I believed back when I was still a kid. Things I now know are not necessarily true. So this blog is my advice to my 11 yo self. And maybe, if you have kids aged 11 (or 6, or 14) and some of this rings true to you, you’ll want to share it with them!

Making friends gets easier

Feeling like you’re somehow different from your peers can be… lonely. I remember being in primary school and having virtually no friends. I didn’t care about ball sports and barbies, they didn’t care about ancient Egypt and paleontology. Contrary to what many others say, I found it’s increasingly easy to make friends once you grow older. For one, you’re no longer stuck to people who happen to go to the same school or live in your neighborhood. You can travel. You can pick up hobbies others like you also enjoy. And of course, there’s the internet.
Imagine friendships are like a jigsaw puzzle. You need to find the right puzzle pieces that fit, otherwise you end up changing yourself (or your friends) for it to work. Well, some puzzle pieces are rare, but I can promise you – your matching puzzle pieces are out there!

(Most) grown-ups are just winging it

There’s no manual for adulting the right way. Most parents and teachers just figure it out as we go. We try doing what we think is best (based on what we see around us and what we believe in) and sometimes this works. And sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes, adults think something is the right way to do things, because it’s the right way for them. But people are different and you might be different from your adults. You certainly live in a different time than when they were kids. And sure, they have tons of experience, and that’s important, and it’s a really good idea to pay attention to this experience. But it’s also a really good idea to ask questions and find out what works for you. Just please, try to stay safe in the meantime.

Fitting in is only cool in school

You know how in school the popular kids fit in and decide who else fits in? Well, it doesn’t quite work like that for adults. Often, in school, standing out feels scary (and I’m happy to say your generation is already doing a much better job with this than ours did). But once you grow up? It’s the exact opposite! The cool adults are the ones who have the guts to be themselves, even if this means being different than their colleagues and neighbors. That’s because there always will be people who don’t like what you do. We know that’s no fun. But cool people don’t let this stop them from living their cool lives.

(Disclaimer: Every kind of life can be a cool life, whether you’re a rockstar or a stay-at-home dad, as long as the life works for you)

You don’t need to know what you want

Did you know I often speak to adults who have absolutely no idea what they want in life? And then they go on and do amazing things? You might know what you want and this might change. Or you may not know. Either way it’s fine! The best gift you can give yourself is flexibility. Try different hobbies if you like them. Major in history and sciences. Keep your options open! And don’t be afraid to discover that something you loved before is no longer right for you.

But don’t quit just because things are hard. Because the other amazing gift that’s going to help you is discipline. Discipline is not about staying with something you hate. But it’s about overcoming obstacles. And knowing when to work hard. So if you’re considering turning your back on something, ask yourself whether you’d still enjoy it if it was easier. If the answer is yes, maybe stick with it for a bit.

Nobody is good at everything

And everybody is good at something. It’s okay if you’re terrible at sports, can’t draw a straight line or think math is torture. I guarantee you – there are things you are good at, too (yes, even besides computer games).

Maybe, what you’re good at doesn’t even have a name yet or maybe you think it’s not something you can specialize in. For instance, my superpower is finding similarities between things. And no, there is not one subject in school or after-school special that focuses on that. That’s okay! I can find hobbies and work that match with that (in fact, this blog is one of them).

Cleaning your room doesn’t have to be terrible

As a kid, I had the messiest room you’ve ever seen. I literally had to put piles of clothing, garbage and books aside to even walk from my door to my bed. These days, I’m pretty tidy (and that’s even without my mom forcing me to be!) Here’s what helped me get motivated to organize my room and keep it cleaner:

  1. Picturing the kind of person I want to be. I want to be a creative person and that’s a lot easier if everything is easy to find.
  2. Having a system. I clean a few minutes every day and a bit longer on the weekends. I also do one thing at a time, like ‘organizing my books’ or ‘throwing out the trash’ or ‘folding my clothes’. What kind of things can you come up with?
  3. Having less stuff. I once read a book that helped me get rid of a LOT of stuff. Like… literally 3 big boxes of books, 8 garbage bags of clothes, and all kinds of papers and just pretty things I had lying around. And guess what? I never ever missed it. Try to pick the things you’d rate 10 out of 10 (or things you absolutely need) and get rid of everything else!

Having an adult on your side helps

It’s not fair, but as long as you’re still a kid, you have less power than the adults around you. And if you have bad luck, a lot of these adults may not understand how your brain works or what your life is like and what’s best for you. If what works for everyone else isn’t easy for you (whether it’s getting good grades, showing up on time or keeping your clothes clean), you might find yourself getting in trouble. It helps if you’re able to find even one adult who understands you. I call this kind of adult a champion. Your champion is like the bridge between you and other adults – he/she/they can help defend your needs.

(My champion in high school was my mentor and I really think he’s the only reason I didn’t get kicked out.)

(A note of warning: make sure you can trust your champion. Be careful with strangers on the internet or people who don’t feel right to you, even if they are family members or teachers. And if you find out that you trusted the wrong person, please don’t feel ashamed. It can happen to anyone and you are never to blame for someone else breaking your trust.)

Skills matter more than grades

Learn because it’s fun to discover new things. Build your skills, because they’re going to help you later in life. Being able to express your thoughts, reason well, plan your day (or week, or month), spot new opportunities and show up on time are all super important skills that will serve you whatever you’ll be doing.

Grades? In themselves, they have very little value. Too often, they are a mark of how well you succeed at doing what you’re expected to do. With that said… depending on your country, grades can open doors for you. So if you want to do the whole good college thing, maybe don’t discount them altogether.

A lot of what we feel is in our bodies

Especially when you become a teenager (but for a lot of us also before that) we might find ourselves get unexpectedly angry or sad or happy and energetic. It’s easy to think that you’re angry because your parents are stupid, or that you’re sad because you don’t have friends. But did you know a lot of our emotions are caused by hormones, tiny things in our bodies? It’s okay to feel whatever you feel! In fact, it’s a great life skill to have. Just don’t forget that drinking water, eating healthy and getting enough sleep might improve your mood more than picking a fight or losing yourself in TikTok videos.

What advice would you give your 11yo self?

Of course, the advice above is based on my experiences, and yours might be completely different. What advice would you give your 11 year old self? Head over to our Instagram and join the conversation!

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