A Tough Love Letter To My 19 Year Old Self

[I recently published this on Thought Catalog and thought my readers here might enjoy.]

I remember how it used to be – sitting at home, out in the country with nothing to do, trying to figure it all out. At the crossroads between girlhood and womanhood, you think you are ready for the adult world, but you’re not quite sure where you are going and you don’t know what your next step should be. 

You want someone who can just tell you what to do so you can be on your way already. They can’t do that though, and it’s ultimately for the best.

The future seems uncertain and you are confused as hell. The truth is, you are naive and you still have a lot to learn. For these reasons, I am writing this letter because there are some things you need to know.

The next 10 years of your life are going to be a wild ride, some of it will be awesome and some of it will not be. What I’m saying might not be exactly what you want to hear right now, but it’s what you definitely need to hear.

No More Miss Nice Girl.

The first thing I am going to tell you is that most of the time, you are being too nice. Yes, there is such a thing, and yes that’s exactly what you are, so knock it off. You think people are going to like you more because you’re sweet and accommodating. They’re not. They might like you for a minute because of what they think you can do for them, but they aren’t going to respect you, at least not for that reason.

You’re going to find out real quick that being nice will only get you so far. It won’t keep your boyfriends around. It’s not going to get you ahead at work or in life. It’s not what makes you successful or remembered. Looking back now, a lot of people aren’t going to be worth the effort or flattery you are putting forth. This doesn’t mean you have to be an unpleasant bitch either. There’s a spot there in the middle and that’s what you need to aim for. It will take practice. You’re still going to occasionally screw up and be too good to people who didn’t deserve it, and you might go overboard and say something bitchy to someone and regret it later. You’re human – learn from it and move on.

The bottom line here is that you are too nice because you are afraid of missing out and losing people. You’re not. The important people will understand you and stick around in your life anyway. The rest will fuck off, and you won’t miss them.

About Men.

You’ve got to stop chasing these guys like you do. Let them come to you, but don’t play hard to get. BE hard to get. Men are born to pursue. They have a deep desire to be the ones to work hard to get to you.

There’s a saying that goes, “Things worth having don’t come easy.” Sure you can throw them a bone now and then, but let them bring it back to you. Men don’t appreciate women who jump for them.

Stop trying to be this false image of the perfect girlfriend who will become the perfect wife. It doesn’t exist. Yeah, some might say they want the nice girl next door type who doesn’t nag or cause drama, but there’s more to the story that they won’t tell you. There’s a difference between when a guy likes you and when he respects you.

Getting a guy to respect you isn’t what you think either. It isn’t in how nice you are or what you can do for him. Guys value women who are smart with confidence and audacity. They respect women who have a voice and aren’t afraid of calling someone out on their own shit, even if that someone is him. Any guy who isn’t okay with that knows where the door is.

Communicate your boundaries with men. They need to know what lines are not to be crossed. They need to understand that if they screw up, there will be consequences. A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect.

Never settle for less. Know your worth and set your standards high. Those who want to be in your life will rise up to meet them.

This is your life. You control it. 

At 19, your self-esteem and confidence needs work. You’ll build this in your own accomplishments, so get off your ass and do something. You are also a procrastinator, so pay attention to your motivation and time management skills. I mean it, move your ass! Life is happening right now so you don’t have time to waste – get it going.

Stop second guessing yourself. With most of the things that you will try to do in your life, you aren’t going to need anyone’s permission. You can’t always lean on someone to make a decision for you. Trust your gut and go with it. You’ll make the right choice more times than you think. 

One more thing, it is extremely important in this world that you develop a thick hide. People are going to say things and do things that you won’t like and sometimes people can be downright nasty and unfair, but you can’t let it get to you. Don’t overvalue their opinion and never undervalue your own. You have to become so sure in who you are that no one’s opinion, rejection, or bad behavior can break you.

I’m writing this not to scare you, but to prepare you. Through it all, you will figure it out. You are going to grow up to be a badass dame with a fiery heart and wicked mind. A woman of a little sweetness, a little savagery. Unfuckwithable, who takes no shit from anyone. You’ll find your worth, but it won’t be in a man. Your worth will be in yourself and then you’ll find the man worthy of you.

Remember this advice and you will be unstoppable. 

– Ash Pariseau

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Comments 20

  • Ash – This is the same advice that almost every other outlet seems to feed to young women. If I’m being completely honest, there is a ton of misinformation here. But if it works for you, and your situation, then more power too you.

    Most young women of today aren’t too nice. They’ve become crude and selfish. There is a difference between kindness and being over-accommodating to a point of allowing yourself to be walked on by others. Most are already setting impossible standards because they’ve been told the same things about how they deserve the best without the effort, and most already aren’t aspiring to be a quality wife.

    You are effectively equating work life with personal relationships as though handling them the same way will mean success. It doesn’t work for men, and it doesn’t work for women. And being “bitchy” (your words) or overbearing in a job doesn’t even get you anywhere. Most successful men are only hard-asses at work because they’ve got real results to back it up. That’s all that really matters. Your personality is only part of the equation if you actually can do your job better than anyone else. The idea that a woman believes that she can go in and just be “tough” to get respect is appalling and childish, and that’s the message that you are giving. But when you come home to your SO, you normally need to turn off that side of your brain, because the rules in this sort of relationship are entirely different. No man wants a woman who isn’t sweet and ladylike, in spite of what popular media tells you.. This concept of telling everyone to “fuck off” is and that you are “a badass” is ludicrous, because it only makes someone appear to be infantile and insecure.

    I am not trying to throw you under the bus, but there really is only so far that you can go in your own experiences; Unmarried, but dating the same guy for 10 years, no children. That’s perfectly normal these days for women who put a lifetime career before family. But I honestly can’t imagine that your real dating experience goes far beyond the age of 22 unless you happen to be an older woman who’s been with this non-committal guy for 10 years. I feel that you are giving advice that might work for only a very specific type of person and situation – Not the majority.

    What you propose though is certain doom for women who want something different than what you have. And it’s become statistically proven that what you have does not make most women happy in the long run. Again, I’m pleased as punch that it works for you. Would be interesting to get your guy’s perspective on your relationship. Maybe have him write an honest article on the matter and his view of your relationship and future?

    This is by no means intended to dissuade you from writing on your blog. I just urge people to think strongly about the advice that is given here, what the long-term impact could be, and what your real goals are.

    • Thank you, Hyperborean for your comment. I understand what you’re saying. I originally published this piece as part of a voluntary prompt among the contributors of TC. The topic for the week was “tough love” and this is what I came up with. I didn’t think about posting here until this morning. It’s a piece that is personal to me, but one that I thought someone else might either enjoy reading or maybe get something out of. If there is any takeaway that I would encourage for anyone reading to draw out of this, it would be on the matter of assertiveness, knowing your worth, and developing thick skin. These are things I think is good for anyone, no matter what their situation or goals are. Would you agree?

      • Ash -Good points. I do believe that some aspects of tough love are necessary, as are compassion and empathy, and sacrifice.

        To put it into a different perspective, I think it’s best to treat other people how you want to be treated but also treat yourself with high regard. That doesn’t mean to be nice, but it also means that you have to challenge those around you.

        There are times in my line of work where people might not like me, because I hold them to a high standard. Sometimes I tell them things that they don’t want to hear, but I’d also expect them to do the same to me if I were to make a mistake. If they do crappy work, I’m going to call them out on it to do a better job. All the same, I’m going to praise or thank the people who do what they are supposed to do.

        That’s a bit harder to do in relationships, especially if your partner’s feelings are on the line. I’ve known women who like to play the “tough” game, they take everything very personally and have trouble dealing with someone who is actually is “tough”. I’d expect that some guys are like this as well, but I wouldn’t know because I’ve never dated one. If you aren’t genuine with your emotions are intent, it can lead to a lot of problems.

        Which may even bring us onto the topic of being romantically pursed by someone. Kinda like what Icarus says below: Women who play “tough” yet want to be pursued is contradictory. Not saying that a woman shouldn’t be hard to get but I think that honest intentions are paramount. Otherwise, we end up in circumstances where “there was no enthusiastic consent to any aspect of this relationship” because we’ve created a system where women can pretend to behave like men on the exterior but hide their true intentions inside. It’s a recipe for disaster.

        You are right though. Confidence, high self worth, thick skin. If you don’t have these things for yourself, nobody will give them for you.

        • Compassion and empathy, and sacrifice, yes absolutely! Honest intentions is extremely important as well. That reminds me of how many people there are that go into relationships thinking they are going to change their partner – Ill intentions.

    • I’m curious as to how you think that the alternative to the advice given here would be of any benefit to women that are seeking relationships. Being confident, laying out boundaries and speaking up when you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, are good traits for anyone to have.

    • Hyperborean May I propose that there has been a miscommunication here? This letter is a bit personal,.

      “you are too nice because you are afraid of missing out and losing people.”

      – The kind of “nice” that Ash is talking about in this article comes from validation-seeking mentality. Nobody gets rid of their empathy, compassion etc because some internet article told them to. Here niceness is an approach and an outlook, not the virtue itself.

      “Most young women of today aren’t too nice. They’ve become crude and selfish.”

      I don’t mind crude. Everybody is selfish. Even selflessness can be selfish.

      I wonder whether this is what you originally meant to say: “Most young women of today are too dismissive of others but too positivist towards themselves”. It is not a new lamentation actually. It has its own curiious history.

      “Most are already setting impossible standards because they’ve been told the same things about how they deserve the best without the effort.”

      Oh, the eternal argument that girls always “date high”. It isn;t entirely invalid, but here Ash clearly mentioned a few things:

      “At 19, your self-esteem and confidence needs work. You’ll build this in your own accomplishments,”; “but don’t play hard to get. BE hard to get.”

      Self-awareness is the solution. I have fairly high standards myself. I am also aware that I am aiming too high for my own level. What do I do? Cuddle myself and wallow in sorrow? Nope. I try to raise my level.

      The only part I somewhat disagree with is “You’ve got to stop chasing these guys like you do. Let them come to you,”, and that is because this time I am clueless about its implication just like you were about the other parts. It sure worked for her, but I can’t see that advice being globally applicable. There must be an underlying takeaway here.

      Hope you found the response thought-provoking. Have a nice day.

  • Great letter, Ash. I can relate so much to the nice girl phase. My own naivety had me looking at life like a big party and most people were as inherently good and well meaning as I was. I invested my trust in people that were very untrustworthy, as well as my time, money, and effort. It was almost like the nicer I was to people, the worse they would treat me. The next thing I know, I had fake friends, ungrateful family members, and a boyfriend that was a cheater and psychologically abusive . I hated my life, and my inability to be assertive was the problem.

    Well, that was part of the problem. The other part was that I had to take the “red pill” as they say, about men that if I was the perfect girl, that he’d treat me as such. I was very sorry to be wrong. I read a few books and blogs that woke me up and taught me that my mentality was entirely too submissive.

    I started at home. I printed off the pages of the conversation my boyfriend was having with someone else, and told him that I would not stand for being in the relationship if it was going to continue. I confronted him about his controlling behavior, and that night I was ready for a fight because he had one hell of a temper. And at first he blew his lid, acting defensive and even trying to turn it around on me. I was not having it, and then when he knew I was leaving, he did a 180. He tried to get back with me for about 2 years afterwards. I considered it at one point, but realized I had emotionally moved on.

    Anyway sorry to ramble but recovering from being a nice girl doormat probably saved my life in a lot of ways.

  • Not to oversimplify but isn’t “Men are born to pursue” one of the underlying issues highlighted by the Metoo movement?

    • If it is, then I haven’t been following that closely. I know that in general, men prefer to pursue more than they prefer to be pursued, but there’s a difference between pursuing a woman to date and sexually assaulting her.

      • Ash – Are you of the opinion that more women seem to be pursuing men than in previous generations? Lots of articles out there seem to be indicating as much.

        It’s sorta become apparent that courtship is dead now, and that people almost always go right to sex these days before a real relationship develops. I think that this is what is making many women resentful, because they are finding that men aren’t bothering with waiting for women and have started just acting on women who show immediate interest because they are the easiest pickings of the bunch. Lots of hookups ending up in a dead-end.

        • I’d say that more women are pursuing men than they were before. The women and men jumping into sex right away are also the same ones that wonder why they can’t find a decent guy or girl. They wonder why it runs into a dead end.

  • I often write love letters to myself.
    Last weeks letter ended up being 10 pages.

    On a side note I’ve always been a womanizer and I read books/sites etc written by women to women and by men to men as well.
    Everybody gives and gets the same advice such as don’t chase men. Don’t chase women. You ain’t gonna chase us. We ain’t gonna go after u either. Then what’s it going to be;)?

    Great site by the way!

    • Hey MoneyMan, thank you for your comment. I can see how men and women are getting the same advice about not chasing, and while that’s true, I think it’s perfectly fine to show your interest without really chasing. Still though, I have found it to be the case more often than not that men generally like to pursue women more than they like to be pursued by women.

  • Back in the early 80s, I walked into the Officer’s Club of the naval base I was stationed out of. The only other person there was an attractive woman about my age. We started talking. It turned out she outranked me. She told me she was a “line officer.” At the time, women in the Navy were just being assigned billets that were outside “traditional” jobs like nurses, lawyers, Supply Corps, etc. As bad as this sounds, at that time, woman in non-traditional roles seemed to all have chips on their shoulders. Maybe they had to but it didn’t make them any nicer to deal with.

    The entire conversation was spent with her telling me of her accomplishments. I knew what medals she’d been awarded, what Letters of Commendation she’d received, and what Admirals’ staffs she’d been assigned to. It got real old real quick. It was all she wanted to talk about.

    I don’t remember what I communicated to her but she asked, “What’s the matter? Don’t you like assertive women?” I told her that depended on why they were being assertive.

    I paid for my beer and as I left, I told her, “I liked you a whole lot more before you gave me your resume.”

    • Scharnhorst, thank you for your comment and sharing your story. What is the reason you’d say that you liked her better before she told you about her accomplishments? Was it more because she seemed to only want to talk about herself?

      • First, she led with it.

        She came across as having something to prove, like I wouldn’t take her seriously or respect her unless she had cred.

        It would have been totally appropriate for a second conversation but she didn’t leave anything else open to explore.

        • I see. Perhaps she did think you wouldn’t take her seriously. I can imagine she thought again after your response to her, though.

          • Sometimes, life does imitate art.

            Have you ever seen the movie M*A*S*H* (1970) It’s great!

            There’s a scene where Hot Lips is talking to Hawkeye. It was kind of like that. The kicker starts about the 2:00 minute mark but it’s all pretty good.

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