rebelling against low expectations

Three Things I Would Tell My Teenage Self


I am now 22 years old, 3 years removed from being a teenager.

Looking back, I got some things right and some things wrong. But with life, you don’t have time to dwell in the past. Instead, you must embrace the failures, learn from the experience, and move forward stronger.

Still, I wonder. My mind wanders to the “what-ifs”. What if I could go back in time and talk to my teenage self? What would I say?

That is why I wrote down 3 things I would share with teenager-me:

1. Realize You Do Not Have It All Figured Out

By 18 years old, I had finished college and planned my life out. This was going to be easy since I was so far ahead of all my peers. With confidence, I stepped out and…

Hit the “reality threshold”. Life. You have to love it.

There was one small hole in the hull of my ship called “life”. No matter how fast you’re sailing toward those dreams, this fatal flaw threatens to sink your ship as well.

Mistake #1: Thinking you are more mature than you actually are.

As a teen, you can do harder things and take on bigger responsibilities than you realize. You can impact the world. At the same time, realize that you are not as mature as you think.

When the reality of my naiveness hit me in the face, it deflated my pride and left me confused. I had big plans! I was mature and ready! What was going on? In hindsight, God was using hurricane-level measures to wake me up. I needed to see my mistake and then be redirected, reshaped, and refined.

Sometimes, only a scary storm can show you that.

Yes. I’m looking at you, Jonah.

2. Find People More Mature than Yourself

I once met this man who was 30 years old. Whoops. I meant 16 with the maturity of a 30-year-old. At least that is what he told me. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is ask him.

I tried to see this young man from the perspective of the older people who surrounded us. He looked ridiculous and arrogant. Then I realized something – at one time, this was me. Hopefully not as obnoxious, but I was guilty.

The sad truth is that this kind of immaturity is not just ridiculous – it is dangerous. Ask Rehoboam.

“But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.” – 1 Kings 12:8

That decision split his father’s kingdom.

Mistake #2: Thinking you do not need mature people in your life.

You need experienced, mature people in your life. You need mentors and wise counsel. But the moment you think you’re mature enough, these people will not:

  • Invest their time and presence in your life
  • Take your passions and dreams seriously
  • Give you wisdom and advice

Because why should they? Find those people who are more mature than you and be open to what they have to say.

You might learn something life-changing.

3. Be Willing to Redirect

God loves when:

  • People dream bigger dreams than themselves
  • Teenagers set goals that defy the world’s expectations
  • Young people pursue plans that glorify Him

Here is the reality: that one dream you want to pursue is not always where God wants you to go. It may not be because your dream or goal was bad. Often times, it comes down to your dream not being big enough.

Mistake #3: Thinking you know exactly where you are going in life.

David had a crazy dream to build the most beautiful temple possible for God. Come on, how could God not be on board with that?

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in.’” – 1 Chronicles 17:3-4

Plan. Blown. Up.

Why? How could God do that? Solomon would later build the temple his father envisioned. The problem was that David’s dream was too small compared to God’s glorious, infinite-sized plan.

…the LORD will build you a house. – 1 Chronicles 17:10

A Satan-crushing, forever-standing kingdom sounds like a bigger, better plan to me. Be willing to redirect to God’s plan. Then you will realize what God knew all along – your dreams were never big enough anyway.

In Summary

If you are willing to:

  1. Be humble
  2. Be teachable
  3. Be open

God will do incredible things in your life that you never dreamed of. That is what I would tell my teenage self.

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Photo courtesy of Lesley Choa via Flickr Creative Commons.


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About the author

Samuel Byers

Samuel Byers has been a bookworm since he could pick a book up. Now, he tries to write his own stories. He also drinks too much tea.


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  • Awesome article Samuel!

    “There was one small hole in the hull of my ship called “life”. No matter how fast you’re sailing toward those dreams, this fatal flaw threatens to sink your ship as well.”
    I just loved these two sentences 🙂

    I just realized yesterday that I am going to be eighteen in a few more months and gosh,……I do not feel ready for the hole in the hull of my ship.

    • Thanks Haven! Really appreciate your kind words. I was a bit hard-headed as a teen, but it sounds like you have the right attitude which makes all the difference.

      Admitting there is a hole in the ship is a huge step in the right direction. Plus, we all have a ton of holes in our ships! That’s why we need grace 🙂

  • Wow, thanks Sam! I really need to hear this. It’s something I struggle with (especially thinking I’m more mature than I actually am and not being willing to except input or even search for input…I like to be the one with the answers that can help people instead of being humble.)

    Also what you said about not having your life all planned out was good and convicting. When you’re finishing high-school it can feel like you have to plan your life out, but you’re right. Leaving it in God’s hands is the best course of action.

    • Thank you Jason! I know how you feel – I prefer to be the one with the answers helping people instead of the one asking for input. Unfortunately, that can be dangerous as a teen.

      Yes! If I tried to follow God’s direction more, it would not have taken me 3 years to figure out what on earth I am doing. It is good to have a plan, but it is better to trust His plan.

  • This was wonderful Samuel! As being on tail end of my teenage years this year, I’ve certainly seen the weird dichotomy of feeling very mature and prepared because after all “We’re Rebelutionaries!” but then realizing that there is so very much still to know, to learn, to understand! We do so very much need the input of those who are wiser and further along in their walks with Christ. Thank you for this excellent article!

    • Thanks Isabelle! I don’t know if I am “wiser” or “further along” than anyone else lol. 🙂 In fact, I’m starting from scratch in a lot of areas of life right now. But, I’m glad that you enjoyed this post!

      There really is a weird dichotomy / paradox here. We want to rebel against low expectations, but we also are in the process of growing up. I guess the best way to explain the teen years is: “taking hold of opportunities to grow our maturity”.

      • Yes, but isn’t so much of life weird balances? In but not of, being a leader by being a servant, dying daily yet live — I sometimes think God rather likes combining opposites together in the most strange, yet beautiful, of ways! 🙂 I very much like your definition of the teenage years, it may or may not be going in my note-book of random encouraging thoughts and sentences from everywhere!

  • This was a wonderful article! So many times I have ran into teenage girls who told me that they were the most mature girl in the room, and even went to say that they knew more than their parents, and I never thought that was right. But, I do not want to hark on them. I run into that problem myself, and sometimes beyond. As my Dad says, you can either be a wild stallion turned into glue, or a racehorse to win victories. (Sorry, Dad’s analogy, not mine! ;3)
    Thank you for taking the time to write this article! 🙂

    • Thank you Maverick! I know what you’re saying. One of my friends posted a picture on Facebook. He had taken some test that said he looked 18 and had the maturity of a 32 year old (yes, the same 16 yr old in the article!).

      But you’re exactly right – we all struggle with it. And I like your Dad’s quote 🙂

  • Thanks Samuel for writing this! This is something I struggle with, it’s nice to know others go through the same stuff I do!

  • Haylie, that’s what I was gonna way! “Ouch!” 😉 I needed this article, but man is it tough! Thanks, Samuel! 🙂

  • Thank you so much for writing! The best part of this article was the section about finding people more mature than you. That will surely break down our pride a little bit. Great job!

  • This soooooo describes teenagers! I’m only 13 and it is hard for me to accept sometimes that I’m not right. It feels like I am usually always right, but in the past months I have almost made 3 huge mistakes and would have except that I have a great mom who showed me a better way to do things. It is a good thing teenagers have parents!

    Great Article!

  • Thanks for sharing Mr. Samuel. Quite the eye opener. The being too mature thing really caught me off guard, It’s not something I had really thought of that much. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for sharing. I know that at one point I thought I was mature and now I look back and shake my head at my younger self. I hope to apply your words of wisdom for many years to come. Thanks once again.

By Samuel Byers
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →