25 Life Lessons For My Daughters

life lessons life lessons
courtesy Emily McAllister

Dear Beautiful Daughters,

There are so many things that I hope to instill in you as girls, as future-women… and, most importantly, as humans. I’ve learned lots of lessons along my way, some through great heartache, pain and embarrassment — others through great mentors and adventures. Still, all of us moms are just learning as we go, doing our best to screw our kids up a little less than our parents screwed us up. There are a few things I do know for sure and I am writing them down here for you to have and keep always, so that one day when you’re a hormonal  teenager who thinks ‘my mom is so lame,’ you’ll have this list as a reminder that maybe she is only a little bit lame. And you will know beyond a doubt that she loved (and loves) you endlessly.


1. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand in class. Whether it’s because you know the answer or have a question, don’t worry – everyone is busy thinking about themselves, anyway.

2. When it comes to dressing yourself (when you get older), always leave something to the imagination. So if you’re wearing a short skirt, cover up the cleavage; if you’re showing off the tatas, opt for pants or a longer skirt. And if you’re going for it and letting it all hang out, own it and do it with confidence.

3. Buy the good toilet paper. You know, the soft, cushy kind. None of this gas station one-ply stuff. Your nether regions deserve better.

4. Don’t get comfortable on the sidelines. I would rather fall on my butt trying over and over (and I have, at countless things) than sit out wondering ‘what if.’ Get in the game; do the thing that scares the crap out of you. Don’t wait for ‘someday’ or ‘tomorrow’ or ‘Monday’. Start now.

5. Never cut your own bangs. I came to this the hard way in 2004 when I saw Jennifer Aniston’s freshly cut fringe on the cover of a ‘People’ magazine and had to try it myself. Here’s what I learned: a) I am not Jennifer Aniston, b) When in doubt, do not keep cutting more, c) Hats. Lots of hats.

6. Take every opportunity to travel. See other cultures, worlds and ways of living. Eat the native food, whether it’s hush puppies in the deep south, or fried crickets in Bangkok.

7. “No” is a complete sentence.

8. Be your own cheerleader. Speak well of yourself and never put yourself down, even in jest. Self-deprecating humor used to be my mode of operation until I realized that every time I put myself down for the sake of a laugh, I was discrediting myself. What I learned is that I am my own best advocate, and I teach others how to regard and treat me. I now practice speaking to (and about) myself the way I would a best friend.

9. Be the kind of person who always, always returns the shopping cart.  

10. Don’t compare yourself to anyone but yourself, and never feel less-than because someone else is also beautiful / intelligent / talented. Another woman’s beauty / intelligence / talent does not take away from your own. There’s plenty of room in this world for all of the beautiful, intelligent and talented women. In fact, find those gals and build your tribe. Surround yourself with people, especially women, who are unafraid to empower other women. And in turn, be that woman for other women.

11. Accept compliments by saying thank you. To reject a compliment is not only insulting to yourself, but to the compliment-giver.

12. Look people in the eye when you’re talking to or listening to them. This is a beautiful part of being a human. It not only communicates that you’re giving that person your undivided attention, it shows that you are confident in who you are.

13. Texting has its place, but pick up the phone and talk to the people you love.  

14. Exercise because you love yourself, not to punish your body. I used to spend hours at the gym, killing myself and never feeling like it was enough. What I’ve learned is that it’s okay to underwhelm yourself at the gym and leave wanting more. I now go to the gym as a form of self care, not as a way to punish my body for simply being… a body.

15. Be a good tipper, even if the service sucks. I always aim for 20%.

16. Make a daily gratitude list. No matter what is going on in life, you can always find 10 things to be grateful for.

17. When it comes to makeup, less is more. There was a time in the 90s when I knew not how to blend foundation, and I believed a smokey eye was necessary for everything. I now know that pressed powder and mascara are plenty for daytime makeup.

18. When you’re mad at someone, apply the rule of five. Will it matter in five minutes? In five hours? In five days? In five weeks? In five months? Five years? Most things aren’t as unforgivable as they might seem.

19. Don’t be afraid to be the first person on the dance floor. Get out there and get ur freak on!

20. Treat everyone with the same level of kindness. You never know someone’s back-story; they could be grieving or about to lose their home, or god forbid, living with a toddler. And you never know who you might be talking to. (The person you piss off today could be signing your paychecks tomorrow.)

21. Here’s how to get a ‘bathing suit body’: Have a body, put on a bathing suit. Love handles or cellulite are never a good enough excuse to miss out on your own life.

22. If you’re going to apologize, really commit to changing the behavior.If you punch someone in the face and say “I’m sorry” and then punch them in the face again the next day, then your apology is null and void. (Side note: Don’t punch people in the face.)

23. When you’re a guest, always ask the host(ess) if you can help with anything. Most of the time she’ll say no, but the gesture is always appreciated, and you’ll probably be invited back.

24. Always have your sister’s back. Family first, the end.

25. Don’t settle on things (clothes, shoes, PEOPLE, etc), that aren’t an immediate ‘f-yeah!’ Use this principle in every area of your life, and you will have an ‘f-yeah!’ life.

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Emily is a freelance writer and photographer living in Southern California with her husband and two daughters. Her writing has been featured in Babble, Scary Mommy and Today Parents, among other places. Emily is fueled by spontaneous dance parties, '80s music and coffee. Connect with her on Instagram or on her website or on Twitter.