You need to read Hillary Clinton’s badass advice to her teenage self

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Kayleigh Dray
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The former presidential candidate has penned a letter to her younger self, imploring young women not to give in to imposter syndrome

It’s no overstatement to say that Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of the world’s most resilient, competent and determined politicians. So, when we learned that she had penned a letter to her teenage self, we knew that it was going to be an emotional rollercoaster of a read.

The former presidential candidate may have lost the 2016 election (to Donald Trump, no less), but the original ‘Nasty Woman’ has not let that stop her on her quest to make the world a better place for women. She’s hit out at the “endemic misogyny” that she says partly caused her loss, made it her business to call out Trump’s divisive behaviour whenever and wherever she can, and thrown herself into working towards training women to run for politics in the 2018 mid-terms.

“I think we can take back the House,” she said to rapturous applause at Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival.

Now, in a raw and emotional open letter to her teenage self, published in Teen Vogue, Clinton has delved into some of the insecurities that many young women face – and offered up some very valuable advice.

Addressing herself as she was after her first semester at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, she writes: “When you first arrived on campus, you found yourself surrounded by brilliant, accomplished women. They were fluent in other languages. They had lived abroad. They had already read half the books on the syllabus. That was intimidating – so intimidating, in fact, that you called your parents and told them you didn’t belong at Wellesley after all, and you needed to come home.”

It’s a feeling that all too many of us will recognise: ‘impostor syndrome’ affects plenty of us on a daily basis – and it can strike anyone, no matter how successful or famous they are. But Clinton’s missive goes on to find an important life lesson in those feelings of inadequacy.

“Take risks, and don’t be afraid to get caught trying,” she writes. “Do your best to embrace the excitement that comes with not knowing what’s next, and remember that confidence and an open mind will always serve you better than insecurity and doubt.”

More importantly, though, Clinton advises women not to begrudge others for their talents. Instead, she says that you should forge connections with those you admire, lift one another up and help your peers to shine as brightly as they possibly can. Because, one day, you will “all laugh when you realise that every single one of you” felt that same anxiety.

“The next time someone raises her hand in class and says something really smart, go up to her afterward and introduce yourself. You’ll be glad you did… one of the best things in life is getting to know intelligent, inspiring people who have something to say.”

Clinton has previously revealed that she wants to be remembered as a “leader of a revolution” in women’s rights.

“I was a part of a revolution, I was part of a revolution for women’s rights that began in the Sixties with real intensity – continued up until the present day – and I became a leader of that revolution,” she said in conversation with BBC’s James Noughtie.

“It is the unfinished business globally of the 21st century to free women from the constraints and strictures that hold them back, that squash their dreams and to give every woman everywhere the chance to live up to her own God-given potential and that’s what I believe in.”

However, in a recent interview with Stylist, Clinton allowed that she cannot do this all by herself.

“[Saving the world] is gonna require everyone who understands how fragile we are right now doing their part. And speaking out. Standing up. Voting, voting. For the kind of future we want. A future where people come together to solve problems, not hurl insults back and forth across a divide.

“It requires leadership from public officials, the private sector, advocacy groups and charities. So there’s a role, there’s something for everybody to do. I’m going to be doing my part. And not to get overwhelmed and discouraged because the problems are so big. It’s going to take consistent effort across every country for many years to deal with these very difficult times we face.”

Clinton added: “So you tell your book group, you tell your mother, you tell everybody that I’m going to keep going, in part because I want them to keep going.”

Images: Rex Features


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.