Lessons on Happiness – From a Pain in the Arse Teenager.

pain in the arse teenager
{Yep. That’s me.}

One of the most important memories I have of being a teenager involves my Dad and I.

But first, let me preface this by saying I was a shit of a teenager. I was angsty, moody and arrogant. I did well at school, didn’t misbehave much, hell, I was even school captain.

But that didn’t stop me being a basketcase. I’d fly off the handle, had more than one screaming match in the playground and the temper on me was… abundant.

I was also ridiculously sensitive, introverted despite evidence to the contrary, a bit boy-crazy and constantly felt misunderstood.

Ugh. What a pain in the arse I was.

(I am also acutely aware that many people I went to high school with are reading this. Hi guys. Sorry I was such a nutter.)


But I digress…

It was after one of my not-uncommon outbursts – possibly boy- or frenemy-related – that my Dad sat me down for a talk.

I was expecting a firm verbal smackdown. I certainly deserved one. But I got much more than that:

“Do you know what the most important lesson I’ve learnt is?” he asked.

“Uhh…” I thought it was a trick. My Dad is a high-achiever. He’s studied at Harvard, ran large corporations, he’s the guy anyone wants in a crisis. How the hell could I, a 15 year-old smart arse, know anything?

“You choose how you’re feeling. And you choose how you behave.”

“But… ” I wanted to interject with an excuse. To blame someone else for my over-reaction. To justify being a shithead.

“No. It’s as simple as that. You are in control of how you feel and you are in control of how you react. You cannot blame anyone else for that.

“You are choosing to be angry. You are choosing to be upset. You are choosing to lash out. You are choosing to be unhappy.”

We went on to dissect my situation in depth, but once he left my room I sat and thought about what he said.

And it really pissed me off.

How could I be in control of my happiness when someone was being mean to me? They were making me angry.

How could I not get upset by bitchy playground gossips? They were making me unhappy.

Not me. I wasn’t doing anything wrong.


But the penny eventually dropped…and it’s changed my life a hundred times.

It took a long time to roll around in my hormone-drenched brain. In fact, I don’t think I even truly comprehended what he was saying until I was in my 20s.

But slowly, slowly, it started to sink in, and it is now one of the main foundations of my personal philosophy*.

You choose your feelings. You choose your reactions. You have the power to choose your own happiness – regardless of what is happening in your life. Regardless of what is happening around you.

You are making that choice.

(*That’s not to say I live by it all the time. As much as anyone, I need this reminder often. Really often. But the difference is, I understand it now. And I understand the power that it brings.)


Yes there are times when you feel sad. Or angry. Or betrayed.

And it’s completely fine to feel those things. We need to feel those things. And you will react to those feelings in your own way.

But you still choose what that reaction will look like.

And as you learn that and apply it, you begin to take ownership of not only the negative feelings and thoughts and actions, but also the positive.

Yes. You get to own your positive feelings too

There are always reasons you could feel bad. You didn’t get the job, you want to lose weight, you feel trapped in your life, there’s something missing. You could easily blame any of these for feeling low.

Because, it’s just what life has dished out to you. It’s a matter of luck. A matter of chance. Isn’t it?

Yes and no.

You may not be able to change the circumstances you find yourself in. But you can look past them. You can choose to be happy or upbeat or joyful or motivated regardless of those circumstances.

And when you do – you get to own that. It’s all you. Your strength. Your character. You are not relying on luck, or chance, or other people to build you up and keep you up. You are not a victim. You become a do-er.

And I’ll be damned if that’s not the most important lesson I’ve ever learnt from a pain in the arse teenager.


What were you like as a teenager?


15 Responses to Lessons on Happiness – From a Pain in the Arse Teenager.

  1. And I so remember that teenager….but Dad was right and I think we can all learn from what he said all those years ago – even now!!

    • Thanks, Tracey! I’m the same – only in the last 5 years have I realised how hard it must have been living with me (at times anyway). But, karma, as they say. Give it another 10 years and I’m sure I’ll know all about it – first-hand. :)

  2. i look forward to reading your posts, they always hit home for me. your father is a wise man, thank you for sharing his words. i have my 13yr old step daughter coming to live with me in 2 days, these words will serve me well. thank you brooke xx

    • Thanks Tam!! I hope the transition to having a teenager in the house is as smooth as possible – I have no doubt it will be different. Different but lovely! xx

  3. I don’t think I was as bad a teenager as a lot of my friends, nor was I as bad as my parents thought I was. I wonder what they got up to to think that I was so bad… I’m in my thirties now but still know of people that behave like they are back in High School. Blaming others constantly & not taking responsibility for their own actions, or the actions of their own (young) kids.

    • Karen, I know exactly what you mean. And that’s why I feel as though this is such an important lesson – for me and for other people to learn. If we don’t learn how to own our responses and reactions, then we don’t have any ownership of our life, we don’t take responsibility, and we go through life blaming others. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. x

  4. Hmmm…I don’t think we choose our feelings. I think they just are. And as someone who’s had trouble because of denying my feelings, I find the idea that we can choose them problematic. BUT: I think we absolutely choose what to do with them and about them. When I feel shitty, I try to admit that I feel shitty and then do something that will help the feeling go away–focus on what I can be grateful for in the situation, figure out a productive action I can take, or just sit with it and let it pass.

    And thanks for the reminder that pain in the arse teens don’t always remain so–really helpful to this mom of two 14-year-olds!

    • Hey Rita,

      You know, there’s been something bothering me about my post all weekend – and I feel like you’ve come close to uncovering what it is. I agree with you that sometimes we can’t choose our feelings. And I like that you say “they just are”. I also think there are times we confuse emotions with reactions and lump them all together as “feelings”. I absolutely think we are in control of our reactions (although sometimes my temper wouldn’t agree!) and the way we respond, the choices we make in how we view the world – these are all in our control.

      As always, you get me thinking very deeply. Thank you!!

      And, wow. Two 14 year-olds. I can’t even imagine! :)

  5. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back in time and have a talk with our teen selves. I could learn so much…since back then I knew everything. Loved this post.

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