Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! If you haven’t blocked out the emotional turbulence of puberty and this adolescent developmental period, chances are you’ll find David Bowie’s song lyrics from "Changes" to be hauntingly familiar. Puberty is very much that phase where you “turn and face the strange,” Remember what it was like? You spent hours in front of your bathroom mirror, agonizing over your oily skin and desperately trying to find a pair of jeans that hid your shapely thighs. Your body went from being a familiar, consistent and safe sanctuary to a distant, hormonal unstable machine overnight, and no one gave you the instruction manual for how to operate the darned thing! You went from being cool as a cucumber to reactive, irrational and inexplicably moody.
Puberty is that awful life stage when nobody understands you, and anybody and everybody is out to get you (your teacher, your peers, your parents and your siblings). Even if your parents sat down and had the dreaded, awkward pre-pubescent discussion with you about the inevitable changes coming your way (and come your way they did!), nothing could quite prepare you for the unexpected and bizarre things that happened to you, emotionally, psychologically and physiologically. The thing is there is no rule book for puberty, and while there are definite milestones as part of this maturation process, it looks different for each and every person. Puberty also affects males and females differently. You’d gladly have traded in a deepening voice for rapidly expanding hips, thighs and breasts! Thankfully you’re through that turbulent growth period, but it’s still worthwhile to look back and reflect on the 15 things you didn’t expect during puberty.
15 Hair Here There, Everywhere!
From soft and smooth to hairy and coarse, where did all this unruly hair come from and why is it growing there?! Between the ages of eight to 14, girls typically start to develop more hair, particularly in the pubic and underarm regions. You were once fine sporting unshaven legs to gym class and playing ball with the boys, and then suddenly, you became wildly self-conscious and needed to shave the sparse hair on your legs, like all your other female classmates. For girls, hair begins to thicken and grow in the armpits and genital areas during puberty, gradually becoming coarser and darker. As girls develop, pubic hair gradually grows from fine hairs to thicker and curlier hairs, eventually taking on more of a triangular appearance. As annoying as those franticly growing follicles might have been, body hair does serve a purpose, protecting you from sweat, friction, bacteria, abrasions and other unwanted injuries.
14 Early Menstruation
Your mom had warned you to look out for that telltale red spot in your underwear, and that yes, it would appear more brown than red in colour, but you were not expecting your period to come as early as it did. You had hoped for this day for months but you were not prepared for the reality of cramps, tampons, pads and mood swings! On average, puberty is starting earlier and earlier for girls and boys than it has in previous decades. Early puberty (and menstruation) can include factors like gender, genetics, race and obesity, though generally, girls usually get their first menstruation about two to three years after breasts first start developing. The early onset of puberty might be due to stimuli like nutrition, general health and an increase in exposure to chemicals in our environment. Nowadays, girls as young as eight can expect their first menstrual cycles. Adolescence is hard enough to navigate on its own, besides having to worry about heavy flow and unexpected period stains.
13 Unpredictable Mood Swings
Hormones trigger physical changes in the body, but are also the cause of the unpredictable and turbulent swings from rock bottom lows to roller coaster highs, and the general moodiness you experienced as a budding tween. It’s good to know that the sudden irrational irritability and downright depressive states you experienced back then are a totally normal (though definitely challenging) part of puberty. As girls enter puberty, the body begins producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which cause not only physical changes in the body, but emotional changes as well. This sudden onset of hormones most likely left you feeling like your emotions were in charge of you, and not the other way around. You already had enough on your plate struggling with your identity and self-image and then you had to worry about a whole jigsaw puzzle of emotions. From sadness, to boredom, to short-tempered anger, to depression, you experienced it all. Now that is one emotional roller coaster!
12 Lovely Lady Bumps
They weren’t there and then suddenly they were. It seemed to happen overnight that you developed budding breasts and blooming hips. These growths are usually the first sign that puberty has begun. Your breasts begin as "buds" which start as small mounds underneath the nipple and areola, and gradually grow into fuller, more mature breasts. You might have been alarmed when your ladies first started to develop -- the nipple enlarged and became more raised, and the area around your nipple became darker and more visible. It is normal during breast development for one breast to be noticeably larger than the other. Nobody warned you about this! If you compared your girls to your friends, you eventually learned that you simply can’t. Every girl’s chest and growth process looks a little different. Yours might be small and pointy and your friend’s might be round and full. It can take up to several years for your breasts to fully develop, so if you felt anxious or unsure about your chest and breast size, you finally gave up and just had to be patient.
11 Increase In Appetite
You may as well have had a padlock on your refrigerator and kitchen cupboards because as a sprouting teenager, nothing seemed to satiate you. You ate while chatting about your kindergarten enemy now turned crush, you ate after soccer practice, and you ate long into the evening when you should have been asleep. The good news is that there is an explanation for that increased need for fuel you experienced. Most males and females go through growth spurts during puberty and this dramatic shift in your body causes you to require more calories for daily functioning. Metabolism and energy increases during this period means your body needs more calories to help in the formation of muscles, bones, fats and tissues. Increasing snacks and healthy nutrition is key though, instead of overloading on empty calories. Teenagers can experience stress and emotional eating too, just like adults. The difference now is you know the rule: if you’re hungry, eat, and if you’re feeling emotional, talk about it.
10 Interest In Romance And Relationships
From “girls rule and boys drool” to “I worship the ground on which you walk because you are an absolute dreamboat.” One day, you were hating on boys, running away from them on the playground, poking and teasing them, and suddenly, you started developing these foreign and lust fueled feelings and fantasies for them. It caught you off-guard to say the least. Puberty is the transition from childhood to womanhood, and as part of this developmental stage, it’s normal for girls to experience feelings of attraction towards the opposite sex, the same sex, or both sexes. During puberty, you become more sexually and romantically interested in others because biologically, the body is now more mature and sexually developed. The body produces hormones, which can cause you to experience sexual feelings and desires for sex. Boys excited you emotionally and sexually and you found yourself unable to focus or concentrate on anything else.
9 More Sweat
There’s no nice way to put it girl, you stink! Okay, you really don’t, but you wish someone had just told you this honestly when you were a pubescent teen. You would have even welcomed the passive stance of someone just handing you a stick of deodorant. Perhaps you might have taken offense, but you would have gotten over it. As sweat glands become more active during puberty, you sweat more and for most people, this might mean a foul perspiration odor. The body has millions of sweat glands and these become significantly more active once you hit puberty. Boys, grades, dances, parties, you name it, everything seemed to make you sweat! Sweating helps keep the body cool, so even though your emotions and nerves had a serious impact on your sweat glands, your body was doing its due diligence. Your only wish is that someone had told you about natural fibers or twice daily showers. Thanks, Mom!
8 Change In Body Shape (Height And Weight)
Remember how suddenly all the girls in your class seemed like giants in comparison to the boys? That’s because girls usually enter puberty and experience their growth spurts before boys. While some people gained height, you just remember gaining width. This change in body shape looks differently for every individual. It is typical for girls to gain weight during puberty, and usually in the form of fat because your body naturally requires higher levels of fat for reproduction. For girls, this fat distribution is generally stored in the belly, butt, breasts and thighs. You seemed to grow hips overnight! Sure, there was a horrifically awkward stage where finding jeans and tops was a nightmare, but there was nothing wrong with your body. It was just doing its thing, and thankfully, your height eventually caught up to your weight gain. Girls can expect to reach their adult height by approximately 15 years old, when metabolism balances out.
7 Self-Petting -- It’s Normal!
When you and your friends giggled upon reading the word "masturbation" in your Cosmopolitan Teen magazine, you dutifully shook your head, announced that it was gross, strange and that you had definitely never touched yourself down there! But afterwards, on your own, you breathed a huge sigh of relief to know that other girls masturbate too. While some may consider it taboo, exploring yourself sexually and coming to know your body and preferences is a normal part of the adolescent experience. While discussion about male masturbation is more widely accepted, it’s important to recognize that self-petting is exercised by females as well. Erotic and sexual fantasies are a wonderful way to safely experience sexual arousal without the dangers of sexual promiscuity and actually engaging in sexual intercourse. It is a healthy sexual outlet that helps you to know yourself more intimately. Just because it isn’t being openly discussed, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
Your world changed at an alarmingly rapid rate and it was enough to make your head spin. Life was childlike and carefree, and then there were expectations, teenage norms and pressures to fulfill. Boys expected you to act a certain way (and then you actually cared about what they thought), your parents expected you to act a certain way (you still don’t care what they think), and so did your school. It all felt so uncomfortable that sometimes you just want to escape your own skin. On top of having to adjust to all those new situations, hormones were effecting your emotions and the way you thought and felt. Experiencing strange and new feelings may have caused you to feel uncomfortable and foreign in your body, which might have led to anxiety. Feelings of uncertainty, nervousness and anxiety during puberty is normal. Now you understand the best thing you can do when experiencing similar emotions is to surround yourself with a loving support group who knows and understands you.
There were days your acne and breakouts were so bad, you refused to go to school, despite your parents’ frantic protests of “Nobody is going to notice anything. You look fine!” You wish someone would have warned you about the devastating and alarming red pock marks that ravaged your face (and body) as you navigated this already difficult phase. If feeling awkward in your skin and being a nervous wreck around boys wasn’t already enough, then you had to deal with oily skin and pimples galore. During puberty, these nefarious hormones effect your oil glands and cause them to become more active, which was the reason for your uneven skin. While acne can be difficult to handle, the best thing you can do is try to accept that it’s a normal part of adolescent development! Now you know that best methods for skin care are to wash your skin with water and mild soap, and not to scrub or pick your skin (even when it’s hard not to)!
4 Increased Peer Pressure
As a child, you didn’t care what other people thought. You followed your own drumbeat and expressed your unique, creative self at every opportunity you could get. Then puberty hit. Suddenly you felt this desire to be like your peers -- to dress like the most popular girl in your class and to listen to the same music that your crush liked, despite the fact that you hated metal music. Peer pressure can be negative or positive, but your immediate peer group influences your behavior and actions you may take, potentially against your desires or wishes. You found yourself engaging in activities like smoking and drinking, not because you actually wanted to, but because everyone else was doing it. Peer pressure is a powerful thing, and it can cause you to behave in harmful and self-sabotaging ways. The most important thing you did to navigate all the pressure, was surrounding yourself with positive peers and supportive and understanding friends.
3 Changes Down There
The times aren’t the only thing that are a changing -- your lady bits are too! This can be a daunting and anxietyprovoking time. You might have found yourself asking, just what is happening down there?! During puberty, your sexual organs undergo dramatic changes. Internally, the walls of your V become thicker and the uterus becomes larger. The external features of your V, including the labia, clitoris and pubic area, change shape and colour. The clitoris becomes larger during this developmental stage, the skin around your V becomes thicker, and your pubic hair becomes darker, thicker and coarser. Your V also starts to produce more discharge and secretions (your body’s natural lubrication), which can affect your personal lady fragrance. The significant increase in discharge is all part of your body preparing for reproduction and sexual pleasure. You might notice changes in discharge and odor when you are sexually aroused and depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle.
2 Hormones Are A Thing
No, you’re not going crazy and yes, hormones are a (huge) thing doing puberty. During puberty, your brain releases a gonadotropin-releasing hormone that enters your bloodstream via the pituitary gland (which is located directly under the brain). The gland releases two puberty hormones in both males and females -- a luteinizing hormone (LH) and a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). In males, these hormones assist in the production of testosterone, while in females, these hormones effect the ovaries, triggering them to produce estrogen. Estrogen aids in the female maturation process and prepares the body for reproduction and pregnancy. That’s a long way to say that there is a whole lot of chemical crazy going on inside your body. While it doesn’t give you permission to scream, yell and cry whenever you want, it does make your moodiness more tolerable and acceptable. Pair these newly introduced hormones with all the pressures of navigating adolescence, and it’s easy to understand that being a teenager can be hard.
1 You Are Going To Develop Differently
Yes, you and all your girlfriends are going to experience puberty, and while you love doing everything together, unfortunately, puberty is not a process that you are all going to go through in sync. Everybody goes through the different stages of puberty at their own unique pace. This might mean you get your first menstruation years after your best friend does, and that’s okay. You might have curvaceous hips, while your other friends don’t. You might be jealous that your breasts are still a flat A-cup while most of your girlfriends are well past training bras and sporting B and C cups. Puberty depends on your genetic make-up and can include your unique environmental factors. Some individuals might enter and exit puberty quickly, while others might take longer. This is a growth stage where you get to develop and come into your own wonderful self, and while it can be hard not to compare, you shouldn’t.