If there’s anything we learned from the viral #10yearchallenge that recently took over our social networking feeds, it’s that a lot can change in 10 years, but a lot can stay the same.

Inspired by everyone in my Instagram feed — celebs, brands, besties — I started to wonder what my profile pic from 10 years ago would look like: Had I started using retinol early enough, or had I aged like a raisin? Would I be ashamed of my sartorial selections? As my Juicy Couture phase flashed before my eyes, I braced myself for a lot of pink Ugg boots and velour tracksuits before realizing those skeletons would stay buried in high school albums. #Blessed.

So when I started stalking old Facebook pics to compare my 2008 persona to the more modern me, I was actually — shockingly — pretty impressed with myself. Sure, there were some fairly questionable fashion choices I wouldn’t make today (read: lots of short-shorts-plus-heels looks that didn’t make it into this post). But overall? Looking back a decade gave me insight into not just the bad and the ugly, but the actually quite good. Ahead, five major takeaways from my cool, confident (and dare I say stylish?) 21-year-old self.

1. There’s nothing more powerful than a good accessory. Today, I’m the girl who wears simple diamond studs on the daily. But 10 years ago? Apparently, I was the queen of the earring. I remember both these pairs with complete fondness — those Kendra Scott stunners were just becoming “the thing” back then, and now they’re a total classic. (It’s safe to say you either have a pair or know someone who does.) And the oversized gold bamboo hoops? Bringing them back, STAT — you’ll find me scouring all the mall kiosks until I score a dupe.

2. Practice body positivity. Looking through all my throwback photos, there was one thing that really popped out at me — my boobs. You won’t find them in any recent pictures of me, but as I swiped through dozens of old shots, it became clear that once upon a time I was definitely down with cleavage. Somewhere over the years, I must have become way less comfortable with showing that bit of skin — and I really wonder why. Is it my age? My marital status? Did boobs fall out of fashion? Am I more self-conscious about my body in general? All I know is that none of the answers I can come up with seem like good ones. Because honestly, I’ve always loved my boobs and I still love them, so there’s no reason to not wear tops that I find fun and flattering. Moral of the story? Expect to see more cleav in 2019.

3. Stock up on the simple stuff. I constantly fight the urge to keep buying the same things over and over again, like black tees, white tanks, gray sweaters. (Please don’t ask me to KonMari my closet.) But now I’m wondering: Why hold myself back when I know they’ll stand the test of time? Looking at this pic, just remove the bangs and ditch the bag, and it could have been taken a few weeks ago. This look made me realize that I will forever fangirl over dark jeans and a white tank (bonus points for the dainty accessories and stunna shades). I definitely still stan this, so I’ll keep stocking up.

4. Embrace the belt. I’ll begin by saying that I have absolutely no idea what was going through my head when I put this outfit together. If I remember correctly, it was to go watch a Ravens game (the team color is purple) at a sports bar, but jerseys aren’t my thing, so apparently I just threw on a slouchy shirt in the appropriate shade. (Was it a pajama top? Just severely stretched out? The world may never know.) But then things really took a turn and I cinched my waist with an oversized belt — very in vogue in ’08, if I recall. Looking at this pic now, part of me is cringing and part of me is thinking it wasn’t the worst idea I’ve ever had. Flash forward to 2019, an era when I will do basically whatever I can to get away with wearing an elevated version of pajamas in public, and I’m thinking it’s time to bring back the belt (or, even better, the belt bag) the next time I want to elevate comfy basics with a bit of shape.

5. Stay weird. For a long time, I dressed a lot like everyone else. I was always making things a little bit my own and maybe taking slightly more risks than your average mall shopper, but dressing mostly mainstream nonetheless. That changed when I visited my best friend in Austin, TX and discovered her wardrobe filled with thrifted vintage finds — pieces I wouldn’t have picked up off the rack in a million years. She dared me to “play dress up” and go out for the night wearing one of her favorite frocks. I’ll never forget the feeling of dancing to live music in a pale pink slip dress with cutesy capped sleeves that seemed way too retro for me. Yet I still somehow felt more confident than I ever had before. If I’d been wearing it back at home, I would have gotten looks. But in Austin, everyone was rocking something “weird,” and I realized it wasn’t weird at all to wear what makes you feel good. From that moment forward, I’ve always dressed for myself… and I’ve never regretted it.

(Photos via Blume and Kelsey Haywood Lucas)

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