02/17/2015 02:37 pm ET Updated Apr 19, 2015

The Smart Girl's Guide to Modern Life

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More is expected of you than was expected of your mother.

As we progress societally on both a national and global scale, gleaning the benefits and reaping the rewards, so too are we required to adapt to what's best described as "the modern girl's best practices." Revamped secrets to success of the female persuasion, if you will.

These are the things I want my little sisters to remember when they make their first rent payments on their own; when my own daughter (hey, future spawn!) applies for her first job; when her own daughter has her heart broken for the very first time. They're the little pieces of me that aren't often discussed; the raw, cynical parts of life to which we acclimate.

The best part of having a role model is the wisdom almost guaranteed to be passed on to you, often despite your willingness to take note. However, when the laws of the land have mutated into Kardashian waist trainers and Katy Perry Left Shark, that wisdom will sometimes fail to stand the test of time.

You probably have a healthy idea of what's worked for you. No other person on the planet will live the life you're carrying out. No one knows your experience. You do what you think is right because, truly, we're all just trying to survive.

As women, we know that these "best practices" are sometimes double-edged. We know that we won't always win. But in embracing them, we are empowered.

I consider myself a savvy human. A smart girl. I do what I need to do to get by. I didn't write the rules, nor do I always like them, but I am aware of them and therein lies the key to success. This is what I know to be true.

1. Travel is the only decision in life you will never regret.

"I really wish I hadn't visited Thailand."

"Yep, Costa Rica was a serious downer."

There's a reason you've never heard these sentiments. I recently wrote an article on the merits of travel, the importance of a balanced life and the right of every person to live by their own standards. Overwhelmingly I received message after message on the daunting financial constraints that might keep aspiring travelers homebound.

There are options. A certificate to teach in a foreign country is a cheap, rapid method to enabling yourself to go wherever you like. Wherever you happen to live, flights might be a third of the price during the winter season.

You can make it work, and once you do, you won't regret it for a moment.

2. There will always be an excuse for someone to discriminate against you; there will never be an excuse for that to define you.

There are hot, sexy, trending types of discrimination that garner vast media attention, drawing the eye of all who inhabit the web; in that realm, ethnicity, gender and sexuality take the cake.

So let's talk about that brilliant girl from your high school whose family couldn't afford to send her to college. Let's discuss the fact that she'll make less than half the amount of money as her less than half cerebral counterpart because she doesn't have a cute diploma hanging from her office wall. Education discrimination.

Let's focus on the woman who can't find a job in her field because she wears a hijab; how the moment a potential employer finds her on Facebook and takes note of her religion, that superior application she spent hours on, sitting neatly on his desk, is rendered null and void. Religious intolerance.

Let's talk about what's not being talked about, and let's tear it to tiny pieces.

3. The instant you begin judging the people you love, you become part of the problem.

Your best friend doesn't internalize the pain she's experiencing; she sweats it out. She exercises too much, works too little and annoys the hell out of you. You know she's going nuts. You know she's taking life too hard, too fast. What you don't know is why, because in the midst of the mess, you haven't really asked.

It isn't just your friend. It's the homeless man down the street; the taco vendor around the corner from work; the CEO who yells too much.

Their problem is your problem is his problem is her problem, until the world is full of problems and devoid of solutions. Instead, be the solution and prioritize empathy over all things.

4. Until the world changes, appearance will matter.

The very moment you allow complacency to rear its mediocre little head, you'e putting yourself at risk. This is a truth in so many senses; relationships, occupations, opportunities. Until you are the best version of yourself in a physical sense, the confidence that will attract these opportunities to you won't shine through.

In our world, it can be irrelevant how intelligent, educated or experienced you are if you don't carry yourself with poise. This isn't about modern beauty standards; ombre hair and fake tanner. It's about utterly shining as the best form of yourself.

Appearance is for protection, not vanity.

5. You never let someone tell you who you are.

Using every asset at your advantage to your disposal; often billed as a feminist issue, this is more a strategy than a compromise. When bankers invest every dime in a questionable initiative, they're ballsy and daring. Yet when women do everything in their power to bring their dreams to fruition, the situation carries an entirely different meaning.

You make the decisions that are best for you. You do what you need to do to carry out the powerful, badass life you want for yourself. You never let anyone define you based on any one action, mistake or success. You define yourself.

In our world, bloggers are going to blog. Anchors are going to report. People are going to talk. Humans are going to judge.

But you? You're going to win. And that's the only piece of advice that will always stand the test of time.