A LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF (AND ALL YOUNG WOMEN) September 19, 2015
"If only I knew then what I know now..." Or if I had a time machine to go back and advise my younger self. I'd listen to older and wiser me, right? It's hard to say. But my heart wishes an easier and clearer path for young ladies who are growing up in this culture (and world) of self-doubt, insecurity, confusion, and superficial standards for women.
These are a few of the lessons I've learned the hard way; this is my letter of guidance to younger me and young women everywhere:
1. Strive, in love, to be respected and valued rather than needed.
There's a sense of false safety to be found in feeling needed, especially if you're a woman who's been taught to be nurturing (like so many of us have been). While a feeling of need comes naturally after time spent bonding in commitment to each other, in the beginning, that feeling usually sets us up to be the caretaker of someone who doesn't give much back to the relationship. In the beginning, we must wait for the man (substitute appropriate gender pronoun here) who sees who we are and what we are worth, who loves that person deeply, who knows how to be kind and stable and trustworthy, and who puts our happiness and well-being first -along with his own, of course, but not just his own. People will love us the way we feel we deserve to be loved. Know what you are worth, what you deserve, and what your standards and deal-breakers are for a relationship, and why.
2. Almost everyone has abandonment or rejection issues. Don't let those issues rule you.
It's so easy to be swayed by the fear that someone will reject us if we do something different from how they would do it or say it. It's so easy to unknowingly compromise who we are and what we want to make the people we care about happy. It's so easy to fall under the influence of the other person's fear of rejection and seek to appease them. It's really important to see this fear when it comes up, recognize it for what it is, and stay grounded in our sense of self, though, listening to what our hearts want and what they say is right. Otherwise, we lose ourselves, and when it comes down to it, we're the only ones we've got! Trust me when I say, dear one, that you are worth holding onto; you are worth being who you naturally are; you are worth being loved for your true self. The right people won't walk away from you when you are honestly you. Anyone else doesn't matter.
3. Self-love is like gold. And it always needs to come first.
I like to think of self-love as applying the love, respect, protection, and care that you'd give to your mom, grandma, baby sister, and best friend to yourself. It means protecting ourselves from people who would mistreat us just like we'd protect a best friend from a bully. It means making the time and space to provide nourishing and enjoyable experiences for ourselves (for me, that includes time to write, time to get enough sleep, time to enjoy my morning cup of coffee or chai tea in peace and quiet, time to attend the spiritual center in my neighborhood, etc. In other words, I find the things that make me deeply happy and I make ME time.) It means not settling for less love and kindness, from the people in your life, than you have to offer in return. Life is easier and brighter and much more fun when you know you are worthy of the best that your life has to offer.
4. Fake it until you make it.
This rule has saved my butt so many times! I heard it for the first time about 20 years ago, when I was only 16, and it quickly became one of my favorite pieces of simple wisdom. When we feel like we can't make it through something, we can PRETEND. We can "put on" the bravery (or confidence, humility, kindness, what-have-you) needed to make it through anything. Even cooler, practice makes perfect; the more you fake it until you make it, the more you make the experience into a habit that comes naturally. All of our behaviors are just habits in the first place, after all. We can unlearn old habits by reinforcing new ones through practice. In many ways, it's up to us who we want to be!
5. Prioritize for the present and the future.
One of the keys to happiness in life is savoring the moments while they last, savoring the small things, and making time to savor the things that make us happy. Although it doesn't seem possible when we're younger, as we get older, time starts to fly by. Four years from now, for example, will be here before we know it, no matter how we spend that time. Enjoying the process while building for your future makes life easier and happier. Building for your future means creating a strong foundation of things that enrich us: creating lasting friendships and relationships, discovering what we love to do and how to make a good living off it (what did you love to do as a child? That's often what comes most naturally to us and is even maybe our calling... How can you turn it into a career?), and creating a stable routine in our lives of balance between work and play. The things we want and need are worth working for in a loving, fulfilling way.
6. This life is yours. And when it's over, there's no getting it back. Make the most of it!
Make it what YOU want it to be and don't let anyone talk you out of that. Even if it means making other people uncomfortable, this is your life and not theirs. I often ask myself, "What will I regret not having done in my life when I'm 89 and looking back? Who do I want to have been when it's almost all over?" What do you want your life to look like in the end? What do you want your life's message to have been? What do you have to do to make those things happen? Who is already succeeding in these areas? Observe them, and only people succeeding in their fields/hobbies/dreams, whenever possible.
7. Have the courage to be true to yourself.
You are your greatest asset; you're the one thing that's most important to your entire life. Let your light shine. No one else has the perspective, voice, and heart you brought into the world. We all need you to share those things the way only you can. Furthermore, everything in society will tell you you're not enough. That's a load of greed-based crap. They want to keep you afraid, insecure, and longing to be more so that you never realize you're perfect as you are. I repeat, you're perfect as you are.