What Advice Would You Give to Your Younger Self?

A bit of introspect since the current state of things allows me plenty of time to look into myself and gain insights into how I can get closer to the person I want to be.

A cousin of mine is getting ready to go to college. She is an amazing young woman. She’s bright, confident, loving…so many adjectives come to mind. She’s simply amazing.

A couple of weeks ago, she posted a question on a social media site. It’s been rattling around in my brain ever since:

Women 30 or older: If you could give one piece of advice to a girl in her 20s (or an 18 year old!), what would it be?

This post never quite left my brain.

I think it’s easy to see someone as bright, confident, loving, amazing…any number of things. And I think it’s not so easy to see that someone that incredible might still struggle sometimes.

If we think of life as a book, we go through one chapter at a time, transitioning from one to the next and the next. If we think about life as a “choose your own adventure” book, our choices determine which chapter we go to next, the outcome is never certain. I think that’s actually more accurate. Each choice we make can change our circumstances, our path. The future isn’t set in stone. And the uncertainty of it all is scary.

Here we have this amazing young woman, facing the uncertainty of the future. Facing going away to college, not being around her support system (and she has a great one) for the first time in her life. Becoming an adult. I can’t say I know exactly what she is feeling, but I am pretty sure that there is a lot of excitement in the mix. And I’d imagine there’s some sadness and more than a little fear. That’s a lot for anyone to go through all at once.

What struck me the most about her post was that she asked. That she is so surrounded by women who care deeply for her that she knew they could help her in this transition in her life. And she asked not just for advice, but for the wisdom and experiences these women could share with her to help her through this transition. I think it showed that, even at such an early age, she has the wisdom to know that she does not have to go through anything alone. That she can always ask for, and based on the numerous responses she received, get the support she needs.

I was also struck by how many women shared their wisdom and experiences with her, giving her the love and support she needs in this time of great transition. And this is what we need more of in this world. Women supporting each other, teaching each other, paying forward the lessons we have learned and support we have received in our own times of transition.

I wish I had known…

When I think about it, there’s a lot I have learned over the years that I wish I had known sooner. Some of these are mine, others credited to another respondents. Each of them struck me as things I wish I had known earlier.

Don’t let anyone make you feel “less than.”

There will always be people who will try to make you feel less pretty, smart, or amazing than you are. Believe in yourself so deeply that they can’t have that power over you. What people say about you, good or bad, is more about them and their beliefs than it is about you. When someone says something bad about you there is something about their own personal beliefs that make them think that thing is true. But just because they believe something is true…doesn’t mean that it is. While we can try to show them differently, we cannot change what other people believe unless they want to change. So believe in yourself deeply, and always do your best.

Always do your best…

But accept that your best today might be different from your best tomorrow or another day. When you’re tired or overwhelmed or stressed, it’s harder to give as much as you can on days when you’re feeling great. At the end of the day, if you have done the best you can given the circumstances, you’ve done great. If you believe that you have done your best, you can’t judge yourself as being bad for not doing as well as you did on another day.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

They happen. They are not failures. What you learn from them is what matters. Don’t let a fear of making mistakes stop you from trying.

Be impeccable with your word.

This comes from a book of Toltec wisdom (The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz), one that gave me a lot of personal insights. It’s a short read but packs a lot of power. I highly recommend it.

The book describes sin as a rejection of ourselves. Doing things that go against ourselves, self-harm (but not always physical harm, if that makes sense). To be impeccable is to be without sin.

Words are power. They allow us to communicate our thoughts, feelings, needs, and opinions. Being impeccable with your word isn’t about keeping your word, doing something when you say you will (you should, whenever possible, don’t get me wrong). Being impeccable with your word means don’t use the power of your words against yourself. When you make a mistake and ask yourself “how could I be that stupid” you’re using the power of your words to judge yourself as bad and blame yourself for a mistake. Don’t fall into that trap.

Do you the right thing even if it isn’t the easiest thing.

This one was from her mom. And it’s so true. The right thing to do isn’t always part of the status quo, what we want to do in a situation, or even what our friends want us to do, so it’s not always the easiest thing. The important thing is to make sure that you stay true to yourself and do the right thing. This is what can change the world.

You teach people how to love and treat you by loving yourself.

Also not mine. But man, what a huge revelation. We have to love and respect ourselves to learn what we need to grow and thrive. If we don’t treat ourselves with love and respect, we don’t teach ourselves that we deserve to be treated with love and respect. And we do teach others that it is okay to treat us badly, because we don’t teach ourselves that we deserve better.

You are the author of your own story. Don’t let anyone else hold the pen.

Again, not mine. But one of my favorite pieces of wisdom she received. It really speaks to embracing what makes you unique and staying true to that. Not changing who you are because someone else thinks you should.

Wrapping it up.

I think this post puts a lot of great words around some fairly simple concepts. Well, simple in theory but difficult in practice.

  • Believe in yourself and don’t let any one else shape that belief.
  • Don’t judge yourself based on mistakes or other peoples’ beliefs and experiences.

Is this the secret to ultimate happiness? Maybe. Maybe not. There will always be external influences that change the way we see ourselves and the world around us. But maybe, just maybe, if we fight to see ourselves and the world around us in a more positive light…we’ve at least found the key to being happier.

I’m curious about something. What advice would you give to your younger self?

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