“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.
Dear 22-Year-Old Me,
If there is one truth that I have for you, then it is this: Beauty is not self-evident. It is created. It is earned. It is subjective. It is not static, nor is it fact.
The world will look vastly different to you in a decade, as it is supposed to. You will find that what once made you roll your eyes will transform into a deep desire of your heart and that most of what you know and believe was taught to you by someone or some experience.
Someone will tell you that you will never be more beautiful than you are today at 22. A few years later someone will tell you that you need to get married soon because you’re “on the wrong side of 25.” They’ll both be wrong.
You can wake up at 6 a.m., schlep to the bathroom and look at twenty-something self in the mirror, at your hazel eyes and the freckles on your cheek—one of which will be removed and leave a two inch scar. A scar that you will find beautiful because of what it means to you. You can look at that woman who will feel like a girl most days, and you can decide where she will go, how she will make others feel and mostly, how she will show up for herself.
What you thought were things that entitle you to feel small—those are just stories. Believe them, or don’t. Rewrite them, or don’t. However, you get to decide what is beauty and what is not. You’ll realize that for you, beauty is a feeling. It is a reaction. It lives in your gut.
You get to decide what is beauty and what is not.
Although science may say symmetry creates beauty, you will find a lot of lopsided things to take your breath away. You will even argue about this with your husband one day while decorating your first home (he’s wonderful, you picked a good one!) I’m sure decades after that, you will laugh together again at the smallness of it all. You will learn that to be in the presence of beauty is a practice and that you must put yourself there.
How do we do this, you ask? You show up each day as the person you feel nervous but proud to be. You only pursue that which tugs at your heart. You never allow someone else’s definition of beautiful to outweigh yours. This is the hardest part. The knowing and trusting of the things that you love and that you find worthy. It takes time to discern the “meant for you’s” and the “not meant for you’s.” Let it.
It takes time to discern the ‘meant for yous’ and the ‘not meant for you’s.’
You will certainly feel and have regret, shame, deep sadness and unresolved pain. I’m sure you know where I’m going with this, but that will be beautiful to you one day too. It will prepare you for hard things. It will not make you stronger, but weaker in the most important way. Weaker to the tiny intricacies and miracles of this life that we are so lucky to witness. It will shake you from the inherent sleep we all walk in and awaken you to colors more vivid and moments more rich in texture and meaning.
You will be in awe of your children (don’t worry, you get to have those!) and the shape of their eyelashes. The smell of their hair will bring tears to your eyes. This is beauty. You will venture deep into the corners of your own heart and tear away the layers that hide your most precious fears. You will work daily to absolve yourself of them.
You will use all that useless junk as fodder for making others feel seen and less alone. This will make it, not in fact, useless! This makes you happy. This is beauty.
You will see an old wooden weather-beaten gate one day with an arched trellis above it that has bright pink roses climbing around each board. It will make you think of home and the people who raised you. It will make you smile. This is beauty.
One last thing, my dear, before you go. You are loved. You are worthy. You are beautiful.
Your 32-year-old self