“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 15-year-old self,
You probably think that writing letters to yourself is “uncool” and you might be looking over your shoulder to make sure nobody sees this.
Get over yourself.
Nobody (and I mean nobody) is paying attention to what you’re doing. You’re a sophomore in high school. Everybody is just as obsessed with their self-image as you are. Everyone is way too preoccupied with their own insecurities, triumphs, failures and perceived flaws to even see yours.
Everyone is way too preoccupied with their own insecurities, triumphs, failures and perceived flaws to even see yours.
I know this might come as a surprise, since you’re always worried about how you’re being perceived by your peers, but trust me. Care a little less, and you’ll be surprised how liberating it is.
I don’t blame you for over-analyzing every detail of your conversations with people, how you look as you walk down the hall or the way your braces seem to stand out in every photo you take. You’re a very anxious teenager at the ripe age of 15.
That being said, this letter isn’t meant to shame you in any way. Rather, it is meant to serve as a welcome reminder for me, your 20-year-old self, to stop caring so much.
[This letter] is meant to serve as a welcome reminder for me, your 20-year-old self, to stop caring so much.
Stop caring so much about making other people happy. Stop giving 100 percent to people who refuse to give you so much as 75 percent. These are what are called toxic relationships. The world is full of them. Spare yourself the wasted time on lack of reciprocity and adopt a new way of thinking. I’m not encouraging you to abandon people—that’s never been our style—but I am saying to rethink the way in which you practice loyalty.
You pride yourself on your loyalty, on your ability to be there for your friends and family through absolutely anything. However, you often let this loyalty outweigh your own happiness. We deserve better.
We deserve better.
But five years later, you still struggle with this. It’s who you are, who we are. You’d much rather listen to other people talk, to let other people be the star of the show or to work through someone else’s emotions for hours instead of asking for help for yourself. You’re getting better though. That’s encouraging, right?
In a few years, you’ll move cities and completely change your life. You’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been. You’ll find out quickly that the key to being happy is simply to stop caring about what others think. It’s not worrying about the joke that may have fallen flat or how you look presenting in front of the class. It’s ultimately being friends with people you want to be friends with and being the person you want to be.
It’s simple. However, because you’re in high school, it isn’t quite so easy right now.
Humans are egocentric creatures. Chances are your mishaps, as well as your victories get lumped together in everyone’s memories. Stop analyzing everything. Stop comparing every little detail of your life with the perceived lives of the random people passing by in the hall.
Just live, live for yourself and for your friends. Stop losing sleep over what other people think of you. Maybe you care about them more than they care about you. And if that’s true, is caring for people really such a bad thing?
Quit second guessing yourself. Just start living.
Your older self
What advice would you give to your younger self? Have you ever strived for the approval of others?
Image via Annette Zuozo of Made By A