An illustration of a young woman seated on her sofa wearing shades and a designer bag

“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 16-year-old me, 

I know you think you’ve “arrived,” but the next 10 years will teach you otherwise. You are becoming, always becoming. 

Love will hurt, but love will also heal. The magic of that first kiss will grow even stronger 10 years down the road. That boy will become a man. Be patient—patient with him and patient with yourself. 

It all feels so urgent now. Love, life and dreams—your plans and identity deeply wrapped up in them—but good things take time. Keep your hunger, your fire and that pursuit of grace, especially in the messy, lonely spaces. It is raw, unmerited grace that will save you time and time again. 

It is raw, unmerited grace that will save you time and time again.

The path to womanhood and motherhood will be lined with heavy obstacles, but it will still be beautiful. Doctors will tell you some scary words—cancer, surgery and blood clot, just to name a few. Don’t be scared. You will come out on the other side of it all. Weary but resilient, compassionate and soft. 

There will be unspeakable pain and breathtaking beauty. Life will change your plans over and over again, but you will learn the path to joy and the process of healing isn’t one-size-fits-all. 

Some friends will come and go. Some will break your heart in ways you can’t yet imagine, but it’s still worth keeping your heart open. Stay soft. Community will find you and be your saving grace. 

You might start to resent the body you now have no quarrels with. Take heart—this body is a survivor and a book filled with chapters of battles seen and unseen.

You’ll learn to weigh yourself differently. There are other numbers that will tell your story. You will hold space for loss, but you will also hold space for hope. Don’t value your own timeline more than the opportunity for growth. 

You will hold space for loss, but you will also hold space for hope.

You won’t always be “carefree,” but don’t give up the fight to stay free. Layers of shame and expectations will try to smother you—others’ and your own. Don’t accept people’s perceptions of you as the be-all and end-all.

Own your narrative. Yes, the painful messy pieces, too. It is there that you will have the power to change it and rewrite it instead of letting others write their own narrative about your pain. 

I pray you will come to see your body as a living story. The memories, the renovations and storms weathered as part of your history. I pray that you will behold the beauty in others and in yourself instead of listening to society’s definition. I pray that you embrace all the complexities you’ll find in life, in yourself and in the roles you will have. I pray that you will learn that they are not boxes but instead multi-faceted parts of who you are. 

In time, you will learn it is OK for you to take up space. The space you give yourself permission to fill will allow others to take up space of their own. 

16-year-old Hannah, keep dreaming. Know there will be dark and painful spaces you’ll have to walk through, but you’ll come out on the other side. There will be pain, but there will be beauty. There will be missing pieces along the way but also a journey to wholeness.

There will be pain, but there will be beauty.

I pray you see the thread of hope, beauty and grace weaved into your story and these next 10 years that will give you the courage to stand where you are today. 

Your future self

What advice would you give to younger younger self? What do you know now that you wish you could go back and tell her?

Image via Studio Grand-Père

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