“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.
I wish that I could go back and hug you. I know that you would hate it. It would be too close for comfort.
You worry about how you look close up, as you are confident only in heavy makeup smeared on your teenage pimples. You worry about how you feel, “boney” being your best guess. You are as thin as you are supposed to be.
You shower every day. You use deodorant and perfume. Yet, you worry that in these close quarters you might not smell exactly as you should. You worry that if someone gets too close, then you will leave a trace of makeup on them—irrefutable evidence that you are hiding. Your worst fear is that your makeup might wipe off and that a part of you will be seen.
Your worst fear is that your makeup might wipe off and that a part of you will be seen.
You don’t mean to hide, but somewhere along your path, you started looking to the world to tell you who you are. So much so that you can’t find yourself reflected back in the mirror. You know that pimples are a normal part of being a teenager, but the world around you tells you otherwise. With little expertise, you turn to makeup. When your makeup does not look how the world tells you it should, you are unsure of whether you feel more uncomfortable in your mask or in your skin.
Though you know you are smart, you are too embarrassed to admit it. You are not really sure how or where intellect fits in with the image you are trying to portray. You hide away from the hard work at school. Your strength and love for English and art are not enough. The world tells you they are merely hobbies, not career prospects.
Right now, you only consider other people’s opinions of you, not what you think about them. In some way, you have an understanding that you exist uniquely in the mind of every person you meet. You take these innumerable existences and blend them together into your muddied identity. As you are consumed with the opinions of others, each shallow breath you take feels painfully uncertain.
As you are consumed with the opinions of others, each shallow breath you take feels painfully uncertain.
I am writing to you at 28 years old. I know that may seem old, but in reality, it’s not. I do not write to correct or reprimand you, as I know that if you could do anything differently, then you would. I know that if you change anything, then perhaps you won’t grow into your future self. Please know, in the future, you will be happy.
In time, you will find that looking to the world to find yourself is shaky ground. You are right. You do exist differently in the mind of every person you encounter, but none of those versions of you are, in fact, the real you. One day, you will breathe deeply every day and look inward to discover who you really are. You don’t know this now, but your life calling will be defined in the tough moments when you feel lost.
I am writing to say thank you for the pain you carried, not knowing the purpose behind it or that you were finding yourself in it. Now, when someone you love hugs you, you melt into them—grateful that your real self is met with such love.
Most of all, what I want you to know is that I do hug you and often. I hug us tightly. When we part, your worst fear and your truest desire is realized—you are seen for who you truly are.
If you could tell your younger self something, what would you say? Let us know in the comments below.
Image via Rachel Yumi