A young woman with curly hair leaning on a table

“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 18-year-old me,

If I could, I would put my hands on your shoulders, look into your eyes and say the words you didn’t even know you were dying to hear.

You are enough.

I see you. I see how hard you work to be as outgoing as the girl next to you in your seminar class in hopes that your college classmates will like you as much as her. I see you rush to the mall to find the cute sneakers she wears every day, hoping you’ll be more popular if you look more like her. I hear how loudly your inner critic berates you when you fall short because no matter how hard you try, you will never be her.

I see you sit alone on a bench in the middle of campus, fighting back tears as you fill pages of your journal with thoughts on craving familiarity and comfort. You’re in this new and confusing stage of life. You have to navigate it without your mother, your closest confidante who breathed her last breath four months prior.

I see your pain and your confusion. I’m sorry I wasn’t more compassionate with you. I’m sorry that I flippantly dismissed your hurts as oversensitivity. I would love to tell you that now, four years later, I am always gracious with you. Yet, admittedly, my pride still gets the better of me, but I’m trying.

I’m learning to listen to your voice. It’s quiet, but it’s strong. You have learned to tell me firmly, yet kindly, what you need. You have developed the confidence to refuse to settle for less.

You have developed the confidence to refuse to settle for less.

I still see you now. I see you discovering and embracing how beautiful your authentic self is. The more you learn to exist without trying to compete with the woman next to you, the more comfortable in your skin you become.

I see you wake up every day with a determination to tear off the shackles of perfectionism. I see you no longer measure your worth by your achievements, accolades or by the number of times you hear “well done” or “good work” that particular day.

I see you embracing your emotions and wading into the deep sea of vulnerability. I see you letting yourself feel deeply and without shame, but being careful not to let your feelings overtake you. I see you becoming and trusting the process more and more each day. I see you slowly but surely turning into a woman that your mother would be so extremely proud of.

I see you becoming and trusting the process more and more each day.

Dear one, if you glean only one thing from me, let it be this: You are enough. No, you are not perfect, and though that is a truth you wrestle with to this day, you are fiercely loved anyway.

While your journey ahead will contain moments, days and even weeks when you slip back into those feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, you will find places to bloom. You will find tables with plenty of room for you to pull up a chair and spaces for you to stretch your wings and occupy every single inch you are given. You won’t have to strive, compare or suppress hard and messy feelings.

You, all of you, can just be. That will be enough.

What advice would you give to your younger self? What wisdom do you wish you knew then?

Image via Aneirys Acevedo Perez

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