“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.
You’re an adult(ish) now, and it’s all starting to seem so . . . real. It’s time to get serious about your career and your relationships. There isn’t time to be afraid right now. The “real world” doesn’t care about your feelings.
You’re one of the lucky ones, you think, who learned early not to get caught up in her emotions. You’ve seen others do it—fall head over heels for some guy or be brought to tears over hurt feelings. You’ve felt sorry for them.
They’re just not as logical as you are, you think. What a relief to not be so irrational.
The world will confirm this view for a little while. You’ll see women brushed off at work for being “too emotional.” You’ll see friends ghosted by guys for being “too needy.” Worst of all, you’ll see people you respect get their hopes up about something only to have it fail right out in the open.
You’ll cringe under the weight of their embarrassment. You’ll vow to never be pitied or patronized in that way, and you’ll be great at it. No one will ever call you emotional.
No one will ever call you emotional.
You’ll be praised for your pragmatism at work and no guy will ever claim you’re too needy. If you get your hopes up about a job, a crush or an opportunity, then you’ll stifle it with reason and restraint through your silent process of suffocation.
No one will ever know if what you hope for came true. No one will ever know you hoped for anything at all. No one will ever know you at all.
Eventually, after many years of soul-sucking stoicism, you’ll see how silly this all is. That what you thought was professionalism was just the long reach of patriarchy. What you thought was control was just fear in disguise.
What you thought was control was just fear in disguise.
Your precious logic and reason will serve you well in many ways, but, in an attempt to protect you, they’ll ignore the most basic, beautiful truth—you are a human being. A messy, imperfect, estrogen-empowered human being with tear ducts, smile lines and the capacity to feel more emotions than there are names to describe them.
I tell you this now through tears—not tears of weakness or irrationality, but tears of practiced, grounded strength. Allow yourself to feel.
Let yourself want—that job, a shot with that guy, that dream you thought was too big to be possible and that title you thought you’d never see on a business card under your name. Wanting something doesn’t make you frivolous; it makes you brave, bold and unashamed.
Let yourself hurt. Cry when your heart gets broken, when your boss is a jerk and when you make a mistake that hurts someone you love. Feel the weight of this world’s brokenness and weep. Then, get up the next day and fight for beauty in its place.
Feel the weight of this world’s brokenness and weep. Then, get up the next day and fight for beauty in its place.
Let yourself hope—for something bigger, better and more meaningful and true. Hope out loud and without restraint. Hope in a way that frees others from the same fear that you’re letting go.
Let yourself hurt and hope again. In fact, get that routine down. It will shape the rest of your life.
Don’t throw away the logic or the reason. Anchor yourself with them. Give a voice to your practicality. Then, hand the mic back to the softer, more sensitive you. You’ll find the right balance between them with time, a little practice and a lot of prayer.
Don’t believe the lie that women are weakened by their emotions—at work or anywhere. Bring your whole self into that boardroom, and don’t shrink back or shy away. You are a living, breathing and feeling force to be reckoned with. Someone else’s insecurities have nothing to say about your value.
You are a living, breathing and feeling force to be reckoned with.
Don’t neglect the wild wonder of you. Your heart is a wilderness. In it, you will find the depths of grief, the expanse of joy and a feverish propensity to fall in love with people, places, books, ideas and city streets.
The “real world” is a whole world of real people. Be your real self, your whole self. Be you.