A girl prancing through tall grass

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 ourselves.

I see you there, lying in front of your boom box. You are listening to your favorite CDs on repeat (Mariah Carey, 98 Degrees and Destiny’s Child, obviously.) You are feeling the full weight of your freshman year of high school. You’ve never experienced the kind of romantic love that they are singing about, but you’ve had some really intense crushes. Girl, I know you are in it.

Right now, the air has that slight scent of burnt hair, as you’ve also just mastered the art of taming those unruly curls of yours with a flat iron, a tool that you will abuse for years to come as you attempt to blend in and look like the other girls with their silky straight tresses. Side note: You will still struggle with accepting your natural hair even now at 33, but honestly, curly hair suits you so much better. Both your look and your personality. Let it be free. 

Curly hair suits you so much better. Both your look and your personality. Let it be free. 

This past summer you moved across the country from Florida to southern California, starting this school year in a completely foreign state full of exceptionally beautiful people. You didn’t know a soul. You barely do now. (Although that one friend you’ve made the first week of school, she’s a keeper. She’ll be in your life for a long time. She still is.) 

Also, I know you had to start a brand new school in a brand new state with a leg cast due to an unfortunate tripping-while-getting-out-of-the-car-and-breaking-your-foot accident. That was brutal, girl. I have no sage wisdom for you on that one, except to say, you will survive it. 

You’ve also just experienced your first real loss, a childhood friend from back home who passed away in a tragic accident. You are grappling with some really big, hard questions about life and death, God and grief. I wish I could tell you that nearly 20 years later you will have all of the answers, but honestly, you won’t.

You might have found some resolve to some of the things you ask, but new questions will always arise. Dear girl, what I wish for you to understand now is that it’s not bad to question or to have doubt. Find peace in the unknown and the in-between spaces. Though they can be uncomfortable, that is where the magic happens.

Find peace in the unknown and the in-between spaces.

Another thing I want you to know, young one, is that throughout your life you will hear a lot of stories about what being a woman means or should look like and what culture expects of you. I invite you to be discerning in which voices you listen to and what stories you believe. You do not have to be anyone else’s version or ideal of what they think a girl or woman should be. You are loved and lovable just as you are.

There are so many things I wish you knew now, but at the top of the list is that I want you to know that your body is already good, beautiful and acceptable at any size. Your body and its appearance is not what makes you valuable and worthy. Yet also, it is the vessel that will carry you through life, that holds the divine within you. I pray that you learn to treat it well and with care, being kind and gracious toward it and knowing that it is not for anyone else’s consumption or objectification.

I wish that you feel the freedom to take up space in this world. That you have the confidence to use your voice and make yourself known. I wish that the message you receive would be this: You do not have to shrink. You do not have to make yourself smaller. Not your body, not your voice, not your intelligence, not your love. Unapologetically claim your space. Show up for your life.

You do not have to shrink. You do not have to make yourself smaller.

I won’t lie to you, sweet girl, the next 19 years are going to hold a lot of growing pains and heartache. There will be more loss. You will not always feel at home in your body, and you will treat it poorly for too many years. You will make a lot of mistakes. While some you will learn from, others you’ll still be trying to figure out where the lesson was exactly. 

You can’t imagine the amount of beauty, healing and wholeness that is coming your way. There is so much fun and adventure to be had. You have so much love to give and you will do so freely. You will be fiercely loved in return.

Buckle up, sister. Things get real wild from here, in the best possible way. 

The best is yet to come.
Also, wear your sunscreen. Please.  

What words of wisdom do you have for your younger self? What do you wish she knew?

Images via Koty, Darling Issue No. 24

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