The 5 Pieces of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self
“Don’t get hung up on what you’re supposed to be doing. Sometimes, the “right” way isn’t right for you, and sometimes the “wrong” way ends up being so much fun. Listen to yourself and believe in the things you want for your life.”– Michelle Romo
My younger self was a complete mess. I struggled completely with managing my mental health. And I didn’t like who I was all that much.
Like most people, my adolescent years were some of the most confusing and toughest of my life. Due to a personal childhood trauma, my mental health struggle regrettably started quite young.
While I suspect I already had anxiety, my personal trauma caused my mental health to take a complete nosedive at the young and tender age of eight.
That trauma changed every single aspect of my life.
And since I was only a child at the time, much of my response to the situation was beyond my control. I had little to no say in how I could react or heal from the trauma.
This paved the way for anxiety, depression, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) to creep in without detection. I was able to lock it away and forget it for the time being, but sooner than later it would catch up with me.
By the time I was a teenager, I was full blown struggling to cope with my declining mental health.
I did everything I could with what I knew but simply didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t have the necessary tools in my toolbelt and was beginning to fall apart. My support system was basically nonexistent and I didn’t have anyone that I felt comfortable going to.
Please note – my goal here is to not bash anyone. But in my family, we didn’t talk about our feelings.
We were generally a quiet and reserved group who had little to say. It’s not anyone’s fault – it’s just how the generations before me were raised and it’s all my parents, and I’m sure their parents knew.
Nevertheless, that’s not what I personally needed.
I had so much within me that was bursting at the seams. This young girl had already gone through so much in her short life that needed immediate attention. But instead, I felt forced to keep it locked away inside.
On top of that, I was left to deal with my issues on my own.
I didn’t even know how to regulate my own emotions, let alone express my feelings. How in the world could I handle the mental health crisis that was looming over me?
The answer is simple – I couldn’t handle it on my own and I would fail.
I was a scared, teenage girl who all she wanted was someone to comfort her and tell her everything was going to be okay. Someone to tell her that she will find her way one day and become proud of the obstacles she faced and overcome.
Someone to tell her that she is beautiful, strong, and courageous.
But those were words that I didn’t hear too often. And I craved them more than anything. I craved validation that I was worthy of love.
Even though I’m still learning and growing every day, over the years I have finally gained some confidence in myself. (And believe me, I still struggle with this.) Anytime I think back to that period in my life, I often wonder what I would say to my younger self and if she would be proud of me.
But with age comes wisdom, right?
So, here are some of the things I would say to my younger self if I had the chance. I’m hopeful she will believe me.
1. Dear younger self – you are enough.
I always felt like I had to prove myself. And that everyone in my life expected that too. Otherwise, I wasn’t adequate and would be a disappointment.
I would constantly hear things like, “get an education – that’s all that matters”, or “I thought you would make something of yourself”, or “what would your dad think if he was still here?”
Statements like these put so much weight on my shoulders that I would just collapse under the pressure and become stuck.
I felt like everyone wanted me to be something great, but just expected little ol’ me to figure it out on my own without any guidance.
This approach may work for some people, but for me, I needed more.
I needed someone to tell me that I was enough just as I was. It didn’t matter if I became ultra successful or led a simple life. Anything that I chose to do would simply be enough.
So, you betcha this is something I would say to my younger self!
You are enough girl, and always will be!
My younger self needed to hear that above anything else. Maybe, just maybe, she would’ve believed in herself more.
Which brings me to the next thing I would say to my younger self…
2. You are capable and have potential.
While I wanted more than anything to just be enough, I also desired to know that I could reach for the stars if I wanted to. ✨
But I wasn’t told either of those things.
Instead, I was told “this is what you should do, now go figure it out. We had to.” The pressure was too great, and I simply didn’t know what to do or which direction I should take.
Without fail, I would hesitate and be too afraid to move forward.
I consistently told myself “You have plenty of time, you’ll figure it out.” But more often than not, I just let the opportunity pass me by.
I regularly found myself quitting anything that I started, even though I really wanted to succeed. I didn’t have the necessary skills, confidence, or support system to get to the finish line or figure out what my true purpose was.
But what my younger self needed to hear was that she could do anything she set her mind to. And that she has all the potential she needs.
I would repeat these words over and over to her again so she wouldn’t doubt herself and falter.
I would also say…
3. You are a beautiful, strong, and courageous young woman.
Adolescence is a difficult and confusing time for anyone. It doesn’t matter where you live, who your family is, or how much money you have.
But for teenage girls in particular, mental health issues can increase the struggle.
Multiple studies have consistently shown that teenage girls are twice as likely to develop depression over teenage boys. While the true cause is unclear, females going through puberty earlier than males seems to be a factor.
As a teenage girl growing up in the early 2000s, my self-esteem was completely shot.
While I already didn’t believe in myself, I also thought I wasn’t pretty or skinny enough. I compared myself to other girls at school, as well as girls/women in magazines and movies.
And while I wasn’t a big girl, there were certain family members that would comment on my weight any time I popped by for a visit. Comments like, “you’ve gained a little bit of weight, haven’t you?”
Because of comments like these, I always felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I consistently told myself I needed to lose weight, or I could never live up to society’s standards.
I also saw myself as someone who was weak, afraid, and way too sensitive. I viewed this sensitivity as a weakness and had a difficult time accepting it as a part of me.
But if I had the chance to speak to my younger self, I would tell her she is beautiful just the way she is. I would tell her that she is one strong gal to make it this far and that she is incredibly brave for having done so.
Never, ever would I let her doubt herself!
The next thing I would say is…
4. Your feelings and trauma are valid. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
As a young child, whenever I expressed my thoughts or feelings, I was told I was whining or that I was throwing a temper tantrum.
But in reality, I was struggling with my mental health.
I truly thought I was being a bad kid and deserved some sort of punishment for my behavior. My heart breaks anytime I think about my younger self dealing with this reality. She was confused, belittled, and dismissed. She had no voice, or any say in her own healing.
No wonder she kept everything to herself.
As such, my younger self thought she was too emotional and that the trauma she endured wasn’t really all that bad. In fact, she should be over it already.
Now I know better.
I know that how I feel really does matter and that my trauma isn’t less than anyone else’s. People deal with their pain in all sorts of ways and heal from things in their own time. It’s perfectly okay that I feel things more deeply. And it’s okay that I’m not yet over my trauma.
Last but not least, I would also say…
5. Stop caring about what everyone else thinks and do what makes YOU happy.
What’s that saying by David Foster Wallace? “You’ll stop worrying what others think about you when you realize how seldom they actually do.” And that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
It only took me 30 years to figure that out!
Everyone else has their own stuff going on that they are usually only concerned with themselves and their personal issues. Once you realize this, you are free from comparing yourself to others.
And that’s where true freedom comes from.
If my younger self had known this, she likely would’ve stepped beyond her comfort zone. She would’ve pursued what drives her instead of doing what she thinks everyone else believes is best.
So, younger self, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. In the end, all that matters is you did what makes you happy.
It’s so easy to look back in hindsight and see what you would’ve done differently. But as a child, it can be difficult to have control over your thoughts and feelings if you aren’t taught how to.
While there are so many things I would go back and tell my younger self, I do like to give her some grace in the process.
I was just a kid, and I was doing the best I could with whatever tools I had at my disposal.
Even though I’ve had my struggles, I like to think my younger self would be proud at how far I’ve come given all the obstacles she had to face.