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What I’d Tell My Younger Self

Eva Amurri shares what she'd tell her younger self

Sometimes I come across a photo of myself from ten or fifteen years ago, and the emotions I feel looking at it catch me off guard. When I look at my younger self, I see the confusion, the anxieties, and fears, the pain of working through so many things for myself and others.  Most of all, I see a young woman who really and truly thought she had a lot of things figured out.

It couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

Now, at 35, I am some failed relationships lighter, my lap is more full with children I birthed and nurtured, my mind is much quieter, and my heart has been cracked vastly wider open. I’m more hardened in some ways, but much softer in others. Most of all, the love I have for myself is the most strikingly different.  I feel so grateful to have made it where I am from where I was.

I think a lot of personal transformation does come with age and experience. Getting older is such a blessing, and gives us context for a lot of the experiences we’ve had and are having. I actually have quite a few younger followers, and I get asked a lot what I would tell my younger self, and what some of the bigger lessons are that I’ve learned. Today I thought I would share some insights that I’ve developed over time.

As with anything I share, these are of course my personal opinions and realizations I’ve developed over my own life. If some of them speak to you or inspire you, great! If you feel that they don’t resonate with you at all, that’s fine too. I wish as a younger woman that I had the chance to read other women’s honest “hindsights” as I went on my own journey—I would love if you share some of the things you’d tell YOUR younger self in the comments below!

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Go To Therapy

If there’s one thing I could change in my life, it would be to have started therapy much sooner. I had so much to work through, and traumas to process, and it brings me to tears to remember my younger self walking around with so much masked pain and more anxiety than necessary.  I wish I had invested the time, money, and energy in diving deeper into my history and my thoughts and relationships with a licensed professional instead of deciding I knew how to handle it all on my own.

A big piece of advice when it comes to therapy: a relationship with a therapist is like any relationship. It’s not one size fits all! If you find a therapist but just aren’t vibing or they aren’t challenging you to dig deeper, move on and find somebody else! You’ll find the right fit and your self-growth will be amazing.

 

You’re Not As Grown As You Think

When I look back at all the things I felt like I was old or mature enough to do at a young age, not least of which was GETTING MARRIED (at 26), I can’t believe that I really felt ready to make such big decisions.  Most decisions that I made in my early twenties I barely even gave much consideration to. I would think it over, and then make my decision without really weighing a lot of other opinions or experiences from other people.

I really and truly believed that I knew it all. Or, maybe, I was too scared to ask for help and realize that I didn’t know it all.

In any case, I wish that I understood that it was ok not to have it all figured out, and that it was normal to not have every answer. I’m such a perfectionist that it was hard for me to accept that I might need help. I wish I had let other people into my decision-making processes more, or at least given myself a little grace to be the evolving person that I actually was at that time.

 

Normalize Making Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s part of figuring out who you are, what matters to you, and your moral bottom line. Making poor choices doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s all about learning from your mistakes and moving forward.

I spent my twenties absolutely TERRIFIED of making mistakes. I needed to be perfect and for all of my choices to be “good”. Of course, no human is perfect by any means, so when I’d make mistakes (big or small), they would absolutely devastate and humiliate me. Way more than what is normal. As a result, it became really hard to grow from totally normal, human mistakes because I was so resistant to even the idea of making mistakes. I would spend more energy feeling guilty than I would actually process my choices. What a waste of energy! I think it’s so important that all people normalize making mistakes, but particularly people in their twenties.

That decade is there to figure out yourself and your boundaries, and the only way you develop those things is through experience!

 

It’s Ok To Move On From Friendships

Growing apart is a sad but very real part of moving through life and growing older. It’s normal for a friendship that felt good in your twenties to not feel so good anymore in your thirties. It’s normal to grow at different paces than people in your life, and it’s totally OK to want to surround yourself with people who are on the same page as you are. In my life, I’ve had to let go of quite a few toxic relationships. I’ve been dumped as a friend too, for the record.

It’s always agonizing when it’s happening—but in the entire history of my life, I have never looked back on a former friendship and thought, “man, I wish that person was still in my life.” Of course, I have moments when I miss certain things about that person, or reflect fondly on some memories. But overall, I’ve never regretted it. I truly believe that the right friendships should feel easy and nourishing to the soul.

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Pick Your Career, Don’t Let It Pick You

I learned the hard way that it’s really easy to get trapped on the proverbial Hamster Wheel when it comes to your career.  Most people just expect you to put one foot in front of the other on the most predictable path of whatever road you started.  If you’re not happy, it’s easy to get swept along on the conveyor belt regardless, and then to look up one day and be working at a career you don’t really feel fulfilled by.

This is what happened to me with Acting.

One day I’ll write a more detailed blog post, but I wish instead of just following the herd around me that I had asked myself some hard questions about what I truly wanted in life, and what I actually enjoyed doing every day. Because guess what? Nobody else around you is going to be rocking the boat and asking you those kind of hard questions. There isn’t some magical mentor who will drop out of the clouds to take you under their wing and turn you into the best possible version of whatever career you’re chasing. That kind of drive and energy has to come from you.

I had some wonderful moments during my 15-year acting career, but the business side of it made me feel dejected all of the time. It made me lose the joys of the work. I knew I needed to do something for a living that would make me feel the way about myself that I wanted my daughter to emulate.  I started over in my career at 30 years old and learned more about myself in the process than I have from any other life decision I’ve made. I was terrified at the time, but I knew that I wanted to feel more fulfillment and pride than what I was feeling back then.  I’m so grateful that I took that leap of faith.

 

If It Looks Like A Duck And Quacks Like A Duck, It’s A Duck

Trust. Your. Insticts.

Listen to your moral compass. If something seems or feels a certain way, it is probably that way. If something feels off to you, it’s ok to say No. That includes people, friendships, business opportunities, or sexual encounters. Your gut instinct is the most precious thing you own and don’t be afraid of it!

 

Keep Mementos

This is a silly one, maybe, but an important one nonetheless. As I get older, I get more and more moved by mementos from my past. Concert tickets, polaroids, notes or letters, or postcards received. Journals and Diaries from my past reveal stories and even people that I would never have remembered.  I think it’s important to save these things. You think you’ll always remember something, that it’s seared in your memory, but trust me…decades later you really won’t.

I’ve started saving more important things here and there. Even if not for me, then for my kids to peruse or laugh about one day. Life is so beautiful in retrospect, even the challenging moments. It’s wonderful to look back and see how far you’ve come.

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Photographs by Julia Dags | Happily Eva After, Inc. © 2021 All Rights Reserved

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23 Comments

  1. Jessie says:

    I would tell my younger self to start saving money from the first paycheck out of college. The time value of money is a powerful thing! Max out your 401K and save everything you can!

    02.09.21 Reply
    • Victoria says:

      🙌🏻

      02.09.21 Reply
  2. Jordyn says:

    I wish I had had deeper, more meaningful conversations with my older family members when I was younger. Now that I am almost 40, I am curious about my grandparents and their lives and what made them who they were, and they are no longer around to answer those questions.

    02.09.21 Reply
    • Tyler Anne says:

      Yes!! This is a big regret! Talk to your people while you still can!

      02.09.21 Reply
  3. Jen says:

    As someone who’s going to turn 53 I would tell my younger self your parents are unhealthy and flawed and you have to be careful in who you select for a mate because of that. I would also tell her about other peoples projections and not to always assume that it’s her fault. Just because you are scapegoated doesn’t mean other peoples perceptions are accurate. Look around you and if somethings seems wrong trust your gut and just try to do better than others as a partner and a parent. I would also tell her don’t worry you’re gonna take amazing care of yourself when you get older And feel that you’ve earned the right! I would tell her to do it earlier a lot earlier! Thank you for this Eva

    02.09.21 Reply
  4. Alyssa says:

    I’m 32 and I agree with you, I could only dream of being able to read something like this in my 20s so thank you for sharing! I think the biggest lesson I have learned is that you need to make choices that lead to a life you want not the life everyone else around you thinks you should have. I spent so much of my 20s trying to do the things that made others happy and in the end I was miserable, but that misery lead me to therapy and it was the best decision of my life! I now realize that if those around me can see that I am truly happy with my life then they will be happy for me, even if they don’t understand some of my decisions. There is nothing better then being able to lay in bed after a hard day and still know that it is the life you have dreamed of!

    02.09.21 Reply
  5. Tyler Anne says:

    I agree with so much of this from personal experience, as a 42 year old! I only just in the last year did therapy for the first time and started on an anti-anxiety medication that I probably should have been on for at least the past 10-15 years!!

    Another thing is not to compare yourself to others! Easier said than done, but your friends (and certainly people on the internet) are on their own path and it’s okay if yours looks different!! And if you have a friend that makes you feel bad, especially if they SAY things that make you feel bad – let them go!! I learned that early fortunately and it has kept a lot of unnecessary drama out of my life!!

    Thank you for sharing such a personal post Eva!! Great advice!

    02.09.21 Reply
  6. Nat says:

    This is so great. I would tell myself to be confident in who I am. Like you, I now look back and think that 20 year old girl knew nothing at all, but the strange thing as much as parts of me have come a long way, I am still the same person. My beliefs are the same, I’m just better equipped at defending them and am more confident in them. I wish I would have more more selfish and inward focused which is a crazy thing to say to a young person who is often selfish ha, but I wasn’t doing things for me, I was doing things I thought I was supposed to do. Even at that time I remember feeling not okay with it, but sometimes it’s just about survival. I’ve also learned to let go of people and be okay with that. I’m trying to look ahead and think of what my 40 year old self would tell me and I can’t help but think think would say…you’re still young, you still have time! As much as I think youth is often wasted in insecurity, this whole life is a journey we can chose to enjoy.

    02.09.21 Reply
  7. Rinata says:

    I would tell my younger self that your critiques of yourself fall into two categories – 1. The things you can work on and improve and 2. The things you need to embrace and learn to appreciate. It’s hard to differentiate those two and you begin to just hate yourself. But the “love yourself” movement isn’t perfect either because it’s totally okay to want to change! You just need to distinguish between the positive changes and the changes that based on negativity. Hope that makes sense!

    02.09.21 Reply
  8. Meaghan says:

    Oy. I’m with you in the “perfectionist” boat. So I’d tell my younger self to be braver, chill out and to take risks. I thought I needed another person with me at all times, but I know, deep down, I’m strong and I can do it alone. I’m still hoping to get there. To be confident, have fun, and love, trust and forgive myself.

    02.09.21 Reply
  9. Mallory says:

    This is such a wonderful post, Eva. So much resonates with my own experience.

    First of all, therapy, therapy, therapy. I wish I had started going to therapy so much earlier than I did. It took an extremely traumatic experience + a year before I started going at 29. It has truly been life changing and life giving. Everyone should go. Even if just to talk and get things off your chest. It’s surprising the resentments we can hold onto subconsciously.

    Also, yes to all of the perfectionism and career points- that all ties into the fear of making mistakes. All through my twenties I felt so unfulfilled and like I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Well, I did know, but I was ignoring it because it was scary and I didn’t think I could do it, was afraid of failing. Now, at 31, I have just decided to go for it and putting it out there was terrifying, but I have never felt so at peace. And honestly, at this point, I really don’t care if I fail (and spoiler alert, no one else does either). Being comfortable is not worth the “what if”.

    02.09.21 Reply
  10. Anna says:

    I agree with a lot of the things you mentioned, especially about mistakes. I would also tell my younger self to save money, even when you can’t save very much. Every penny really does count and you never know what the future holds. I would also stress the importance of taking care of your body in every possible way because you only get one, after all. Not only exercising and eating healthy, but also taking care of your mental health and continuing to learn and grow. The biggest mistakes I’ve made in my life were because I didn’t value my body (again, mentally and physically) the way I should have.

    02.09.21 Reply
  11. Tara says:

    So much of this resonates with me! We are the same age and a lot of it really hit home.. specifically not wanting to make mistakes. I would tell my younger self to travel more
    and take a few more risks in my mid-late 20’s before I had kids at 30. I would also tell
    myself most of what I was worried about was not worth the time or energy I gave it and to be as understanding, patient, and kind to myself as I tried to be with others.

    02.09.21 Reply
  12. Glenda says:

    I’d tell my 20 yr old self:
    Don’t stress out, it’ll all work out in the end as it’s supposed to happen.
    Breath!
    Travel and have fun!
    Don’t save things for a special occasion, the fact that you’re alive is a special occasion.

    02.09.21 Reply
  13. Ann Marie says:

    Don’t compound your mistakes by living with things you can change. I made some bad choices in my early 30’s with respect to relationships, both romantic and platonic. Sometimes in the moment you feel stuck. In my mind at the time, being in my early 30’s, I thought I was too old or too far down a particular path. I sought to fix what I was in instead of realizing I needed to move on to something else. Now 40, I realize you can always change. Unless a relationship is making you happy, leave. If you miss a friend, say so. I’m grateful that somehow it all worked out for me, but I lived with choices that were not right for me for longer than I had to because I felt “stuck”. You have the power to make your life what you want it to be. Always.

    02.09.21 Reply
  14. Connie zagotti says:

    Take pictures often not just online paper pictures.when people die you will only have pictures left. Eat what you want in moderation. Do what makes you happy don’t worry about making others happy.

    02.09.21 Reply
  15. Carrie says:

    The most important thing I would tell my younger self is to not look for happiness in other people and things. Happiness comes from within, something at 46 I still need to remind myself of regularly.

    02.09.21 Reply
  16. Arleny says:

    As I am in my late 20s now I would def tell my younger self to go to therapy sooner. It’s hard work but in the end you’ll get to know yourselves sooner and learn how to handle your trauma. I honestly feel everyone should give therapy a chance. There are traumas that are passed down through generations. Our parents weren’t perfect. Therapy helps us see why we think and act a certain way even subconsciously. I would also tell myself to do more things that made me happy and not to make others happy. In the end it goes unnoticed and bring no happiness for you.

    02.09.21 Reply
  17. Patti says:

    I just turned 72 yesterday! And that is nuts. I guess I assumed I would be all whobbly and sickly When I got to be “this age”. I could relate to much of what Eva said about the film business but here’s my strongest thought. I am amazed at how my crazy nun/ and family of origin childhood plays in my thoughts still. And I’ve spent much therapy time addressing these issues. I grew up with both parents’ alcohol problems. This whole “let’s keep the secret” thing lead me to narcissistic marriages and friendships. I’m aware now. But man. It’s sad. It’s sad that my parents died too young. That both brothers died from the disease. It will always be just plain sad…

    02.09.21 Reply
  18. Patti says:

    I just turned 72 yesterday! And that is nuts. I guess I assumed I would be all whobbly and sickly When I got to be “this age”. I could relate to much of what Eva said about the film business but here’s my strongest thought. I am amazed at how my crazy nun/ and family of origin childhood plays in my thoughts still. And I’ve spent much therapy time addressing these issues. I grew up with both parents’ alcohol problems. This whole “let’s keep the secret” thing lead me to narcissistic marriages and friendships. I’m aware now. But man. It’s sad. It’s sad that my parents died too young. That both brothers died from the disease. It will always be just plain sad…I guess I would tell my younger self just that. And be kinder to myself about healing…

    02.09.21 Reply
  19. Michaela says:

    Very wise 34 year old here.

    Don’t marry your high school/college sweetheart just because it feels like the next step. Wait for the person who really makes you feel whole, they’re out there somewhere. Found the love of my life shortly after my divorce in my 20s and regret that he doesn’t get the fully trusting version of me that used to exist. I hate that he still has a guarded version of me after 12 years together.

    Don’t wait for the perfect timing for everything. Infertility is real and exhausting. Life isn’t going to go according to your ideal timeline, so embrace the journey and go with the flow more. Just make sure you have an emergency fund and you’ll be okay with anything life throws at you.

    02.10.21 Reply
  20. Alex says:

    This hit me so hard. I am exactly the same when it comes to normalizing my mistakes. And now, at 33, I finally started therapy and am working towards forgiving myself for even the SILLIEST of things I did or said 20 years ago. I’ve always felt more than others (is what I like to say). I bury mistakes in me and let them control how I feel about myself. But, I can say I am finally working towards letting that go. Thank you for your honesty. My kids and I love waking up and seeing what the three Ms will do each day.

    02.10.21 Reply
  21. Rachel S Welker says:

    I would tell myself to take chances, to travel more and to not be afraid of what people think of me. Everyone is too worried about what the people around them are thinking but they don’t realize that those same people have the same worries and so aren’t really thinking about you at all. Also, don’t take shit from your peers! Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries!!!

    03.02.21 Reply