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