Words of wisdom for my younger self
You know me, never one to pass up an opportunity for reflection and growth. Here I stand, loud and proud, flying high into the 40’s club and with good reason. I’m owning all my flaws and quirks, embracing my ageing body with confidence and sitting comfortably in a mind that’s never been more sure. What’s not to love?
Nestled on my little perch, proudly owning this body and mind I’ve been blessed to nurture, I can see my younger self in the distance. Watching on, I can see the stories I used to feed my mind. The unrealistic expectations I’d place on myself. The endless yearning for acceptance and love. The dialogue that trapped me, stopping me in my tracks for days on end. The cycle of destructive behaviour and unhealthy relationships.
Excuse me while I adjust my bra strap and pull my comfy leggings up over my curvy stomach. Bugger, is that a chin hair I can see? Don’t mind me while I pluck that little beauty in-between paragraphs. It’s about time I used this wonderful wisdom I’ve recently acquired, to share with you some ground-breaking advice I wish I could tell my younger self. *Funny enough, I’ve heard many women reach 40 and also have very similar revelations.
I know right now, how you look is an important part of fitting in. It helps you feel accepted, part of the group. It forms a huge part of your identity and self-worth, plus if all the girls in the magazines look a certain way, then, of course, you should too.
But here’s the thing, no look or style should ever come at a personal cost. Don’t exercise to look a certain way, exercise to feel a certain way. Don’t restrict what you eat to be a certain size, because as life will have it, your body shape is unique to you, and it will change and continue to do so, no matter how hard you try to stop it.
Right now, so much of your sense of self is caught up in your appearance. But as you get older, you’ll discover that no matter how you look, best friends will be found in the company of those who love you for your authentic self.
When we’re younger we gather up all the likes, shares and comments and think that they are the key to our self-worth. The more affirmations outside of ourselves, the better we feel. Here’s the thing, endless outpourings of love will never be enough to fill an empty cup of self-love, it all comes from within.
While external acceptance makes us feel good for a while, deep down, what our mind and body need is self-love. The kind of acceptance that comes from within. The kind that puts our mind at ease and reassures those niggling doubts. It starts with loving who you are, accepting who you are and pumping up your own tyres.
The best part is, as you get older, you begin to give fewer shits about what other people think. You start to embrace the space you’re in and begin the journey of self-love and discovery with complete confidence.
Less is more. Wait, before you skip over this section, let me explain. When we’re younger we tend to gather in groups, like a herd of sheep or a school of fish. There’s protection in numbers and we stand out less if we can hide amongst a group. We all do it, we gather in groups, it’s our protective armour.
But, friendships in large groups are tough. Real tough! It’s hard to form close bonds with individuals within groups when you’re always surrounded by many. The best friendships form in small moments, in small groups, away from crowds and away from small talk.
As you travel through life, don’t write off friendships because they don’t look the part or behave a certain way. There’s nothing cool about writing off someone’s story before you’ve even given them a chance to say hello. You’ll discover very quickly that friendships happen in places you weren’t expecting. Let go of any preconceived ideas, ignore the sitcoms and the ‘false’ stereotypes of what friendships should be like and embrace wholeheartedly the realisation that the best friendships happen when you least expect it.
When you experience love for the very first time, do so with an extremely conscious understanding that it will be the most heart-warming and heart-breaking experience at the same time. You’ll fall hard, you’ll forget what life was like before love entered, you’ll make plans bigger than you had ever imagined. Know that when you crash and you will, that you’ll recover from your heartbreak to discover that you are much stronger and wiser than you were before.
With each heartbreak you endure, you’ll recover. You’ll find your feet and those that love you dearly will help you find your feet. You’ll discover that no matter who you are with, the best kind of people for you are the kind of people that love ALL of you. Your brains. Your journey. Your life.
And when you fall in love, do so knowing that no love is ever powerful enough to change someone. A partnership comes with a respectful understanding that you are two different people. Love alone will not fix an unhealthy relationship. Love alone will not be enough to stop violent behaviour. Love alone, the kind that sees you yearning for their love but nothing’s there, unrequited love, is the hardest love of all. Step back, walk away and breathe. Be cushioned by your own self-love and those who love you dearly. Breathe.
Despite what you might think, you are not immune. Although you are tempted to try all the things, some things are not worth trying and may harm you in ways you can’t fix. Now as I look back, with my wise owl eyes, I am fortunate enough to have a few tips up my sleeve.
Drugs are dangerous and despite the temptation, you never can be sure what’s inside. Don’t trust friends of friends, or feel pressured to fit in, when you mess with drugs, things can turn ugly very quickly. Steer clear and if all else fails use these tried and tested solutions.
Walk away, just like that. Make a mad dash to the toilet, to the bus, to your home, just walk away.
Say you can’t because you have a game tomorrow. Make up a lie if you need and sport is a great excuse in these situations.
Say it’s not for you. Just like that. Firm and assertive. “It’s not for me”.
You’ll discover over time the friends that are more likely to engage in risky behaviours, use your best judgment to avoid situations that may place you in a tricky situation. Before you screw up your nose and walk away, remember that your mother was once a young lass. Your one-stop-shop for advice and a listening ear is a trusted adult. You’ll be surprised at how unsurprised they are…after all, they were young once too.
All risks carry consequences, some greater than others. Some with long-term damaging consequences that leave a permanent scar on your mind and body. Tread carefully and listen intently to your gut. It has and always will be your biggest aide when things feel unsafe.
Looking back I can see I was the master at the drama dodge. Working tirelessly to avoid drama in school at all costs. Partly because I couldn’t be bothered and partly because I liked to keep the peace. Flitting between groups as situations seemed precarious and dodging friendship blow-ups as they arose. It worked, it was sustainable and it meant I didn’t have to engage in lunchtime torment when it erupted.
Yes, it meant I didn’t stick around to sort out other people’s stuff. Yes, it meant I weaved in and around friendship circles like a butterfly. But it also offered this, a huge network of mates within the school space that I called friends.
Here’s the thing, I learnt early on that when a few girls get nasty, it grows ugly. I realised pretty quickly, I didn’t like the ramifications of being caught up in dialogue that was unkind and cruel. It was also very sporadic. One-minute friends were holding hands and scratching each other’s backs, the next they were pulling hair and stabbing each other in the back. Go figure!
Dramas don’t disappear as you get older. In fact, I’ve seen some pretty feral situations in the workplace. I can tell you this, honesty and kindness win every time. I can also tell you that school gossip, office gossip, family gossip, has the same undertones of ugly they’re just in different settings.
My biggest rule of thumb – don’t engage. My second acknowledgement, if someone’s happy to whine and moan about someone behind their back, it’s safe to say they’re happy to do the same to you, behind your back.
Skip the trivial mean talk. Divert the discussion if you have to and call out bitchy dialogue by stating the obvious. It takes guts to deal with difficult conversations and bravery to stand up for what’s right, but it will hold you in good stead.
Forty is looking mighty fine up here. I have to say, it comes with a healthy dose of wisdom and a hell of a lot of confidence. What’s not to love about embracing your whole self? As a young woman it’s freeing to know that with each year older, we grow a little wiser. With each new realisation, we settle back comfortably in our skin and feel more at home. As the wrinkles settle in and the grey hairs sprout, so too does a healthy dose of acceptance and self-love. If 40 feels this good, bring on 50!