My beautiful stepdaughter is 16, and watching her navigate this space in life is interesting.
She’s not a child, not quite an adult, and is growing in responsibility (learning to drive!), conscious of others around her and more sensitive to their opinions, yet also becoming more aware of what is important to her. Good times (and sometimes not).
I got to thinking about what I’d share with my own 16-year-old self if I could go back in time. Unknowingly close to combustion, following a decade of gymnastics, two upcoming eating disorders and major depression, I was a hot mess (though trying to hold it all together).
In no particular order, here’s what I’d share:
1. Perfect is an illusion. No one is perfect. Everyone has challenges, you just may not be able to see them. No one gets out of life scot-free (and trying to do so would be missing the point: try seeing the challenges as the learning experiences they are, messages to try something different).
2. There is no “there”—there is no place where everything will be easy, you’ll never get angry, and you’ll never feel afraid. “There” is a myth.
3. You’re not doing it wrong. There is no wrong way; all paths are leading you to your ultimate destination. When something feels off, when you appear to “fail,” it’s simply a pointer to adjust your path.
4. You are enough, just as you are. You don’t need to be different or like someone else. You, just as you are, are exactly who you need to be, exactly who the world needs. The universe doesn’t make mistakes about who is here—you are needed. You have something to bring. You are worthy. (And so is everyone else.)
5. You’ve got to take action. The biggest part of life is showing up, doing the footwork. Leave the outcome, and worry about the footwork—the actions you need to take every day for whatever goal or focus you want to accomplish. That will always be enough.
6. Baby steps add up. You’ll hear lots of messages about what you need to do, be, how to do/be it, right now. Let that all go. Focus on taking a small step every day. Baby steps will get you wherever you want to go.
7. Let go of worrying about what everyone else thinks. In truth, they are probably too busy thinking about themselves to really be focusing on you. And if you’re focusing on what others think, you’re distracting yourself from what is really important. Accept it—not everyone is going to like you, agree with you, want to be with you. And that is okay!
8. Bitterness keeps you from flying. Thank you, Tim McGraw! Resentment poisons you from the inside out. Feel the feelings (whatever comes up, it’s neither good nor bad) and then choose what you want to do. Yes, people will “wrong” you, just as you will “wrong” others. It’s going to happen. Feel it, let it flow through, keep moving on.
9. Feel your feelings and emotions. They are messages. They are helpful. People may tell you feelings are good or bad—let those people keep their thoughts about it all. Understand all feelings and emotions are simply messages, pointers, to help you on your path.
10. Ground yourself with a strong health foundation. When you feel crappy, it’s hard to show up, and everything seems worse and harder. Basics every day will help immensely—water, real food, exercise, sleep. Experiment and find what feels good to you (let go of what works for someone else, you’re not them). Make time each day to incorporate those things into your life, even if just for a few minutes. It will make a difference in the long run.
I don’t think these items would have prevented my collapse. And to try and avoid it would be missing the point, I think, as more and more I realize everyone hits some sort of rock bottom in life at least once, and that it can be one of the greatest gifts we get. However, perhaps they would have helped me recover much more quickly. And if nothing else, how weirdly awesome would it be to get a visit from your future self?
Author: Robin Massey
Images: Courtesy of Author, Flickr/Jenavieve
Editors: Catherine Monkman; Yoli Ramazzina