Have you ever looked at an old picture of yourself and gone back in time to the moment the photo was taken? Wouldn’t it be great if you could go back and share all of the wisdom that you’ve gained with your younger self?
This recently happened to me when I had new headshots done. It’s the first time that I’ve had professional photos taken since my high school senior pictures – 21 years ago. Two of the poses – from then and now – were very similar. I placed them side-by-side and started thinking about all that I have experienced over the past two decades.
In the older photo, I was just entering my senior year of high school, excited about going off to college soon and becoming an adult. I was also uncertain and anxious about my future, and I had learned to keep this trepidation hidden.
I thought it would be fun to write a letter to my younger self and share some of the wisdom that being on this planet for 21 extra years has given me. Not as a way to change anything that’s happened in my life, but as a way to let this younger me know that everything was going to be okay. It’s a really empowering exercise that I highly recommend.
Here is the letter:
When I look at you, I feel your excitement about experiencing everything for the first time. I know that in addition to this excitement, you’re also feeling quite anxious about leaving the nest and entering the “real world.” You aren’t sure what’s ahead, and the unknown scares you.
This is perfectly understandable, and I would love for you to give yourself a huge hug right now and know that what you’re feeling is normal. You don’t have to have it all figured out – not even close. Part of the beauty of life is seeing how it unfolds before you as you go. It’s a mystery to all of us, and we’re only kidding ourselves if we think we have it all figured out. So please go easy on yourself and know that it’s okay not to know what’s going to happen.
You try so hard to do everything right, and you put so much pressure on yourself. I would love for you to know that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to push yourself so hard. You are truly enough just as you are. Your perceived imperfections are actually what make you unique – what make you you. And this specialness is something that I would hope you always embrace.
I would love for you to slow down and realize that life isn’t a race. I know that you feel that you have to do everything in record speed and be the best at it and the brightest. But I am giving you permission to slow down. To just be. To embrace each moment and feel it fully, rather than already moving onto the next. To know that life can only be lived in the present moment, and our soul can only be heard when we are still enough to listen.
You are so strong and so brave. I know that you’re feeling insecure right now and are constantly worried about not being accepted. You’re afraid that you can’t show the world the true you – that you wouldn’t fit in any longer if you did. I promise that the masks you’re wearing can easily be taken off. You can allow your true self to show up in your life – in everything you do. And you’ll be appreciated and loved by those who are meant to be a part of your life. Please stop letting others’ opinions of you change who you are or who you are brave enough to show to the world.
It’s true that not everyone is going to like you. And for a people pleaser, this can be very hard to hear. But it’s also so freeing to hear, isn’t it? Just knowing that no matter what you do or how amazing you are will still not be enough for everyone to embrace you can allow you to give yourself permission to stop trying. To stop walking on eggshells and not sharing your true opinion for fear that you won’t be loved. You will be. You are. And you’ll eventually find your tribe of dear hearts who will embrace you and love you. They’re waiting for you, and it’s such a gift when they show up in your life.
Getting to this tribe of loving souls won’t be easy. I’m not going to lie. Your heart will break. There will be many, many times where you’ll wonder if you’ll be able to love again and feel anything again. Where you’ll want to shut down and crawl into your bed and never come out again. Where you’ll wonder if your heart will ever mend. It will. And you will. These heartaches are some of the most beautiful gifts that you will experience because it means that you were living fully – you were alive. And that is definitely worth it. You are so strong, and you will heal from the hurt and the pain. Please stay open and continue living with an open heart. You love so completely, and that’s such a beautiful gift to give yourself and others.
Focus on this – the love. Rather than what you feel is important right now: grades, cliques, clothes…none of this truly matters. What matters is how much you love. How much joy you allow yourself to feel. How much you help others and give your heart to them. How open you are to the divine within you and all around you. How much you live – each moment of each day. This is what matters. Everything else will fade away – everything else is temporary. What lasts is love, and that’s what I would love for you to know.
And it’s not only loving others that matters. It’s also loving yourself. Really. You’ll spend so many years either ignoring yourself or feeling contempt for yourself. And I would love for you to feel love – rather than picking yourself apart. I would love for you to take the love that you have for others and turn it back toward yourself. I would love for you to look into the mirror and see how beautiful you are – how beautiful your soul is. How you matter and how loving yourself is an essential part of living.
You are worthy of your own love. And all of that shame and guilt that you’ve been carrying around can be released. You don’t need to carry it around any longer. It’s okay to forgive – yourself and others. You don’t have to continue holding onto this pain. It will only make you sick and tired and closed off and numb and bitter and mistrusting and filled with sorrow. I would love for you to see right here in this moment that it’s okay to release this pain and be free of it. It’s okay to soar and to be happy.
It’s so important that you start saying yes to life. I know that you feel so afraid of what’s coming next. I know that you are anxious and filled with trepidation about your future. I know that your default setting is to shy away from anything new and cower from different experiences. I would love for you to at least try saying yes to life. Try embracing life. Try to see it as an adventure rather than a scary place filled with uncertainty. I know now that saying yes is absolutely everything. I know that your soul will light up and will be filled with joy when you do. And that’s what I want more than anything – for you to feel the lightness and freedom that comes from embracing each moment with love.
And I would love for you to know that you are not alone. Anytime you start to worry if you’re strong enough to move forward or brave enough to take that next step, please know that you have an entire team of loved ones – here and beyond – who are waiting in the wings to help you soar. And all you have to do is open up to them and ask for their help.
You are going to have a beautiful life that’s filled with love and openness and awakening and growing. And I am so excited for you to embrace it and really live each moment of it. Stay awake and stay open. Your life is a special one, and I can’t wait for you to experience it fully!
Jodi Chapman is a bestselling author, an award-winning blogger, and a soulful community builder. She lives her life with love and faith in the driver’s seat, and she hopes to leave a trail of inspiration wherever she goes. She believes that we each have the ability to hear our soul’s whisper and create our best lives. She would love to connect with you!