You always hear people say, “Hindsight is 20/20.” Well…it is. Especially when you’re thinking back to your 20 year old self.
Thinking back on my 20 year old self is like squeezing a cactus in my hands as hard as I can and not letting go even though I know it’s hurting me. My 20s, mostly my early 20s, were rough. If I had a chance to travel back in time and tell my 20 year old self a thing or two I would. As a matter of fact, I’d tell myself a whole slough of things.
“Self,” I would say, “Self, you need to shape up a bit.” And the conversation would continue from there. Would my 20 year old self listen? I sure hope so. Especially if it were myself telling me that. I’d think there’d be a good reason behind me traveling back in time to tell a younger version of myself something important.
But what would I say? Beyond needing to shape up, what are some things I would tell myself to give myself a leg up?
1. Learn to Love Yourself
I think this is the most brilliant piece of advice I could give my 20 year old self. Really, it’s the most brilliant advice you could give to anyone. The most important task in your life is learning to love yourself. And I say this cautiously because it’s ok to not love yourself sometimes. We all go through phases, but what’s important is that we don’t stay stuck in those phases.
I’d tell myself to love yourself to the deepest, darkest depths because in those dark and scary depths are where we find our true selves. Love the softness of your heart, the rigidity of your mind, and the flaws on your skin. I’d remind myself that it’s ok to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them and move on. Love your laugh, your creativity, your ambition. Love your stubbornness, your affinity for sunsets, and all your flaws. And learn to love yourself even when you’re sad and depressed because in these moments, our weakest moments, we are still whole no matter what. We have everything we need inside of us, we always have. We just have to remember how to use it.
2. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is one of the single most important things you can do for your mental health. Learning to do the things you need to do to take care of yourself is no easy feat, and it’s essential. This is something I’ve been mastering over many years. If I could tell my 20 year old self to engage in self-care I would tell her to take more walks in nature, read more books, spend more one on one time with yourself, use a planner to keep yourself organized, do hard things early in the morning so you don’t spend all day ruminating over it. I’d tell myself to do so many things to care for myself!
Long baths, late night phone chats with friends, paying your bills, completing an “impossible” task, and writing poems in your journal are all forms of self care. Indulge yourself. Take solace in the little things you do for yourself and praise them like they’re big things. Because even the little things you do for yourself can have a big impact. I might even have my 20 year old self check out The Art of Self-Care for a deeper look into my self-care practices.
3. Be single for as long as possible
I’ve dated almost my entire teenage/adult life and that thought freaks me out. I was unable to be alone with myself so I sought out comfort in relationships. Not always the best of relationships, at that. I went from boyfriend to boyfriend without ever truly finding myself. Now that I’m married, I’m still trying to find my self. It’s difficult trying to find yourself and maintain a romantic relationship at the same time. You want to do what you need to do to find yourself, but at the same time you need to remember to be not too selfish and give love and attention to your relationship as well.
I’d tell myself to stay single and find out who you truly are before committing to any sort of a romantic relationship. That way, you can add to the relationship instead of detract from it. And by detract, I mean spending time finding yourself instead of focusing on things like your hobbies, hopes and dreams, career, and relationships. There’s nothing wrong with that, might I add. I’ve found it to be more difficult, though. I’d tell myself to love myself first and put all others behind me because I’m the only person I’ll be living with for my whole life so that makes me the most important person in my life.
4. Find your fierce friends and stick with them
I am still friends with 4 girls I was friends with when I was in my early 20s. Most of my other “friends” fell to the wayside over the years. I’ve learned that a lot of them were party friends. Which is fine, but what we’re looking for here are fierce friendships. Friendships that just won’t quit. Friendships that last. And that’s exactly what I found in these four friends. As I grew older and met my husband, I became friends with his girlfriends and now consider them some of my closest, fiercest friends, too. I don’t know where I’d be without these women.
When letting go or saying goodbye to old friendships, I’d tell myself to let go gracefully and allow myself time to mourn and heal. The death of a friendship can be hard to bare at times. Sometimes, it just happens. When it does, just know that they served their purpose in your life and be grateful for the time you spent together whether it was good or bad.
5. Find what makes you happy
I spent a lot of time doing things I thought made me happy only to find out they were more hurtful. If I could tell my 20 year old self to find what makes her happy I would tell her to find her true self. Find what makes you tick. I’d ask, what are you passionate about? What makes your heart soar? Who inspires you to be a better person? I’d tell her that if you can find what truly makes you happy, you can center your whole life around it and make it work for you. By that, I mean your career, your relationships (friends, family, romantic), your hobbies, your habits, everything revolves around that which makes you happy. If you can do that, you can accomplish anything!
6. Keep a healthy movement or exercise routine
After a couple years in college, I all but gave up on movement and exercise. I say movement because not everything we do to our bodies is considered exercise. Sometimes just moving the body mindfully for a certain period of time is good enough. I would tell my 20 year old self to find what really works for you and stick to it. Something simple, something you can do all year round no matter the weather. I’d probably tell myself to get more into yoga because that works wonders for me now! I’d explain to myself how movement and exercise not only helps the body but keeps your mental health in check, too. It’s important to stick to a good movement and exercise routine because it’s so easy not to. A good routine now makes for a good routine later.
I didn’t spend much time thinking about things in my early 20s. It was more just “do”. I would tell my 20 year old self to meditate because it helps with ADHD, anxiety, and overall mental health. And you’re gonna need it girlfran! Meditation is part of my spiritual practice nowadays. I meditate a couple/few times a week for 10 minutes a session. It’s the only real time my mind isn’t completely racing. Although, it does tend to go off on tangents, it’s easier (with time) to bring myself back to the meditation and the breath. I’d tell myself to meditate on important things like my future, my hobbies, and my career goals. These things are important and help decide your life path! Pay attention!
8. Follow your gut instincts
Wow. If I could have told this to my 20 year old self I would have done it in an instant. There were so many relationships and negative energies that I was holding onto when I was 20. I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I was self-medicating and ignoring any and all of my instincts. All I wanted was to get done with work so I could go party with my friends. If I would have followed my gut instincts, I think I would have had a much easier time navigating my 20s.
I’d tell myself to follow my gut instincts because you have this “knowing” inside of you that always knows exactly what you need, when you need it. I’d teach myself how to read my body so I knew when it was trying to tell me something. Be it something good, bad, indifferent. I’d tell myself to listen carefully, because She knows. She always knows and She always knew. It’s always been inside of you. Dig deep and use it. Allow your instincts to flow freely through you and guide you to where you need to be. Always.
9. Don’t let everyone tell you what to do
You have your parents, your friends, your siblings, your coworkers, your boss, and many more people all telling you what to do and who to be. If I could go back in time and tell myself to not let everyone tell me what to do, I would. I’d tell myself to take what they’re saying into consideration, see how it fits into my life, and make the necessary changes to make their suggestion work for me. Or just trash it completely if it doesn’t vibrate with me. That one’s huge. Letting go of things that no longer serve you. Because someone could have told you something from a long time ago that doesn’t hold true anymore, and it’s time to let it go. People are always going to talk at you, it’s your job to decide what stays and what goes. Not. Everything. Stays!
10. You can do hard things
In the middle of last year I read the book “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle. It was inspiring to say the least. One thing she talked about often was doing hard things and how hard it can be. Of course it’s hard, it’s supposed to be! But she also speaks to the fact that, “we can do hard things.” Hard things can be made easier if we break them down into smaller, bite sized pieces. I would tell myself that and teach myself how to do it. I’d show my 20 year old self that I’m capable of doing hard things and to not be afraid. Don’t be afraid of doing hard things. Once you finish it, the feeling of accomplishment you get is overwhelming.
I heard this story from my counselor and it helps me to do hard things. Once there was a man who was cursed for all eternity to eat a bullfrog everyday. He’d spend his days thinking about how gross the bullfrog was and how anxious it made him to eat it. One day, he told someone about his problem with the bullfrogs and they suggested he eat his bullfrog in the morning. He tried it and noticed his days were less stressful since he was not waiting anxiously all day to eat the bullfrog. He would wake up and eat the bullfrog right away and spend the rest of the day worry free. Think about that the next time you have a hard or impossible task. Do what makes you anxious first thing so you can have the rest of your day to be carefree!
Relating to my 20 year old self
After telling myself those 10 things I think I’d like to stay and chat with my 20 year old self for a while. Feel her out. Get to know her better, and also help her get to know me better. I’d like to think it would be a fruitful conversation. We’d laugh, we’d cry, we’d tell each other our secrets. It would be a very cathartic experience.
If you could go back in time and tell your 20 year old self something, what would it be? I’m very interested to hear what you come up with!
With love and light,