What would you like to tell your 15-, 20- or 30-year-old self? What insight would you like to give her to help her live a more contented and abundant life and to avoid some of life’s pains and pitfalls? Below is my first love letter to myself that I wrote back in 2011. No doubt there will be more. Parts of my letter are directed at my younger self – perhaps my 20- or 30-year-old – but other parts are just as relevant to me today, at 40.
May 11, 2011
Always speak your truth. Speak it in love and with respect but always speak your truth. Don’t be afraid of other people’s reactions. If you are staying true to yourself, that’s the best you can do. Don’t worry if people don’t like your truth or if they don’t like you. There’ll be plenty of other people who do. Move on.
Spend plenty of quality time with yourself, in Nature and with God. Cherish this time. It will help you know yourself better, discover your passions and dreams and give you the courage to follow them. It will also help you to find balance.
Seek out a mentor and ask the advice of those who’ve gone before you but don’t do so obsessively. Be selective – too many opinions will leave you confused. The wisdom of mentors, friends, family and peers is valuable but always come back to your heart. What is your heart telling you? If you follow it, you have nothing to lose and at least you’ll know you’ve followed it, even if things don’t turn out the way you’d hoped or planned. And if they don’t turn out the way you planned, accept that was meant to be and that God has something better in store.
Notice what makes your heart sing and do more of it. Believe that you can build a career around it. However, learn discipline and self-control. Be realistic. Live life on life’s terms. If there are bills to be paid, then make sure you do the necessary work but try to find time to pursue your creativity. If you’re soul is dead in a particular job, get out as soon as you can. Life is too short. Other people’s opinions and expectations do not matter if your soul and your heart are speaking clearly to you. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. And once you’ve taken that leap, don’t look back – keep your eyes fixed on today and on what’s ahead. Know your worth, know what you deserve and chase after it.
Observe your behaviours. When you find yourself overeating, under eating, starving, compulsively exercising, binge drinking or over working, take it as a sign that you’re out of kilter. Ask yourself what you’re trying to hide from, what feelings you’re trying to smother. What are you afraid of? The feelings and fears will always be there – it’s better to feel them or walk through them than try to run from them or anaesthetise them with food, alcohol or other behaviours. Share with others and seek help. Value your health and look after it.
If you are putting yourself at risk or in danger, ask yourself why. Thank God every day for keeping you healthy and well and for keeping you out of harm’s way but don’t take that for granted or as a signal to carry on being reckless. So if you’re held up at gunpoint after flagging a Mexican cab off the street, heed the warning – next time, call a licensed taxi. Ask yourself whether the ‘fun’ you think you’re having is actually fun. Are you living life at the extremes? Is it turning into self-harm and what is the cost? Ask for help.
Aim high but practise balance and moderation in all things. Achievement is good but not if it’s only in one area of your life. Ask yourself if your work life is balanced against your social, family, fun, spiritual, creative or romantic life. If not, try to redress the balance. Play is just as important as work and will help you to work more effectively. Place time with family and loved ones above your sense of duty to work or your drive to achieve. Tell those you love that you love them – frequently.
Don’t make rash decisions. Learn not to react. Learn to sit in discomfort and uncertainty. Take time to discover the right course of action instead of responding in a knee-jerk fashion. But then don’t dwell on the past. Learn from your mistakes but don’t ruminate on them. Move on. There are new things to discover and experience. If you fall over, get back up again and start walking.
Listen to the little girl inside you, what does she need? What is she afraid of? Reassure her. Don’t strive for perfection – perfection doesn’t exist, perfection is where you are today.
Cherish each day as an opportunity to grow and to learn. Do something that frightens you a little every day. Reach out to others and offer help and support, particularly when you find yourself spiralling into self-obsession or giving too much importance to trivial things. Maintain a healthy perspective.
And learn to laugh at and with yourself. Hold on to things loosely. Embrace change and practise acceptance. Say No to others to say Yes to yourself. It’s OK to change your mind. Trust your gut, it’s normally pointing you in the right direction. Then ask and pray for the courage to follow it.
From forty, with love.