A Talk with My Younger Self: Five Ideas that Strengthen and Provoke
BY JEAN MARIE JOHNSON
I look over the landscape of my lived decades with pride, amazement, sadness, and also an occasional but profound “What in the world were you thinking?” It is as if I’ve lived many lives within this one, connected span of years, tracked on the surface by the height of my stilettos, the length of my hair, my changing surname, address, job, and all of the innumerable details that make up a chapter in time. I want to open every one of these chapters and sit my younger self down for a chat. I want to affirm her, praise her, console her, and yes, share with her what I know now, that I wish I knew then. I want to tell her this one thing, above all else: No matter what, it will be okay. No. Matter. What.
When I reached out to my She-Circle, I found I wasn’t alone. My wise-woman friends also want to take that sacred journey backwards in time, to speak with understanding and compassion to their younger selves. And while that isn’t really possible, what we can do is put it out there so that every woman might come to trust that no matter what, it will be okay. No. Matter. What.
“Find strength in knowing that one continues, regardless.” There are moments when you may doubt your ability to scratch your way back up from the abyss of loss, grief, or despair, but you will. Know that there is more beyond. When this truth fills your knowing and quiets the doubt, you will do what you need to do. You will move forward, one incremental step at a time.
“Understand that when you feel insecure, you are not broken.” You may sometimes confuse feeling like you are “not enough” with being fundamentally flawed or broken. This false idea will mess with you and keep you stuck. The mere presence of breath confirms that you are not broken. Draw strength from it. Trust it. You don’t need to have all of the answers right now. It doesn’t work like that. Trust yourself to figure things out, one “thing” at a time.
“Recognize your fear of seeing yourself differently.” Change, chosen or thrust upon you, may rattle your sense of self, leaving you feeling uncertain and unmoored. Know that it is only the fear that comes with seeing – and experiencing – yourself in a new way. Who you are doesn’t change; how you manifest, does. There is beauty and possibility in that; take one step at a time as you stay connected to your core.
“Don’t be afraid to announce yourself as you reinvent yourself.” As a woman, you will “reinvent” yourself throughout your life cycle. You won’t always feel ready-enough, good-enough. You may feel like an imposter. Resist the urge to minimize the person you are becoming. Once you claim her, you will begin to believe her. Once you believe her, you will own her, acting and choosing in accordance with who she is.
“Never stop pursuing the most authentic version of you.” Learn to recognize when you are over-adapting and contorting yourself to fit someone else’s idea of who should be. Never distance yourself from the true you, the one and only you. When you find that you have strayed, forgive yourself and go back home to the true source of your greatness.
And one more thing, Younger Self, check in with me when you get here to let me know what I left out – what you wish I’d told you.