Dear younger self,
Life hasn’t always been easy for you, but not because life is hard, it’s because you are hard on yourself and you are your own biggest critic. You strive for perfection and have yet to realize life is full of beautiful imperfections. You’re 16 and want to be just like everyone else. As I peer into the looking glass, I have so many things I want to tell you.
I want to tell you to put that hair straightener down and let your thick Greek curls run wild. So what if the girls in school all have straight hair? Your curls make you unique.
I want to tell you that what you wear doesn’t matter, and to quit begging your parents for name brand jeans. Once you graduate college you’ll work at a gym where you get to show up in sweats every day, so spend your money on something more valuable, like traveling. Oh, how much you’ll travel in your life! Every road trip you go on and plane you board will take you to a new place and will open your eyes to a different culture and view of the world. Your travels will help you figure out who you are and what you want to be more and more so keep at it and never stop moving forward.
I want to tell you to quit comparing yourself to those around you. Not everything you see online is what it seems. Only the “like” worthy aspects of people’s lives tend to get posted online, so never feel low due to someone else’s highlight reel. I want you to ignore what others are doing and instead focus on living the best life you can. Comparing your life to someone else’s will never satisfy you.
I want to tell you to stop worrying about what the number on the scale reads. Scale weight is just a number and does not define who you are as a person. I also want you to stop worrying about what you look like. Images are distorted and photoshopped in magazines and all over the Internet. It’s so easy for anyone to hide cellulite, thin out body parts and remove blemishes to achieve a flawless look. And it’s not just models and celebrities who get brushed up anymore, soon anyone will have access to the infinite amounts of apps that can alter what we actually look like before a picture is posted online. There’s a filter for everything these days (there’s a new app called Instagram and Valencia is one of your favorite filters), but I hope you are able to see past that and look through life with a clear lens of what is real.
You have insecurities, you’re clumsy, you’ve made mistakes, you’ve had plenty moments of self-doubt, and you’ve been sad more times than you’ll ever admit. But all of that will make you stronger and has made you who you are today.
I’m writing to you a decade later to tell you that everything gets better and you will find your way. You’ve finally learned it was the world that convinced that young and impressionable mind of yours that you should look a certain way and be something you’re not. You were seeking approval from everyone else but yourself for so long. I’m writing to you to tell you you’ve learned some important lessons over these last 10 years that you will eventually share with others like you.
You’ve learned that you’re not the only person with insecurities, and whether people embrace them or not, they’re still there. You’ll eventually learn to embrace yours, and this is when you’ll truly begin to grow and break through your own limits. One day you’ll admit to yourself one of your biggest insecurities was expressing yourself aloud to others. Your voice would creak and your thoughts became jumbled when you expressed your emotions, so you bottled them up. Writing and reading will be your outlet. You also had insecurities about your body image, because at such a young age you were bombarded with images of stick-thin women and your legs and fanny have always been bigger than most. I promise one day you’ll turn those two insecurities into one of the best things you’ve done for yourself—you’ll start a blog titled “My Big Fat Greek Fanny” with the hopes to inspire and encourage as many people as possible to be confident in their own body.
Your blog will ignite more and more curiosity in you and you will research and read more books and articles in one year than you have in your entire life. Through your research, you will discover an important Greek word that you’ve never heard before—philautia.
Philautia means self-love. The ancient Greeks came up with the word and were wise enough to understand there are two kinds of philautia. One version is a narcissistic love for oneself and all the negative attributes people associate with it. The second version is a healthy kind of love we must give ourselves. Self-love is believing that you are worthy, and not basing your worth on what anyone else thinks or says about you. It’s allowing yourself to be who you are and to be true to yourself. It’s accepting who you are and not seeking approval from the rest of the world. Self-love is something you’ve struggled with for nearly your entire life, but you’re not alone. You know your friends, family, and strangers all struggle with self-love in their own way. Just like you, they compare themselves to others and they focus on their flaws instead of seeing their strengths and worry about their appearance, how successful they should be, and care too much about what others think of them.
Younger self, ten years from now you will hope to share the message of the importance of self-love to everyone who struggles with it. If you and others can achieve a healthy level of philautia, our capacity to give love to others will grow, too. I want you to know that if you want to see more love in your world, it all begins with yourself.