Dear younger self,
Life hasn’t always been easy for you but not because life is hard (though it sometimes is). 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 past, 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 other 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. When you graduate from 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 get to travel in your life! Every road trip you go on and plane you board 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. Keep at it because as long as you are moving forward, you are growing and becoming more you.
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 because your life doesn’t compare 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 only set you up for disappointment because chasing after what someone else considers important 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—it does not define who you are as a person. I also want you to stop worrying about what you look like. Women’s (and men’s) images are distorted and photoshopped in magazines and all over the Internet. It’s so easy 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 you will have access to tons of apps that alter what you actually look like before your picture is posted online. There’s a filter for everything these days (quite literally on the Instagram app) but I hope you are able to see past the filters and view life with a clear lens of what is real.
You have insecurities, you’re clumsy, you’ve made mistakes, you’ve had plenty of 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 want you to know that everything gets better and you will find your way. It took some time but you finally learned that you were young and impressionable when the world said you should look a certain way and be something you’re not. I sought approval from everyone else but not myself, for so long. I’m writing to tell you that those years have taught me some important lessons that you—my younger self—will eventually share with others like you.
You’ve learned that you’re not the only person with insecurities. Whether people choose to embrace their insecurities or not, the annoying thoughts are still there. You’ll eventually learn to embrace all your flaws and this is when you’ll truly begin to grow and break through your own limits. One day you’ll admit to yourself how frightening it used to be to express yourself aloud to others. When you spoke about your emotions, your voice would crack and your thoughts jumble up so you chose to bottle your feelings. Writing and reading will be your outlet. You had body image insecurities, because at such a young age you were bombarded with photos of stick-thin women. Yes, your legs and butt have always been bigger than most. I promise one day you’ll turn those two glorious aspects of yourself into assets. One of the best things you have done for yourself is start a blog and share your thoughts to inspire and encourage as many people as possible to be confident in their own bodies.
Your blog will ignite your curiosity, and you will research and read more books and articles in one year than you have in your entire life. You will even write one of your own! Through your research, an important Greek word that you’ve never heard before will find you—philautia.
Philautia, pronounced phee-lav-TEE-ah, means self-love. The ancient Greeks were wise enough to understand there are two kinds of philautia. The first is a narcissistic love for oneself, a destructive self-centered approach to life with all its negative attributes. The second offers a way out of narcissism, the healthy kind of love we must give ourselves. This kind of self-love believes in its own worth and does not base that belief on what anyone else thinks or says. Allow yourself to be who you are and to be true to yourself. Discover what you are here for. Accepting who you are and not seeking the approval from the rest of the world demands bravery, self-knowledge and a wisdom that never goes out of style.
Self-love is something you’ve struggled with for nearly your entire life but you’re not alone. You’ve seen your friends, family, and strangers all struggle with self-love in their own way. Just like you, they compare themselves to others. They focus on their flaws instead of seeing their strengths. They worry about their appearance, about how successful they should be, and care too much about what others think of them.
The world, without self-love, would truly be a terrifying place.
Younger self, years from now you will step up. You’ll share the message of the importance of self-love with everyone you can. If you and your generation achieve a healthy level of philautia, your capacities to give love to others will grow and expand.
I want you to know this old, yet new, Greek truth… If you want to see more love in your world, it all begins with you.