Whether I like it or not, I'm given countless opportunities to reflect on my own life as a therapist-in-training. I sit with older individuals who make me think about how I'd like to impact the world, children who make me wonder what parenting must be like, and couples who give me an insight into marriage. I also have conversations with teenagers that remind me of my younger self and what I wish I could have known during my teenage years.
Recently, many of you told me you wanted to see more posts related to mental health and personal experiences, so I hope today's post will deliver. I present you with: things I wish I could tell my younger self.
1. Being skinny really is so unimportant.
I used to be mildly obsessive about my appearance when I was younger. I had horrible acne that I was incredibly self-conscious about and I was a competitive dancer who defined my self-worth by the size of my body. I developed not only a desire to be skinny, but a need to be that way, assuming that being thin would be the solution to all of life’s problems. Needless to say, this wasn’t a healthy mindset. I wish Young Kristina had realized that being a couple dress sizes bigger didn’t change me as a person in any way. Being healthy is vital, but being skinny is not. In fact, obsessing over your weight, skipping social opportunities to avoid food, and telling yourself you’re ugly is a form of self-harm. Making memories with friends is far more important than not eating that cookie. I wish I could have gotten my priorities straight and realized that I am not defined by my appearance.
2. Stop caring what people think so much.
As you grow up, you become way less self-absorbed. You realize that the world is awfully big and that your problems are actually quite insignificant. Most importantly, you realize that people seldom think about you as much as you think they do (which I say to bring you a sense of comfort and relief). Take a moment to consider how ridiculous it is to think that all people do in a day is sit around talking about your decisions. They don’t. They have their own sh*t going on and their own problems to concern themselves with, believe me. And the ironic part is that they probably think you're thinking about them all day long.
3. Stick up for yourself no matter what.
Being a woman can be hard freaking work. You’re supposed to be strong and independent but not too strong or you’ll come across as a b*tch. You’re supposed to stand up for yourself but risk being labeled a neurotic spazz if you do it too often. You must be loving but not too loving or you’ll be seen as a doormat. Western society has a list of qualities women are supposed to have that are oftentimes completely contradictory, and it’s very confusing. But please, Young Kristina, never ever feel like you’re “bitchy,” “bossy,” or “crazy” for standing up for yourself and everything you believe in. Ever.
4. Be single, lonely, and fabulous.
Being in a relationship has its perks: you have someone to hang out with all the time, you can attend all those “couply” events and activities, and you have someone cheering you on from the sidelines (hopefully). That’s all good and dandy, but you need to learn how to be your own cheerleader. You need to be able to be in your own company without feeling uncomfortable, anxious, and needy. Learn how to love yourself without having someone there to say “I love you” all the time. There is truly no relationship more important than the one you have with yourself. Boyfriends come and go, but you’re stuck with you for life. You need to be The One for yourself. Trust me, if you can’t love yourself, you won’t have any love whatsoever to give to another person.
5. Always take the high road, even if no one else joins you.
No one likes feeling rejected or hurt, but these are inevitabilities in life. If someone breaks up with you, don’t call them names, bad talk them to everyone you know, or post hurtful things about them on social media. I have had people do these types of things to me and I was just so disappointed by their behaviour. Doing this is petty and immature, and while I understand wanting to partake in such activities, that doesn’t mean you should. And trust me: the higher the road you take, the worse others often look for acting like an idiot.
6. Self-care is not selfish; it is necessary.
It’s amazing to me that when our lives get stressful, the person we start flaking out on the most is ourselves. We stop cooking, sleeping, working out etc., and I find this so backwards. It’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s okay to decide to not go to a party because you want to stay home and watch videos of baby otters in the tub. You do you.
7. Be yourself every day all day.
I remember pretending to be interested in certain things or downplaying certain parts of my personality to ensure that a guy would like me back in the day, which is absolutely absurd. It also will stop you from meeting the right person. After all, if you’re pretending to love artsy-fartsy, this-film-makes-no-sense-and-is-a-waste-of-my-time movies, then you’ll attract people who watch artsy-fartsy, this-film-makes-no-sense-and-is-a-complete-waste-of-my-time movies. If you pretend to like staying in when being spontaneous is more your thing, you’ll attract a homebody who inevitably will make you feel bored to tears. Be yourself and you’ll attract someone who loves the real you.
8. Stick to your word.
I curse the day that the “maybe” RSVP was invented on Facebook. Let’s face it, most of the time you know whether or not you’re going to be available on a given day. And if you don’t feel like going to something, just SAY NO instead of giving a “maybe” excuse that causes the host to buy an extra portion of food for you for the party. By the same token, if you say you’re going to be somewhere, be there. Otherwise, you’ll develop a reputation of not sticking to your word. We all have that friend whose RSVP you can just never trust and it’s annoying as hell. Don’t be that person.
9. It’s okay to breakup with someone just because you aren’t feeling it.
Love is a complicated thing. Sometimes you love people who don’t love you back. Other times someone loves you and you can’t seem to reciprocate the feeling. This can be an extremely frustrating experience, but I suppose that’s why finding someone you want to spend your life with is so special—because it’s incredibly rare for everything to align. Just because someone is nice doesn’t mean you have to marry them. Just because they’re thoughtful or know your Starbucks order off by heart doesn’t mean they’re your soul mate. The number one criteria for being in a relationship is that you both need to want to be in it.
10. Keep people’s secrets.
If someone confides in you, it’s because they wholeheartedly trust you, so don’t you dare go around sharing this precious secret they’ve so bravely divulged to you. How would you feel if someone did that to you? It’s not worth that one moment of gossip to share someone’s secret, even if you’ve now come to hate each other for some reason. Secrets are meant to be kept.
11. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
When I was younger, my mum coerced me into studying abroad in England. I know what you’re thinking: Why on Earth did you need to be coerced into doing that? The truth is, I was just really nervous to go. I was 18 at the time, I wouldn’t know anyone on the trip, and it was the farthest I would ever be from my family in my life. This ended up being one of the coolest trips I’ve ever been on. I got to see Paris, Amsterdam, London, and Oxford all in one trip, and it helped me realize that the world was so much bigger than I thought it was. This was the first of many times that I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and it is one of the biggest things I encourage people to do as often as possible. If something makes you nervous, do it. Because you know what? No matter how nervous, embarrassed, or anxious you feel about the experience, you’ll make it through to the other side and be able to say, “Wow, if I did that I can do anything!” Through constantly doing these little, uncomfortable things, you slowly become okay with new experiences and putting yourself out there, and that’s really important.
You Tell Me!
What are some messages you'd tell your younger self! I'd love to hear it in the comments below.