I don’t know about you, but I haven’t always held my younger self in high regard.
There was a time when I looked back at the person I once was and judged her for being needy, insecure, weak, inadequate, and fundamentally flawed. I focused on everything I thought I did wrong—all the mistakes I made and the people I hurt—and failed to recognize and celebrate everything I did right.
And I tried to completely eradicate that broken creature through the rigorous pursuit of personal growth, hoping I could prove to myself, and to others, that I was someone worthy of love.
Even when I began focusing on self-love and self-acceptance, I still believed I needed to be better than my shameful former self to deserve it.
Then one day I realized my younger self deserved a lot more credit than I was giving her.
She wasn’t needy because she clung to people; she was just looking for the approval she hadn’t received growing up and didn’t yet recognize her unhealthy patterns.
She wasn’t weak for struggling with depression and bulimia; she was strong for finding ways to cope—unhealthy though they may have been—when it would have been easier to give up.
And she wasn’t inadequate or fundamentally flawed; she was human, and despite her shortcomings, she always did the best she could, based on where she’d been and what she knew at the time.
We’ve all always done the best we could.
We’ve all been hurt, lost, confused, and scared, and we’ve found the strength to go on in spite of it.
We’ve all tried to learn from our mistakes so we can be kinder, better people.
And we’ve all done a lot of good, for ourselves and others, whether we realize it or not.
We may have had lessons to learn, but that’s the thing about this crazy, messy journey called life: We’ll always have room for growth. At any time we look back, we’ll recognize things we know now but didn’t know then. And that’s something to celebrate, because it means we’ve allowed ourselves to evolve when it would have been easier to stay stuck and stagnant.
Since I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I appreciate about my younger self, I decided to include this as one of the prompts in my newly released gratitude journal.
I shared this on Facebook this past weekend and almost 500 people responded:
Dear younger self,
Thank you for…
What struck me most about the responses was how universal most of them are. Odds are, you could say a lot of these things to your younger self. And if not, your future self very well may say these things to the person you are today.
So, whether you’re looking for a reminder that younger-you was pretty amazing or seeking a little motivation to be someone future-you will appreciate, read on…
Dear Younger Self, Thank You For…
1. Ana Henke: Taking care of yourself physically and spiritually, and for trying things that were scary but that made you a stronger and wiser person.
2. Abi Franklyn: Not smoking, doing drugs, or breaking the law. Oh, and for looking both ways before crossing the road, every time.
3. Lisa Margaret: Working out, stretching, and lifting weights. My middle age body is much better for it.
4. Debbie Enman Irish: Perservering and surviving your childhood.
5. Katie Towers: Pushing through the depression while going to school, working, and being a single mom, with the help your awesome family.
6. Sophie Harris: Sticking it out, even when you really didn’t want to or feel you could!
7. Panos Alexiu: Not succumbing to hate and abuse. For keeping the faith that love and freedom are stronger.
8. Clare Brown: Finding the strength to keep your chin up even when it felt like the simple act of breathing was more then you could manage.
9. Julie Hagigeorges: Not crumbling in the face of devastating illness. Because now, life is good.
10. Catherine Nowlin: Surviving long enough to get sober and sane.
11. Jc Ervin: Being stronger than you think. I know you’re scared, hurt, and confused right now. But you’ll make it through a strong and beautiful person. I love you.
12. Patrick Jaberg: The experiences, no matter if good or bad ones. Both are valuable to me today because I grew in character from them.
13. Jennifer Brown: Surviving all the bad times and always picking yourself back up and trying again. Thank you for always being resilient and learning from your mistakes.
14. Karen Sedor: Making those mistakes early—you know, when bones heal faster and hangovers only last a few hours.
15. Emily Carroll Hartley: Having as much crazy fun as you could before you settled down to have a family. And thank you for that little bit of crazy fun that made you who you are today.
16. Joseph Wooldridge: Pushing the envelope on having fun but staying self-aware and knowing when to say when.
17. EllenandDan Feeney: Taking healthy risks and having the values I still hold dear today.
18. Caroline Adair Freeman: Taking the trips you thought you couldn’t afford; sticking with school even though it took forever to find the love of learning; not quitting the Peace Corps after being medically evacuated; going on a second date with that tall guy who wore the ugly earrings.
19. Patricia O’Keefe: Not always playing by the rules. Some of the best experiences I’ve had were the result of bending the rules a bit.
20. Shelly Nagata: Rocking the boat. Change and progress don’t happen without it.
21. Sherri Campbell Uecke: Defying convention and being brave enough to take risks. Those risks have paid off in so many ways.
22. Maria Ribaulo: Spending time with Dad. I miss him terribly but I have a lot of wonderful memories.
23. Katherine Pike: Having the courage to forgive and love big even though you’re hurting.
24. Susan Obieglo: Having four children. The work paid off; they are all wonderful adults.
25. Rachel Kaufman Ginsburg: Finding great people in your life through school, work, community who have stuck with you and can make you laugh even when you feel like crying.
26. Janice Peters: Never giving up on others or yourself, always finding humor in the worst possible situations, remaining curious and willing to take some risks, and trying, if not always doing, the right thing.
27. Chris Ramsbottom Pampling: Starting that savings plan when you were nineteen, a student, and living on a grant. Forty years later that savings plan has paid for me to create my holistic therapy center and help more people than I could ever have known.
28. Cindy Ingersoll: Being smart enough to stop drinking and partying, finish a Masters degree, and commit yourself to raising beautiful children. Oh, and the savings toward retirement. Thank you!
29. Erica OBrien Bush: Spending the first half of your twenties in school and the second half building a career and a business. Sacrificing time and freedom then so that some relative freedom and wiggle room can be enjoyed now, and into the future. You will reap what you sow. The only time you’ll find success before hard work is in the dictionary.
30. Darci Davenport: Going to college even though everyone tried to talk you out of it.
31. Peter Grevstad: Dropping out of business school to study English, and eventually start a post-secondary teaching career.
32. Rebecca Jones: Getting an education, saving up, and knowing a good guy when you see him. Thanks also for all the things you didn’t do, and all the people you didn’t hang around. High standards paid off nicely.
33. Megan Gentry: Always remaining true to yourself. Standing up for the underdogs of the world. And being firm in your morals and principles.
34. Donna Noelte: Trying to view life from a different perspective, rather than taking the misconceptions and beliefs that you were taught, and choosing your own way to view things!
34. Rebekah Breun: Becoming better, and not settling for being the person you were raised as. You were never meant to be judgmental or hateful. You did so well figuring out who you are supposed to be instead of who you’ve always been told to me. And thank you for loving yourself when everyone around you told you that you have to be better than you really are.
35. Jeni McKenna: Never giving up on figuring out who you really are and what you really want so you could live an authentic life during the second act.
36. Sherri Dave Phillips: Not following the crowd, being vulnerable, and going through all the pain that made you fierce!
37. Tina Byrd: Being true to yourself. No matter if it meant losing people you cared about. And believing in yourself and your beliefs.
38. Debbie Moore: Subconsciously realizing kids were not what you wanted and not bowing to parental/societal pressure.
39. Maii Chris Bockting: Never listening to what others expected of you.
40. Brooke Larrabee: Being exactly who you needed to be at every moment prior to this.
Dear younger self,
Thank you for…
How would you finish that letter?
You can read more about Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal (which includes 15 coloring pages) on Amazon here. If you already have a copy, I’d very much appreciate a short review!