A young woman with a sweat draped over her shoulders and one heel kicked forward

Dear 17-Year-Old Me,

When I look at your trendy, knee-high leather boots, I cringe. It’s not that I consider them to be a cringey fashion choice. It’s the reason you chose them that makes me wince. 

You are going through a time of deep transition. Your first year of college stretches out before you, sparkling with potential. You’re surrounded by new friends and acquaintances, and you want so badly to be liked, to stand out.

Clothing is your shortcut. You don’t know how beautiful, likable and infinitely lovable you truly are. Your wardrobe choices are driven by your desire to project an image to others, an image that doesn’t mirror your true self.

You want to be what you are not. You don’t see your value. You don’t realize that no pair of heels you wear, no matter how high, can raise your self-esteem.

No pair of heels you wear, no matter how high, can raise your self-esteem.

You buy clothing because you think it will make you look good to others, not because you think it can accent your personality. You’re not ready for the vulnerability of allowing clothing to frame, rather than obscure, your body and your true self. 

You’re scared. You’re scared that somebody will see you in all your flaws and perfections and choose to love you. You want independence from human love. You feed on empty admiration to distract yourself from the reality that you’re starving for real love. 

You will spend the next four years building a world of good grades and social approval that will leave you feeling empty. It’s going to take hitting rock bottom multiple times for you to realize what you truly want. You’re going to tell yourself that you’re okay, that you don’t need anybody and that there’s no yesterday, only tomorrow. 

One day, you will see how deeply isolated you’ve become. You’ll realize this only after love has quietly, mysteriously, re-entered your life. Love, slowly watering your soul, slowly giving you the courage to let yourself be seen, will help you grow in self-awareness. 

17-year-old self, have courage. Love is worth the pain of vulnerability, even though you don’t believe it, you fiercely self-sufficient, wildly talented girl. Allowing yourself to open up, to be imperfect before others, is worth more than the purest independence. 

Allowing yourself to open up, to be imperfect before others, is worth more than the purest independence. 

I forgive you for your ignorance. I even forgive you for wearing those boots. 

It’s hardwired in your brain that love is earned. Allowing yourself to hope for unconditional love is beyond your capacity right now. That’s okay. I understand that you are projecting a facade of yourself through your clothing, a hologram you hope is admired and approved, but not loved.

I understand how difficult it’s going to be to learn to be yourself.  I’m here, sending you love from your future self, no strings attached. 

Did you ever find identity in the clothes you wore? What advice would you give to your younger self about fashion?

Image via Frank Terry, Darling Issue No. 11

2 comments

  1. I feel the same way, Charmaine. Thank you for your consistently thoughtful feedback. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*