A woman standing in front of an illustration of a cityscape

Letters to My Younger Self is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger ourselves.

Dear 23-year-old me,

You don’t have to put on that cheetah print dress. Or the leopard print one, the lace one, the red one or the black one.

You can just be.

I know you struggle sometimes to feel like you are enough. You look in the mirror, and you like yourself. Just maybe if your hair was just a little straighter or you had a few less curves, maybe then, you’d feel OK today.

Let me share a secret—you can just be. Breathe in and out. Perhaps, even unbutton that top notch of your denim. (After all, your pants are too tight anyway.) Breathe out self-hate and striving. Breathe in self-acceptance and rest.

Breathe out self-hate and striving. Breathe in self-acceptance and rest.

You watch a lot of music videos. (After all, you were an impressionable, little girl in the prime of MTV’s “Total Request Live” and BET’s “106 and Park.” You are bombarded with media that is constantly telling you who you need to be. Magazines and television shows are telling you what to wear and how to look. Social media has only added to the rat race of never-ending striving. It’s a constant cycle, and you can’t seem to win.

You are so much more than fitted dresses, high heels and makeup (which you don’t know how to apply properly). You are more than weekend nights out on the town.

I know you.

You love writing. You have pages and pages of journals with ideas for the future and your dreams mapped out. You’ll stumble upon these journals a few years down the road, and they will serve as an internal GPS pointing you back to you.

I know you.

You love music. You can get lost for hours sorting through your dad’s old CDs, deciphering what is “good music.” You have an encyclopedia knowledge of music throughout the decades. Get this! In a few years, you’re going to move to Italy to teach English. Do you know what your most successful lesson will be? That’s right. A lesson on music.

I know you.

You love adventure. You want to see the world, and don’t worry. Soon you will. You are going to travel to so many countries. Girl, you are getting a passport this year! You are going to start traveling domestically, crossing off all 50 states. Your wild, free spirit will be quenched by countless waterfalls, mountains and beaches. Buckle up and get ready to see the world.

There’s so much ahead of you, but right now, I know it’s a battle just to feel at home in your own skin. Your world will be so much more vibrant and beautiful when you learn to love yourself. You see, you will be your own companion in this adventure of life. It’s about time you tell those thoughts of “not enough” to take a back seat. It’s time to get to know who you really are.

Your world will be so much more vibrant and beautiful when you learn to love yourself.

You don’t have to put on that skin-tight dress. You don’t have to go out every weekend. You don’t have to post glamor shots on social media. (Eventually, you’ll delete social media, and it’ll be the best two-year decision of your 20s that you’ll ever make.) You don’t have to have a certain number of followers. You don’t have to strive to be seen. You don’t have to tap dance and jump through hoops to make people like you.

You can be you. Sit at home on weekends. Read books. Drink hot cocoa and chai lattes. Wear sweatpants. Spend time with your good girlfriends.

The right people will notice you when you are just being yourself. Trust me, you don’t want the eyes of everyone. Being comfortable in your own skin is the greatest gift you’ll ever give yourself.

If you could tell your younger self something, what would you say? Let us know in the comments below.

Image via Koury Angelo,  Darling Issue No. 11

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