An illustration of a woman with long dark hair holding a basket of lemons

“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 selves.

Dear 23-year-old me,

You are about to board a plane to Thailand for your first time all on your own. You are so adventurous and fearless! I love that about you.

You are going to step off the plane with sparkling, wide eyes as you soak it all in. You will try so hard to communicate with your taxi driver. You will laugh with delight to find yourself in this strange land because this—this has been your dream all along, to leave your home country and be a part of something greater than yourself. Oh, how you long to change the world!

Oh, how you long to change the world!

You want to be the next Mother Theresa. You want to rescue and help save all the children from every injustice you have ever heard of. You want to hold and carry the entire world in your arms. Your heart is big and full of hope.

You bring freedom and joy with you wherever you go. You have a disarming personality when you are your full self! Don’t forget that is one of your gifts. You make others feel so welcomed and loved in your presence. 

You are about to pass through the darkest season of your life, and you have no idea. You will grow very disillusioned with humanitarian work. You will grow suspicious of the motives of leaders you once admired. You will realize that no one is perfect, least of all you.

You are about to come to the end of yourself. You are going to realize that you cannot, in fact, carry the entire world in your arms. You can’t do it all. You need to be cared for and carried too sometimes.

You are about to come to the end of yourself. You are going to realize that you cannot, in fact, carry the entire world in your arms.

You went out to help children heal, but this revealed to you that you are the child that needs healing. You need to heal first so that you can help others heal. You will learn to extend as much compassion toward yourself as you extend toward others. You will learn what grief is for the first time as you mourn a friendship and grieve over the dream that has met its end too soon. You will come back home lost, depressed and feeling like a failure. 

You will start on the inward journey of healing and transformation. You will learn how to listen inwardly. You will learn the invaluable lesson that your identity is not in what you do, but in who you are becoming. All the achievements mean nothing if you are not healthy and whole on the inside.

Tears and emotions are good—for they are the stepping stones to being honest with yourself and your faith. Know it is OK not to be OK, as Demi Lovato says.

Your dreams have so much to tell you about what’s going on deep down. Write them down and process them. Journaling will be your release. Therapy will be your release. Poetry will begin to rise up out of you. Let it flow.

Remember, you are loved! You are seen. Embrace the freedom that comes from being fully known and loved. You will start to find your voice and grow confident in using it. You will learn to tear down the strongholds of moralism and legalism within.

Embrace the freedom that comes from being fully known and loved.

All the “shoulds” and all the voices that are not yours will grow to have less and less power over you. When you look at job opportunities, the question you will begin to ask is not “Am I a good fit for this job?” but “Is this job a good fit for me?”

Dear 23-year-old me, you will arrive at the end of yourself, but you will realize it was not the end. Although you thought you were dying, you will finally begin to live. You will be grateful for the pain and discomfort. They will show you that this is the only way to grow. This is actually living!

Living means growing, pruning, reshaping, being forged through the fire, seeds being buried deep and roots reaching out for lasting nourishment. No more striving. Be present!

Let living mean evergreen and ever-growing. Push deep into your failures. Dance through the disappointments and embrace grief when it comes for they are all food for healthy soil.

Your dreams will grow dormant, but just wait. For in time, they will shine like pearls—ready to impact the world with their beauty. Fear not. You will not lose yourself. Take your time. Allow your whole self to take a brave step forward. 

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

Image via Rachel Chung

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