I still remember the first time I heard pop singer Pink’s song, “Conversations with my thirteen year old self.” At the time, I thought how utterly wonderful it would be to regress in time and warn a younger me of all that lay ahead, to insist I do certain things, to behave or not behave in a particular way.
Yes, life would be easier if we knew what lay ahead, if we knew which decisions would result in hardships and struggles. Yet even while this is not possible, I still find it useful to contemplate how I would be better prepared to steer the course of my life if I knew what lay ahead. I find it’s still therapeutic to think of the things I’ve done and shouldn’t have or the things I didn’t do and should have done. Because even though I cannot change the events that have taken place in my life, I can still identify lessons learned.
I pondered this as I drank my second cup of cafe con leche this morning. As I sat, soaking up the early morning sun at an outdoor cafe, I overheard an angry exchange between a mother and an adolescent girl over her appearance. While the mother desperately tried to convince her child that she looked fine in her swim suit, the girl insisted that she would not take her shirt off at the beach and “expose the public to her fat rolls.”
As I listened to her words, I regressed in time. I easily retrieved a mental picture of myself at thirteen. I remembered how difficult it was to feel good about myself, how I struggled to accept myself. At the time, the opinion of others mattered so much. My decisions revolved around what others thought, said, or demanded. The media ruled how I felt about my body, my person, my self. Comments from friends and family dictated my mood and self worth. Magazines told me what I should wear, weigh, and eat. It was excruciatingly difficult to know who I was, to become acquainted with the real me with so many voices telling me who I should be, what I should do, and how I should act.
Yes, life would have been so much simpler if I had been able to warn myself that the opinions of others would not define me, that it wouldn’t be necessary to seek validation, acceptance or approval. That I and I alone would determine my worth and what others thought of me would not serve as a compass in my journey of self discovery.
If I could go back in time, I would tell my thirteen year old self that physicality alone should not define my essence. That I am so much more than a face, a body, a size. I would insist I follow my heart but only after weighing the consequences of my actions. I would affirm that while dreaming allows me to envision possibilities, realism provides the wisdom to know when to walk away and when to scrap what doesn’t work and start fresh.
I would encourage a younger me to not expend energy on other people’s problems, to stay away from toxic folk, and abstain from meeting the expectations of others. Given the possibility to regress in time, I would shake the adolescent me, hard, and say that no matter what anyone says, I am destined to become a phenomenal woman.
Sisters, today when you look in the mirror or catch a glimpse of your reflection, smile at yourself and say, I am beautiful. I am unique. There is no one else like me.
Because it is every woman’s destiny to breathe, feel, and experience joy. But alas, this is only possible when we believe in ourselves, when we believe we have what it takes to do whatever we want to do.
Let us learn to love ourselves unconditionally and without reserve.
Watching the tears trickling down that angry teen’s face this morning, I was reminded of how easy it is to hold ourselves hostage, to deprive ourselves of feeling joy, to sabotage our right to be happy.
And while it may not be possible to warn our thirteen year old self, we can still move forward, secure in the knowledge that we are phenomenal women.
Each and every one of us.
Yes, ladies, we are phenomenal women meant to shake our hips without reserve, hold our heads high, and laugh heartily with every step we take.
What would you tell your thirteen year old self?