What would you tell a younger you?

cafe con leche 2

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?

56 thoughts on “What would you tell a younger you?

  1. **** 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.***

    Sad & True. Damit.

    I thought I was MAGICAL and Wonderful until somebody told me I wasn’t. I believed them.

    I’d Tell my 13 year old self that it’s all a lie, a tale, a fib….to keep us from becoming our full beautiful selves.

    Yes, that’s what I’d say.

    LOooooVE to you, dear. Xxx Kiss For Rox. Great Post!

    1. Kim, the person who told you that obviously didn’t know a thing about you! You are one of the sweetest and most beautiful people I know! Good for you for overcoming such cruel words and proving that nothing could be further fromn the truth. Hugs to you from Roxy and me! :)

  2. Dear 13-year-old me,

    Start taking fencing lessons now, not 23 years later. Your health will be better, you’ll forget all your worries for the duration of those lessons, and you’ll feel so much better. And I will inherit considerably healthier body.


    You 23-older self

    How’s that for a message? :)

    1. Ivana, I think that would be a wonderful message to a younger you! Do you know I dreamed of taking fencing lessons when I was 14? My mother wouldn’t hear of it! hee hee! :)

    2. Ivana, even with a recovered knee, I’m afraid I don’t have the energy or precision it requires! hee hee! :)

    3. Bella, my precision is non-existent. :) As for the energy, once I manage to get my bottom to the fencing school, I’m surrounded by people who are in it with me, most of them get as tired as I do (even though many of them are males in their early twenties and in good shape), and somehow we all manage, and have fun doing it. :)

    4. Ivana, your words give hope to the little fencer it me! Again, this goes to prove that it’s never too late to try something! Thank you for the reminder, friend! :)

  3. oh, yes, I remember “how easy it is to hold ourselves hostage, to deprive ourselves of feeling joy, to sabotage our right to be happy”, and I would like to encourage my thirteen old self to be wild, badass and joyful!, and to stay reading books and watching films!, oh I would love to encourage her/me to be fabulous and kick some asses!!
    (Love many Pink’s songs!, and love reading your posts!)
    besos & chicas valientes

    1. Mrs Allnut, you chica valiente, you! I love it! I love the encouragement of being wild, carefree, and badass! Yes! More women need to embrace life with this type of passion! Besos, amiga mia! :)

  4. Your example about the teenage girl and her mother really stood out to me today. As a 13-year-old (and even now as a 25-year-old) my own mom has had a fairly obvious (well, obvious to me) struggle with her body image. At that age I craved for my own mother to tell me that I was good enough, that she was good enough.

    I would tell my 13-year-old self that it is okay to express dissatisfaction with your life. As the oldest in my family I almost never did because I had to “set a good example.” I think that my tendancy to not say what is wrong and to resolve it successfully has made things more difficult for me than they need to be.

    1. Rachel, thank you for opening your heart and sharing something many of us have felt at some point. I grew up thinking being fat was the worst thing a person could be. Having a curvy shape did not help and believe it or not, I counted calories as early as the age of 12! Thankfully, those days are long in the past and presently, I would like to lose weight for health issues. My father had Type 2 diabetes and I have seen how difficult it is to live with this type of illness (daddy ended up in renal failure and had to have dialysis three times a week). Yes, health issues are my only concern. I like the advice you’d give a younger you! Indeed, life would be so much easier! :)

  5. My 13-year-old self is sooooooooo long ago that I can barely remember her. Was I really that painfully shy awkward kid who felt like all eyes were on her, judging her negatively? Thank goodness I survived that! Whew! Now I’m an adult woman who wishes she were sitting in that Spanish cafe (with you & a second cup of cafe con leche). Besos.

    1. Jann, you are a sweetheart! Methinks that even while we may not have a clear picture of our 13 year old self, at times, we’re able to catch a glimpse of her. I have very fond memories of that time in my life, but I also have sad ones. Perhaps one is not possible without the other, yes? I would love to have a cup of cafe con leche someday! Italy is not that far away, amica! Raincheck! Bacci! :)

  6. I would tell myself that pleasing others never made me truly happy. It’s only when I do what I love that I feel joy. Life is too short to waste on “shoulds and oughts.”

    1. Wise words, Shary! I too concede that pleasing others hardly ever results in happiness. Rather, frustration, resentment, and at times, even anger. My nana used to remind me that since it’s so difficult to please others, I should invest my energy in pleasing myself. Sage advice that has never failed me, my friend! :)

  7. Oh, wow, Lady Bella. What a provocative post. I just want to hug up that teen, and tell her how beautiful she is, and how it all stems from deep within her.

    There is so much I would say to 13-year-old me, but there is one thing that stands out as most important: Ellen, your mom is acting out of fear when she makes you go to family parties, knowing the uncle who molested you will be there. It’s not that she doesn’t love you, it’s that she doesn’t know any better. She doesn’t have a solid frame of reference as to what’s the best thing to do for you. She wants to hit him and yell at him, but is afraid the rest of the family will find out what he did, and that it could potentially form a rift in the familial fabric over a he-says-she-says dialogue. It’s okay to be hurt, and angry at your mom, and even fearful yourself. It’s okay to “hate” him for what he did. Most importantly, know this: You’re far stronger than you think you are, and you’re going to be just fine. Better than fine. And one day you’ll be able to forgive, which will set you free in ways you can’t begin to fathom. You are loved.

    I know what I’ll be journaling about tonight. Thanks for this, Bella. xoxo

    1. Ellen, you are loved! My heart breaks thinking of a younger you and how utterly difficult it must have been to live through such pain. Thank God for your resilience, bravery, and self love! In the end, you have conquered, my friend. You are a survivor and more importantly, you are loved! Sending hugs your way, my friend. :)

  8. Ah Bella, what a reflective exercise – over a cafe con leche! I recall doing so myself a year ago after reading a book called “Dear Me” – an anthology of letters of present day famous people to their 16 yo selves. I bared my all in a blog post but then my friends decided to all do the same during one of our “Dinner Club” nights. So many of our ‘letters’ reflected the issues with self-image we all bore at the time. Maybe even more so at 13 than at 16! Lovey post – thank you!

    1. Astra, what a wonderful exercise for you and your friends! I’m now curious about this book you mention. I shall look it up! You know, I was extremely happy at 16. It was a great time in my life. Thirteen? Not so much. Hence, my desire to go back and give little me advice! hee hee! :)

  9. I honestly felt the best about myself when I turned 35. I was finally comfortable with who I am, so I would tell myself, not to worry about it , one day you will get there and you will be happy with yourself.

    1. Hi Ariana! We should all be as strong and as patient as you! I don’t think I would have had your fortitude. I remember my life being a bit chaotic at that age and not being happy with myself was something I felt often. Fortunately, those days are long gone. I’m happy we are where we are now! :)

  10. “I would encourage a younger me to not expend energy on other people’s problems, to stay away form toxic folk, and abstain from meeting the expectations of others.” – This is perfect advice Bella. It should be embroidered on a pillow. How many of us have wasted time with these three issues? Perfect.

    1. Renee, we should embrodery this on a pillow! hee hee! I would promptly place it centerstage on my bed! ha! Here’s to not wasting time on these issues and to continue to be embracing of ourselves, lady! :)

  11. There are so many things I would have liked my 13-year-old self to have known . . . Most importantly, had I been encouraged to follow Christ and love the Lord at this early age, I would have known that I was loved unconditionally and would not have suffered from the worry of what others thought of me. I was 30 when I became a Christian. Lots of murky water under the bridge before that . . .
    Beautiful reflection, Bella. Thank you!

    1. Martha, you bring up such an important point. I was fortunate enough to have been brought up believing in God. Prayer and faith have sustained me through the most difficult times in my life. I am happy that you too have found this to be uplifting. Thank you for your ever kind words! :)

  12. Hmm…I would tell my 13-year-old self that she’s worthy of love and that she doesn’t have to settle for bad relationships. I would also tell her that life is full of unexpected surprises and adventures, so be patient and have faith.

    I remember people telling me that the teenage years were the best time of life. They were so wrong! I’d never go back to those days again, even if I could.

    1. Hear, hear, Nadine! I know many of us would not go back, even if given the chance. I think it’s wonderful to be able to look back at how far we’ve come. I love the advice you’d give your 13 year old self. Wise words, sister! :)

  13. Bella, my friend, this is so beautiful! I remember being 13. Shy, painfully self-conscious, skinny. I remember trying to “hide” behind the covers of a book. Didn’t help that my only sister was endowed and popular and pretty! Comparing ourselves to others is never a good idea. As you wrote so eloquently, we are unique, with our own talents and abilities, and we should never tuck ourselves away in the dark. One thing we all can be grateful for — we never have to go back to being 13 again, woo-hoo!!

    1. Debbie, I’ll drink to that! hee hee! Reading was also an escape to me at that age. I found it easy to lose myself in the pages of a book and pretend to be the main character of a story. Suddenly, my troubles disappeared and life was good. To this day, I still escape to an alternate reality when I need a break from reality. Who would’ve known that I would still find something I did then soothing! ha! :)

  14. What a powerful question. If I changed things, would I be where I am now or would I be living a different life? I am so blessed now that I would never want to change that. Then again if I could skip some of the horror that was my life for so long, I’d warn my 13-year old self, “Stay away from bad men. They will hurt you and it will take forever to get past it. So don’t waste that time, run!!!”

    1. Oh Nan, I think we’d all give ourselves your advice! Bad men seem to leave an imprint on our psyche that is hard to erase. Thank goodness for loving people that make all the hurt go away and help us realize we don’t have to live in the past. Hugs to you, friend! :)

  15. Just take easy, don’t be so hard on yourself and live for you and not for what others expect of you!
    The beauty of aging is that eventually we are able to tell these words to ourselves.
    Mil Besos mi amiga,

    1. Tus palabras son la pura verdad, amiga! Thank goodness that aging offers us this perk, chica! hee hee! Mil besos para ti, Ofelia! :)

  16. That poor girl. I feel her pain. I cried buckets over being so pale and sunburned and, of course, chubby. I’d tell my 13-year-old self not to fear, self-tanners were on the way, and that she was lovable even without. As well, I’d reassure her that her friendships would truly last, making the future as bright as possible. Great post, Bella!

    1. Lori, I’m tickled pink you like the post! My heart hurts at the thought that you cried buckets! Fortunately for you, those days only served to make you the strong, kind, and loving being that you are today, my friend! :)

  17. Bella, lovely, poignant post. I would tell my 13 year old self to find yourself and follow your dream. And above all, don’t let anyone else dictate what it should be. Don’t let others influence you, or compel you to make decisions you may later regret. But like you say, it’s too late for that. Sigh.

    1. Monica, how I would have loved to have known you at 13! I think you were as strong and resilient then as you are now! After all, how else could you be the wonderful dynamo that you are today? Hugs to you! :)

  18. Bella, what a lovely post. I HAVE a 13 year old daughter..and one more coming up..she just turned 12. I tell you..raising people is the toughest job in the world, and to me one of the most fulfilling. In this new generation of instant communication, selfies, sharing of one’s self and image, it’s all so different from when I was growing up..yet the issues for young females seem to have magnified enormously. I feel as though I am constantly trying to stay ahead of the game..inform, instill, educate, but throughout, encourage and try to build a strong self-esteem and wisdom that they can rely upon (and I can rely upon) when they are grown women. My 13 year old self..I’d tell her, keep your chin up, keep your eye on the goal, and have fun. Don’t listen to the naysayers or those who focus on the exterior you..focus on the interior and be a sponge to education and wisdom from the generations before you, and your peers..but stay above the fray! Excellent post, Bella. I hope you had a lovely time at the beach!!

    1. Hi Shirley! You make a great point, my friend–raising little humans is one of the toughest jobs! Like you mention, technology has froced parents to “stay with the program.” I was lucky that when it came into play, the Daughter was older than 13. I see children nowdays consumed by the need to interact socially through this medium and sadly, the media has an even stronger influence. Thus, it is up to parents to help build a child’s sense of self. What a large responsibility! That said, your children are lucky to have you! Your advice is something I would have liked to have heard when I was 13. I love the idea of staying above the fray. We can still apply this to life! ha! Sending hugs your way, Shirley! :)

  19. so many poignant things in this post. I think the main theme of growing older is how much more comfortable and confident we are in our own skin and how the things that our teenage selves thought were important really weren’t in the grand scheme of things. really enjoyed reading this post (:


    Win a pair of Manitobah Moccasins!

    1. Hello and welcome, Em K! Don’t you love how feeling more comfortable in our skin is one of the perks of aging? I do! Thank goodness for the ability to know that what seems like the end of the world at 13, is a walk in the park at 40! ha! :)

  20. Bella, as a male, I also suffered from insecurities. It was
    also was important to me what people thought of me.
    I suffered when someone said something bad bout me or assumed someone did.
    Now, Im more secure and take part in committees at work and stuff, so I have improved.
    Now I find it easy to talk to anyone. We all have regrets and wish we would know then what we know now.
    Cheers, Frans

    1. Frans, how wonderful to have a man’s perspective! Kudos to you for rising above all that affected you at the time! The insecurities we suffer at this age affect both girls and boys. Yet it’s good to know that in many cases, this is transitory and we can rise above them like you did! Good for you! :)

  21. Bella, 13 is a difficult age – yes?
    “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.”
    Yes, that’s what I’d have told myself too.
    And I’d have told myself: “Don’t read Cosmo; you’ll become superficial like B.” Who was my role model.
    Good thoughts Bella.

    I’m working on a writing project and currently seeking contributions on the theme of forgiveness, and would love your input. It can be something you’ve already written, or something brand new.
    It can be a favorite quote, a link, a poem, a song, a story… it matters not.
    Just share what you have.

    1. Debra, how lovely to read your comment! I have missed you, lady! Cosmo…oh my goodness, yes! I too am ashamed to say I was guilty of reading that trash! ha! Aren’t you glad those days are behind us? I’m curious to know more about your project. I shall drop by your blog and check it out! Thank you for thinking of me, friend! :)

  22. What a great post! I would tell a younger mean that while obesity can lead to health issues, being thin doesn’t equal being healthy. Fat people can be fit too!

    1. Hello and welcome, Becky! I agree wholeheartedly with what you would tell a younger you! Great advice and one we can all incorporate into our lives. Thank you for weighing in! :)

  23. Dear 13-year-old self,
    It IS possible to exercise/dance too much. Take a day off now and then.
    Then you’ll be able to walk when your 60! :)

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