What would you like to say to your 20-year-old self?

by midlifecrisisqueen on November 4, 2012

When I think back to my 20-year-old self, seen at left in Thailand in the early 70s, I only have one message to share:

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, and be happy and proud to be who you are!  You are exactly who you were meant to be, and that’s a good thing!  Nothing can be gained by being hard on yourself.

I remember being so painfully self-conscious and self-critical back then.  No one could convince me of my right to be exactly who I was, or to feel true self-respect.

I attempted to change for just about everyone who demanded it, most notably my sometimes mean and abusive boyfriends.  I felt like I would never be who I wanted to be, and felt stuck with being endlessly self-critical and defective.

Being so critical, I seemed to naturally attract those who felt comfortable sharing all the ways I was inadequate.  Something tells me that if I had felt a lot better about myself, I would have attracted a more generous group around me.

I recall one female professor I had at the University of Washington in my early 20s.  She did try to be reassuring.  She told me I was  independent and different than most of my peers, and that was a good thing.

I of course thought she was crazy but, now I KNOW she was right!

For more background on my crazy life so far, click here.

by Laura Lee Carter, author of How To Believe In Love Again: Opening to Forgiveness, Trust, and Your Own Inner Wisdom.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin November 4, 2012 at 8:34 pm

*hug* I was just the opposite. Way too confident and full of myself. ugh…
Being young was hard work, wasn’t it?

Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator November 4, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Love the photo Laura! I know, I wish we really could go back and tell ourselves this stuff. But maybe these posts will help a generation of 20-year-old women what we took years to learn.

Carpool Goddess November 4, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Great advice for women of all ages!

Julie Danis November 5, 2012 at 10:07 am

Hard to feel good about being different from your peers when all we really want to do is find a group to accept us. Ah, twenty. So long ago.

Marci Rich November 5, 2012 at 11:09 am

I wonder how many of us writing to our 20-year-old selves will find this common thread: “believe in yourself.” Great post—and what a wonderful picture! There’s a story there, I’m sure, and I look forward to reading it.

midlifecrisisqueen November 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

“The hardest battle you will face in life is to be no one but yourself, in a world which is trying its best to make you like everybody else.” – A quote from a high school graduation invitation

midlifecrisisqueen November 5, 2012 at 11:23 am

Here’s a bit of the story behind the picture, Marci: http://www.midlifecrisisqueen.com/2008/06/05/what-to-be-when-i-finally-grow-up/

Helene Bludman November 5, 2012 at 11:33 am

Why were so many of us plagued by self-doubt? Is it the nature of the 20 year-old beast? I think my 20 year-old had much in common with yours.

Sharon Greenthal November 5, 2012 at 11:37 am

I’m beginning to see that we were all in search of some sense of validation in the world. How great to be 50 and no longer be searching so hard!

midlifecrisisqueen November 5, 2012 at 11:41 am

Midlife equals VALIDATION for me Sharon!!! So glad to still be alive to experience this!

Melissa Lawler November 5, 2012 at 11:48 am

My 20 year old is jealous of your 20 year old in Thailand.

Karen November 5, 2012 at 11:50 am

Excellent insights–self-criticism can be just as crippling as over-confidence…and our young selves seemed to have an abundance of both, didn’t they?
Thanks for sharing this!

midlifecrisisqueen November 5, 2012 at 12:09 pm

The more I read these posts, the more I think our 20-year-old boyfriends might have benefited the most from reading them! – LLC

Chloe November 5, 2012 at 12:34 pm

This is a great insight: We attract those who validate what we inherently believe to be true about ourselves. So often I thought it was “this guy” or “that situation” but it was always me each and every time. I’m the only one who can change in any given set of circumstances. I only have power over myself.

I can’t believe how much power I gave away to men who didn’t deserve it. I was so desperate for love and security that I ended up not really getting anyway.

I love to read these and see how far each of us has come and what we’ve learned along the way. It also amazes me how much we all still look like ourselves. You can see the us we’ll be one day in those 20 year old faces.

midlifecrisisqueen November 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Yes Chloe:
My beliefs about love put simply are: You get what you are, so work on improving yourself! That’s where your power lies.

Thanks for starting this whole thing! It’s taken on a life of its own, and I love it!

Laura Lee

Karen Taylor November 5, 2012 at 1:36 pm

It is a shame that we don’t appreciate our real selves until we get older. Nice letter.

Jenn November 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I like the words you put in bold… Believe in Yourself…

How true these are and if we only would believe in ourselves more and not be so hard on ourselves.

Wonderful write!!

Cheers, Jenn

Lois November 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Love the “believe in yourself” message and love the picture! Thanks for sharing.

BigLittleWolf November 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I wonder how many of us used our lack of belief in ourselves to raise our sons and daughters differently?

I know I did. Of course, the real test will be to see what sort of men they become (they’re both around 20). So perhaps our insecurities led us to become stronger adults and better parents?

Walker Thornton November 5, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Yes, as you noted a common thread of self-doubt and judgment. Some of it comes with the age and the place in time we found ourselves. I think.
Thank you for giving us this glimpse at your life

Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs November 5, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Oh yes, this: “I remember being so painfully self-conscious and self-critical back then. No one could convince me of my right to be exactly who I was, or to feel true self-respect.” We came from the same place. Great photo and letter.

Lynn November 5, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Ah, self confidence. For most of us, it is a hard-earned badge of honor. There’s nothing more valuable because with it, you can do anything. Big hugs.

midlifecrisisqueen November 6, 2012 at 8:26 am

Thank you to all of you for caring enough to read this post! So glad we have all found ways to finally believe in ourselves and feel great to be alive! – Laura Lee

mindy trotta November 6, 2012 at 3:51 pm

What was it about the twenty-year-olds of that era that made it so difficult for us to believe in ourselves? Perhaps it was the times we lived in–did society do enough to instill self-assuredness in its young women? I’ll bet you’ve got some great stories about Thailand, though!

Ann Dunnewold November 8, 2012 at 10:22 am

Love the post, and the picture of you with the goddess! Sarasvati, right? Goddess of the arts: music, painting, and writing: most pertinent to whom you’ve become.

Amanda Frank November 8, 2012 at 10:54 am

This is a fantastic post! I feel like sometimes as we age, we lose that natural confidence we had when we were younger, and even though we are much, much wiser now sometimes we long to be young again. I’d love to go back and give my 20 something self a bit of advice because the truth is that we’re amazing at EVERY age. Thanks again for sharing this!

Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll) November 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Believe in yourself is such a good message. Interesting point about who we attract and how to be the kind of person who attracts kinder and gentler souls. Thanks for sharing your story!

Patricia aka BoomerWiz November 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Humm. Were you at the University of Washington in 74 because if you were so was I.
Needless to say, I was stupid enough to be overly confident. Glad it all turned out.

midlifecrisisqueen November 10, 2012 at 9:30 am

I received my MA from UW in 1979, and then got the hell out of there as fast as I could! Long sad story, barely got out with my life and never returned! -LLC

Nancy/Nerthus November 11, 2012 at 11:46 am

Seems I wasn’t alone, though I thought I was, in my self-doubt, self-criticism, and inherent ability to stay with the wrong guys when I was young. But we are doing pretty well now, per what you said and Chloe reinforced, aren’t we?

midlifecrisisqueen November 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I for one am so pleased in how it all turned out! Glad I made it this far in this good of shape! – LLC

meditation guru November 12, 2012 at 4:28 am

I would say to my 20 year old self slow down, enjoy the moment, don’t panic. Life is beautiful when you know how to live moment to moment!

midlifecrisisqueen November 12, 2012 at 8:44 am

Yes Med. guru, only problem is it took me forever to learn how to live moment to moment, and I’m still learning… LLC

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