6 Things I Learned the Hard Way

What would you tell your younger self?

Oh, if only we could go back to the days when we were young, full of energy, and totally stupid. The things we could have avoided! The learning we could have mastered with so much less pain and suffering!

If I could go back and talk to my younger self there are so many things I would like to tell her but these are a few of the main points:

Respect yourself.

I would have avoided so many mistakes in my life had I simply believed in myself and expected other people to respect me. No, not expected, demanded.

If I think back to the most embarrassing moments of my life, those moments that cast a shadow across my spirit when I think back on them, they all have one basic commonality; I made a decision or I did a thing or I allowed a thing to be done to me because I simply did not respect myself.

It is true what they say that you teach people how to treat you. If you disrespect yourself and dishonor yourself, other people will join in and do the same to you.

Don’t waste your time chasing people or situations that aren’t right for you.

Sometimes people come into your life for a brief time. It’s just so that you can learn from them and move on with your life. In the past, I have tended to hang on to these people for dear life because I don’t want them to leave.

This goes back to respecting yourself, of course, but just because you love someone doesn’t mean that they’re going to love you in return or that they will want to be around for the duration of your life.

Accept that relationship, that job, that situation you have grown to love and want to remain may simply be a temporary situation in your life. Be at peace with this and just simply let it go with the lessons you have learned.

Spend less time worrying about things you cannot change.

Being a fairly anxious person I have wasted a lot of my life trying to change things that were out of my control. I would tell my younger self to let those things go and focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.

Life is stressful enough without adding to the stress by holding onto the anxiety and working it over and over in your brain. Focus on self-care and acceptance and gratitude instead.

Have faith in yourself and your abilities.

I’ve spent a lot of my life allowing other people to steal away my joy and my self-esteem. I would tell that younger version of me that you are special, you are unique, and you should celebrate the qualities that you have been given.

Comparing your own abilities to those of others is to compare metaphorical apples and oranges. It’s pointless. We all have our unique place in this world and I wish I had started sooner to live in my own truth and celebrate the things that make me uniquely me.

Do not create bad habits and poor coping skills.

So much of life is wasted because we try to cope with our stresses in ways that are negative. I would caution that younger version of me against grabbing onto negative coping skills.

I would encourage her to seek help when she needs it without embarrassment or shame, spend more time in nature, and continue writing during the difficult times of life.

Being kind to and taking care of your own body really matters later in life. I wish I had spent more time taking care of my health when I was younger and being grateful for this vessel I have been given.

Do not let anyone come between you and your children.

I’m sad that I even have to include this, but I do. 10 years of an abusive relationship did awful damage to my self-esteem but the most long-term damage it did was to create too much emotional space between me and my boys.

I know that without that relationship in my life my boys and I would be even closer. I have terrible regrets that I wasted so much of my time and energy on that doomed relationship when my children needed me to put them first.

Abusive relationships change you so much. I wish that I could go back and remove that portion of my history and just focus on my children. Be the mother they needed.

There are so many things in my life I would love to go back and redo. I think I would be a more calm, centered person and a more loving person had I known these things starting out. What would you advise your younger self? Can you take the advice now and move on with peace in your heart?

Because — like me — you really did do the best you could, with what you had and what you knew at the time.

Live and learn! There’s always today to set in motion the things we didn’t know yesterday.

Christina Ward is a poet, naturist, mother, grandmother, and friend. She values life at a much deeper level because of the mistakes of yesterdays — and sometimes she writes about these things.

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