What would I tell my younger self if I had the chance? In reality, it’s a complicated question since it was my past that made me who I am today. And I like me. Changing the past could have either good or bad repercussions.
But let’s pretend that I’m talking to myself in another dimension. Where I haven’t grown up yet.
This is a set of advice to my younger self, in no particular order.
It’s not about you
While it can be fun and soothing to believe that you’re the center of the universe, no one else knows you’re the center. It’s your own universe.
Most things that happen to you that are caused, aided, commanded by others don’t really have anything to do with you. That weird look at you from the dude walking down the street? He probably wasn’t even looking at you and just had gas!
Like you, everyone else is also in their own universe. Give them, and yourself, a break.
Learn Social Rules
Okay, so your parents didn’t teach you squat. And deep down, you’re pretty sure that many of the social rules you’ve learned about, or have yet to learn about, are irrational and dumbass. And in some ways, you’re probably right.
But people do tend to follow at least a subset of social rules, even if they don’t know why they’re doing so. And many of the rules help society move along in a safe and comfortable manner. Being able to get along with people and bonding with them includes following the social rules. You will fit in better if you at least know them.
Find Your Tribe
There are billions of people on this planet and most of them you wouldn’t want to hang out with. Even though it’s hard, you need to find your tribe. People who accept you for who you are, who will call you on your bullshit, and will have your back.
You’ll need to play offense on this. If you play defense, you may end up in the wrong group.
- If the group pressures you to radically change, it’s not your group.
- If the group requires you to go against your sense of morality, it’s not your group.
- If the group diminishes you, pushes you down, in any way, it’s not your group.
- If you don’t fit in, it’s not your group.
Being accepted into a group takes time. Be especially careful of groups that accept, love, and embrace you right away. Especially if you really need just that. These groups are either cults or have cult-like properties. They will only bring you pain, judgment, and disconnection.
Envy is Worthless
Everyone has problems. The rich and famous just have different problems than you, and their problems may actually be worse. This is the way life is. Life is a series of problems that we have to solve. It can be as easy as “I want a snack, but I don’t want to leave the sofa to get it.” To “They’re foreclosing on my house tomorrow and I still don’t know where the kids and I are going.” To “No one will help me. I’m being abused but because my family is rich, no one will believe me.” Everyone has problems.
Many people will try and look perfect on the outside. This is a clue. The more perfect they look, the more probable they have serious problems. You never know what a person’s life is really like.
There is no reason to envy anyone.
You may think “I want to be a writer! Why do I have to take Algebra? What does Algebra have to do with writing?”
It has everything to do with it. Everything you learn will expand your mind and help you think in new and exciting ways. Even if you never want to do another equation again, learning how will set you ahead of the crowd. You will understand the world better. You will understand different people and their realities better.
Never stop learning.
Take Care of Your Mind
The mind is a muscle, and it will wither and die without exercise.
Find ways to strengthen it. Meditate. Play games. Learn chess. Learn. Do it every day.
Take Care of Your Body
You only get one body. As a youngster, you may feel invincible. You may feel like you can do anything. But everything you do is recorded in your body. And as you grow older, you will have to pay.
As you decide to join the military, take Tae Kwon Do, take modern dance lessons, take all those very physical acting classes, do a martial arts audition even though you haven’t practiced in years, and order that adult sized hoppity hop, ask yourself, “If doing this means I’ll lose part of the functionality of my body 25 years down the line, would I still do it?”
If the answer is “no”, don’t do it.
If the answer is “yes”, then when you groan over the pain in your spine at age 57, remember the fun you had that made the problem possible. Don’t regret it. It’s already too late. You did things that other people will never do. Now you need to pay for it. Be okay with it.
Be Wary of Pain Killers
When you reach for that ibuprofen, stop, and think for a moment. Pain is there to tell you that something is wrong. It’s a wake-up call. It tells you that you need to make a change.
When you take pain killers, especially the good stuff, and the pain goes away, it’s easy to deceive yourself that you’re all better now. It’s easy to forget to take care of your body. It’s easy to do something that will make it worse.
There’s also the danger of becoming addicted to the pain killers or having them affect other parts of your body.
Use pain killers carefully. If a doctor prescribes them, get off of them as soon as you can. You need to be aware of what is going on in your body.
Look out for Borderline Personality Types
I know that it’s easy to think that if you value something, that it’s definitely a value that other people should share. But sometimes they don’t share them.
There are people out there who value power or money or excitement or pleasure or any number of things more than they value other people, including their loved one or children.
You can’t “save” these people. Identify them and then let them go.
Hold Your Boundaries
First, learn your boundaries. I know this is hard, but it will really help you. If you have strong boundaries, you’ll be able to live and feel like a full person.
That said, boundaries that try to control the behavior of other people or make them responsible for you and your happiness are not good boundaries.
Holding boundaries may lose friends. But really, do you want a friend who, for example, looks down on you?
Own Your Desires
Society often looks down on people, especially women, who have desires. It can seem, well, unseemly.
But the truth of the matter is that desire is what makes the world go around. Nothing can get done without there first being a desire. You might not desire to mop that floor, but you do have a desire to get paid.
Along with problems, desire is life. It shows us our path in life. It makes things clear.
Figure out what you desire and then go for it. No apologies.
Indulge the Negative
Even though everyone keeps trying to tell you to think positively, thinking negatively has its use.
- It can keep you realistic.
- You can see the problems before they happen and solve them.
- You can make contingency plans.
- You can end up with a fleshed-out plan that’s more likely to succeed.
Positivity often has a very romantic place in our hearts. Counter it with some negativity, some reality.
Superiority is a Delusion
Money, power, and status are all ways that we rank ourselves, and other people, in our society. People are jousting for position, for a bigger piece of the pie.
One of the ways many people do this is by trying to convince others they are superior in some way. Even in the workplace, upper management is often called “superiors.”
But there is a difference between respecting a person’s position, their authority, and their responsibilities, and thinking that the person is better than you.
No one is superior to you, and you are not superior to anyone else.
You’ll see this socially as well, as people use blame, shame, judgment, self-righteousness, and threats, to push another person down so they can feel superior.
The person who does this is not only not superior, but, odds are, they feel inferior, that’s why they do it.
Guard against this delusion in both others, and yourself.
Teachers Should Teach
Piggybacking on superiority, be careful who you allow to teach you. Teachers are supposed to be there for you. They should have your best interests at heart. They work for you.
But teachers are also people and may have their own issues. They may be vying for superiority. Or maybe they want to be worshipped. Or maybe they really don’t like their students.
The second you realize you have a bad teacher, get out. Run.
If you can’t get out, like if you need the class to graduate, take what you can from them and keep your head down. Watch to see what they need so you can give it to them and stay out of the line of fire.
I wish I could tell you there were systems to root out the bad teachers, but there are no such systems. Or at least, effective systems.
Whatever you say “yes” to, you’ll also be saying “no” to everything else. You can’t do everything! I know that this is painful to hear.
You might spend your life trying to figure out what to do. You might worry you’ll make the wrong choice. You might never make a choice.
Unless you go against your integrity, there are no bad choices. If a choice doesn’t work, and you really did give it a shot, then make another choice.
When you’re looking at a list of great choices, it doesn’t matter which one is the “best.” What matters is that you actually make the choice. And then go for it.
Love is an Action
Many people think that Love it s feeling. And it is. There is a feeling called love. But do you spend your whole day with your loved ones feeling pure love?
Of course not! There’s also frustration, anger, sadness, and even hatred. Emotions change all the time. One moment you want to wrap yourself around someone and the next you’re wondering how to get his head down the food disposal.
Love is also an action. You choose to love someone. You get through the romantic phase and get to know them. You see their good and bad sides. You look at them and think “I could love them.” And then…
You choose to love them.
Love the emotion comes and goes. You can’t “fall out of love” emotionally. You choose to no longer love. Like when you choose to no longer pick up his socks.
Choose well, and then ride the waves.
I’m sorry but “tomorrow”, “someday” and “when I get this or that” never comes.
You want to do something, just find a way to do it. It’s one of the biggest regrets of the elderly, to not take the chance and do it.
Do it before your body breaks down and you can’t anymore. Waiting for retirement is just a procrastination technique.
Sugar is NOT Your Friend
Get off the sugar. I know it’s tasty and makes you feel loved and soothed. But it will wreak your body and your mind. You need to take care of your body.
Find another way to self-sooth. Like grooming. Grooming is soothing. Go fix your hair.
You Don’t Have to be Perfect, or Ready
No one is perfect. No one does anything perfectly. Why do you have to be perfect? Why do you not do what you want to do just because you’re convinced you won’t be perfect?
No one is ready. No one starts anything knowing all the answers. You learn as you go.
Doing something imperfectly, and doing it now, is better than not doing it at all.
Take Time for Yourself
Don’t go full charge all the time, you’ll burn out. Instead, find those things that are fun and pleasurable and make the time for them.
Taking time for yourself is not a selfish indulgence. It’s a necessity.
Having too many things around you, or having too big a to-do list, will pull on your energy and exhaust you.
“The things you own end up owning you.” Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club.
If you know your desires, and have made your choices, why not do some spring cleaning, and get rid of everything that isn’t serving you. This will let you focus on what’s truly important to you.
Like you, everyone is going through a lot. You can’t expect everyone to be perfect, or read your mind, or have your values. We are all on different paths.
In these times, just being polite is being kind. A smile, or the nod of a head. An acknowledgment of another’s existence.
Be generous, as you are able. It’s for you to decide, no one else.
Put out into the world what you want to see.
That’s it for now. I may write another one later. My mind is full of advice for myself! I may expand on these topics in the future as well!