Too often we let our past affect our present and future. Maybe something happened to us that we just have not been able to let go of or move on from. This loop we’re in becomes a self-built prison and it stops us from reaching our full potential in life. It holds us back from being who we are truly meant to be.
Maybe you were teased or bullied in school and haven’t been able to let it go and so you live on the defensive, mistrust everyone you meet and lack any resemblance of confidence. You could see how this would hold you back from taking affirmative action in your life – from going after what you want.
Maybe you have convinced yourself that a significant relationship you once had was your only shot at love and happiness and although it ended a while ago, you still fantasize about that person making it difficult to meet anyone new or make any kind of commitment to someone. Or perhaps you believe that you could never find someone who could live up to the over-embellished, perfect partner that you’ve imagined an ex-lover to be. After all, who could compete with imagination and fantasy.
These are just two examples of how we can be imprisoned by our own thoughts and emotions of our past. Some people live their whole lives like this; being victims of circumstance. Harbouring a grudge or desperately holding on to an unrequited love, never letting themselves be truly happy and resisting the opportunities for good things and people to come into their life. They play the victim’s role, feeling sorry for themselves, blaming others, feeling bitter at the world and just accepting that that’s the way life is for them. The cards they were dealt.
That’s no way to live. Trust me, I know.
Over 16 years ago, I too became incarcerated in a prison of my own making. It was in relation to the deaths of my younger sister and a boyfriend. Two unrelated events that were nine years apart. I became depressed, not believing that I had any control over my life or happiness – that I was somehow cursed and meant to be alone. It sounds so narcissistic to believe that I was even worth cursing, but time and perspective helped change my life around.
Sometimes all it takes is a good friend, a new relationship, the witnessing of an awe-inspiring natural life event or just a big picture perspective to shake you out from those mental shackles. Or maybe it’s just the realisation that you’re fed up of feeling so tired, depressed and alone and you don’t want the rest of your life to be more of the same.
Hindsight is a powerful thing. I wasted a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. But I’ve also learnt a lot coming through it all. It’s like I needed to reach the bottom in order to appreciate what was on the other side. It was only when I accepted things as they were, and that I couldn’t control everything but I could control my attitude, that things started turning around for me in all areas of my life.
As I look back on my life today, there’s a lot of things that I’ve discovered that would’ve helped me in my times of need, doubt and despair. I was so desperate for guidance that I would’ve turned to anyone and all avenues to find it. I didn’t know what I was meant to do, what I wanted and who I was. I’m sure we all go through times like that.
If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be this… (Maybe this will somehow help you, your daughter or someone you know)
You are the sum of your past experiences. It’s made you who you are today.
If you are happy with who you are today, then you shouldn’t live with any regrets for your past. Everything that has happened to you has made you who you are today. The good, the bad, the ugly, the tragic, the disastrous, the epic failures and the unfortunate mishaps. They all had to happen so you could become this version of you. Be proud of who you are and accept your past.
2. You’re a survivor and you’re a lot stronger than you know.
You can’t appreciate the good without experiencing the bad – you’d have no measure of reference or scope. So don’t disregard or bury your past, but don’t let it control your present or future either. We all get pushed to our limits at times. Embrace the fact that you survived. You came through it and you’re a stronger person for it. What happened was a life lesson. Don’t let it be a life sentence.
3. Life is about growth and change. Embrace being a work-in-progress.
Life is about balance, but it’s also about lessons. It’s like we each have tests we go through. If we go through the trials and tribulations, learn from the experience and grow, then we’ve passed and we move on to bigger and better things or more tests that we’re totally capable of. If we force things to stay the same, we kick and scream, we spiral down into depression and we become victims, then we become stuck where we are. We don’t grow. We don’t move on. We don’t find that pot of gold at the end of our suffering. Be bold, be wise, better yourself, learn as much as you can and make mistakes but learn from them.
4. Change your life by changing your attitude.
We need to take responsibility for all our choices. It wasn’t my choice that my sister and boyfriend died, but it was my choice on how I dealt with that. Never forget, we each have a choice on how we react in life to any and all situations. And if we’re not happy with the way things are, we can easily change our lives by changing our attitude or perspective. If you’re worried and anxious about something coming up for example, imagine that you’re now excited by your prospects and watch how things shift accordingly.
5. Don’t compare yourself to others. We each have our own path to forge.
Comparing ourselves to others whether it be in looks, achievements, relationships, how much they earn or things that they have, for example, can really bring you down. It’s good to have a little competition in life, to keep the momentum of progress, but don’t let it transform you into someone that you’re not. You weren’t put on this earth to get the better car, house and well-behaved genius kids, than your neighbour. It’s a petty and futile existence chasing your own tail, or someone else’s.
6. There’s no such thing as perfection. Stop trying to reach it.
There’s no such thing as perfection, and yet we may strive for it everyday in how we look or what we do or what we want in other things or other people. Nothing and no one is perfect. Expecting perfection is an impossible standard. It’s good to have goals to aim for, but looking back 5 or 10 years from now, isn’t good enough, good enough? Besides, life is about growth and change (see No. 3.). Nothing stays the same. What we want or believe is perfection now might not live up to our standards tomorrow.
7. You are beautiful. Your body is beautiful. Women in magazines are photoshopped.
This has been a hang up of mine for a long time, as I am sure, many of you. We see these beautiful women in the magazines and wonder why can’t I look like that. Well, honey, they don’t even look like that. Be happy in your own skin. Make the most of what you’ve got. Because, what you’ve got makes you unique. Treat yourself like a brand. Make the most of your assets, downplay your shortcomings. But treat yourself as the unique individual that you are and market the unique gifts you have to offer the world.
8. Be financially independent. Don’t rely on anyone for money.
This is something my parents always tried to instill in me and to this day, I see the importance of it. Don’t rely on any man, financially or otherwise. That’s not what they’re there for. And if you do, then you’re not in a loving relationship with a partner, you’re in a relationship with your banker. How very unromantic. Stand on your own two feet. Feel proud to have your own money and be able to spend it however you like. It will give you a confidence and empowerment that you won’t otherwise have.
9. A relationship is a 50-50 partnership.
When you’re in a good relationship, you know it. You both encourage, support, advise each other equally. You both discuss all things, don’t need to keep secrets and confide in each other about everything. Most of all, your partner will bring out the best in you, and vice versa. I’ve seen people who definitely should not be together. They argue, they fight, they’re unhappy, they keep secrets. Mostly it shows because they’re a shadow of the person they used to be. The wrong partner can do that to you. If you’re a weaker version of who you really are, then you need to reassess your relationship. Surely you both deserve better than that.
10. Be grateful for everything you have and everything you are.
Gratefulness is a lost art. It can be so freeing and calming. You can’t be grateful and hateful at the same time. You can’t be grateful and fearful at the same time. It’s a practice of acceptance to be grateful. And when you’re grateful for what you have, you allow more things to be grateful for, into your life.
11. Learn to enjoy your own company.
Being on your own is easy for me now. I travelled the world on my own. There were times when I didn’t speak to anyone all day. Some people freak out when they are on their own. They quickly reach for their phone or get out of the house to bump into people or make excuses to meet up. It’s like they fear being alone with their thoughts or they need constant validation. While I see the benefits of connecting with others, strangers included, it’s comforting and meditative to know that you can just be happy on your own. You’ll spend most of your time with yourself, so why not enjoy your own company.
12. Know what you want.
“Build your own dreams or someone will hire you to build theirs” Farrah Gray. This one is inspired by a quote. If you don’t discover what you want in life, then you’re just going to be the worker in someone else’s business. That may be fine for some people. You may not want to start your own business. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask yourself what you want in life. It’s not an easy question to answer. It may take some deep delving, and soul searching to find it, but it is worth the discovery. Know what you want or you’ll have nothing to aspire to. Knowing what you want will also prevent others from walking all over you or keep you from being in bad relationships that don’t serve you.
13. Make time for people that matter.
This may seem kinda harsh, but there are probably people in your life, whom you’ve known since childhood perhaps, that bring you down or hold you back. What was once a fulfilling 2-sided friendship has now become a depressing encounter that drains you of energy. It’s sad but true. Not everyone you meet is meant to be with you forever. People come into your lives for various reasons, to help you learn something, to help you through something or maybe you were there for them when they needed you. But at some point the relationship may no longer apply. Maybe you’ve both outgrown each other but hold on for the sake of familiarity. The number of girls I know who complain about their friends more than anything else is astounding. Friends shouldn’t be like that. Devote your time to those that matter, that don’t drain you, hold you back or make you feel bad about yourself. You become most like the people you spend the most time with. Is this who you want to become?
14. When you’re single, enjoy being single.
Don’t force relationships. Maybe you’re not ready to be in one, but you’re tired of being alone. That’s no reason to start a relationship with someone. It’s a selfish reason and when you think about it, you’re taking the place of someone who they deserve to be with. Enjoy being single when you are. It’s the perfect time to get to know who you are and what you want. You need to be confident in yourself and have self-love before you can love another in a way that you both deserve. Don’t let time or age dictate a relationship or you’ll end up in a bad one.
15. Self-worth and self-respect are two things that no one should be able to take away from you.
Never lose your self-respect no matter how you feel at the time. Be the person you’re proud to be. For me, I would not want to be any person that my grandmother would not have approved of. When you have self-worth and self-respect, you become empowered. Don’t give that away. Don’t give your power to someone else.
16. Listen to your body. It’s telling you what it needs.
This is something I’ve only come across later in life, but I believe in it full heartedly. My body is capable of healing itself. No matter what disease, or affliction, I know it can heal. I just need to give it what it needs to do that. Food is medicine. Make sure you’re giving yourself the best chance at healing. Eat the foods that will benefit your body. Use natural oils or plant-based teas or extracts to aid in the process. We spend so many years doing damage to ourselves through the food that we eat and the tanning we did when we were young. By the time we’re older, the affects catch up with us. Make changes now. Listen to your body. Any itch, any lump, any discolouration, any change, even mood swings or emotional outbursts, they’re all an indication of what’s happening under the surface or internally. Learn to read your body’s signals and you’ll live healthier and longer.
17. Travel the world. Experience life to the full.
I can’t express how much travel has changed me. It’s helped me grow in more ways than I ever imagined. It taught me who I wanted to be, what I didn’t want in my life, what I’m capable of and opened me up to the wonders of other cultures, lives and perspectives. It made me appreciate where I was from and what I have. Travel is an immeasurable education. I would be a completely different person today had I not travelled on my own when I was younger. Make the most of this life. You only get one chance at it.
18. Give up always needing to be right. It’s never worth what you’ll lose.
Sometimes our stubbornness and our need to be right can keep us from enjoying the moment and it can ruin relationships. It’s never worth winning a petty argument, if you lose a love, a friend or time.
19. Life may not always work out according to plan. Be prepared to adjust your sails.
Life isn’t always predictable. Change is inevitable. We need to be able to roll with the punches with whatever life throws at us. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make plans and aspire to greater things, just be ready to bounce back at a setback or readjust your path if things no longer work for you. Don’t resist. Be patient. That’s the beauty and the frustration of life. It throws curve balls from time to time, but sometimes we need that, so we can focus on things that are better for us in the long run.
20. Life is about perspective. Help those who really need it.
No matter how sorry you feel for yourself, sometimes it helps to put your life in perspective and realise that although things aren’t going how you’d like right now, you’ve still got it pretty good. The world is full of suffering. You can be sure that there is a girl out there right now, just like you, who is a victim of a much dire situation such as war, famine, homelessness, disaster, disease, incarceration or abuse. A girl who has no one to help her and no one to turn to. It helps to put your life in perspective and appreciate what you have. It also helps, not just you, but someone like her, if you volunteer your time or money or things you don’t need, to helping those less fortunate.
21. Don’t let the opinions of others control you.
Too often we care what others think. Sometimes to the detriment of ourselves and our goals. We hold back or keep quiet or change to fit in or be accepted. But we’re not here to be judged or controlled by others. It’s our lives that we need to live. It’s our decisions that control it. At the end of the day, it only matters what we think about ourselves and how we want to live our lives. They have their own lives to live. You’ve got to do what’s best for you. Often those others don’t want you to succeed or they want you to succeed for selfish reasons. If you follow your heart and make up your own mind, then you take responsibility for your own life and happiness.
22. Appreciate the now.
This time right now, is but a fleeting moment. You’ll never get it back. Too often we worry about the future or relieve the shame of the past that we waste our present. Take the time to stop and look around. Be here. Now. Make sure you’re doing things everyday that make you happy. Tell people you love them. Make your life and other lives better. Don’t wait for some future goal to dictate when your life starts. If you die tomorrow, no future plans will have been worth it. Live now.