May 27, 2014

What Would You Tell Your 16 Year Old Self?

teenager 5   Photo Credit: Nicki Varkevisser via Flickr CC

If you could have your time again, would you live your life differently? Do you have any regrets or would you simply apply the insight you have acquired to get more out of your younger years?

Attending Yve Lavine’s Sweet 16 photographic exhibition a few weeks ago, I have been thinking a lot about the question which framed her exhibition;

What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

While intriguing and thought provoking, it isn’t an easy question. When answering this question it is tempting to try to ‘save’ our younger selves from the challenges we have faced, but there is a problem with this approach.The problem is this:

It is often through the failures and bad times that we discover greater depth and passion for life.

While logically I would like to spare my 16 year old self from some of the challenges I have faced, including heart break and health issues, I realise and appreciate that without these experiences I would not know what I do today. The insight I have gained from the tougher times in life have led me down paths which have increased my happiness and my purpose in life.

My message to my 16 year old self would be this:

In life there will be set backs. Nothing is ever perfect, and nor does it need to be.

As a younger person I was definitely a perfectionist.

The problem with perfectionism is that it doesn’t represent the real world and how life works, and often ends leads to burn out. Perfectionism is time consuming and illogical, as most activities don’t require perfection. It also inhibits adventure, as the ‘fear of failure’ is ever present. Perfectionism truly is a ‘high maintenance’ lifestyle.  

If I had a chance to speak with my 16 year old self, I would tell her that her worth isn’t tied up in ‘being perfect,’ but in living a life of meaning and purpose, and in a way that is not harmful to herself or others.

I would like to tell her that it is okay to stuff up and make mistakes, in fact I would encourage it. I would like to tell her to enjoy the journey as much as the destination and to loosen up, to laugh daily!

Would my 16 year self listen to this advice? The chances are slim to none. She would have ‘known better’ or believed “Those things won’t happen to me!”

This reflective question is not about regrets, but about realising, appreciating and celebrating the wonderful wisdom we have gained along our own life journeys. With this wisdom we can shape our futures, and what inspired and bright futures they can be.

So, what would you tell your 16 year old self? Feel free to share in the comment section below, I would love to hear your answers.

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Jess xxx

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