Oh, the things I would love to tell the younger me! I know we've all thought this way. . .If I knew THEN what I know NOW. . . Sometimes I just want to find that infamous time machine, go back ten years and have a sit-down-pow-wow with younger Michelle about what is to come. Words of wisdom from a bit more experience; life management tips for the future. Could I have ever used the help! Ha! Life strategies are something that as women, we typically accumulate through time, growth, trials and triumph and also, a great deal of hard work. When I look back on the past, and my winding path of poor choices in to womanhood – a process that is very much still in the works – I think of all of the valuable lessons that grew from my mistakes, the wisdom that I have gained through the years, and the glorious, humbling, powerful hindsight that often comes so specifically from looking in reverse. There are many ways to live, and many life techniques that one generation can impart on another. For my part, here are some of the most fundamental, liberating, and oh-so-if-only-I-had-known-it-then life strategies I would tell my younger self now, if I could. Much like the knowledge handed down to me by those amazing women who came before, perhaps these lessons will serve as a little roadside assistance on the journey of younger women, or at the very least, fair warning. Either way, here is to hoping that the next generation does it all slightly more gracefully than I did.
1. Beauty Is Not Found on the Cover of Cosmo
Mirror, mirror, on the wall… who is the fairest of them all? This age-old question is one that has evolved for me over time. Naturally, in youth, we are more focused on the outward – how we look, how we compare to others, how our weight compares to those on the cover of the latest Cosmo, and how we can use appearance to fit in, stand out, or communicate who we are. It is only through experience that I think we truly understand the value something deeper, the value of this life lesson: look closely and you will likely find that the most beautiful women you know, regardless of their individual appearances, all have in common a passion for life, a caring and generous spirit, a great sense of fun, and a confident, positive attitude. This is no coincidence – it is the simple fact that true beauty really does originate, grow, blossom and thrive from within. It is important to take care of your outer appearance, of course, but the key is to balance that effort with nurturing all of those wonderful, graceful and loving inner qualities that truly enhance your natural beauty and allow the world to see how stunning you are through and through.
2. Be Completely Yourself - Always
This life strategy can be very challenging to practice at a young age as maturity is an evolving process and who we are develops in stages. For me. . .it was a rocky road. I was never satisfied with who I was ten years ago. It is natural to want to fit in, and even to sacrifice some of our own preferences, values or beliefs to make that happen. The truth, however, is that you really are the only one who knows for sure what is right for you, and your voice is worth fighting for. The number of times in my past that I didn’t trust my instincts, communicate what was true for me, or held back on my personality out of fear of what people would think is truly a testament to my knowledge that it is so much better to embrace those things that make you a beautiful individual. Be true to yourself and honor your own identity – your personality, your likes and dislikes, your outlook on the world. In my experience, the more of yourself you celebrate, the more likely you will be to find those who share your interests, passions and views, and think you are wonderful exactly as you are. I wish this confidence had come to me earlier!
3. Save Your Nickels!
Oh my goodness, if I had a nickel for every time I should have saved a nickel instead of spending it on "you-name-it", I would have many ‘a nickel right now, let me tell you! As un-glamorous as it might sound, this is one of the most important strategies for living I can impart on the younger generation: the sooner that you start saving for your future, the more options you will be creating for yourself down the road. I am huge believer in investing in travel, education, real estate, and Jimmy Choo shoes, or anything that is of value to you individually, and the more consistently you save by showing a little short term restraint, the more of those things you will be setting yourself up to enjoy over the long haul with greater freedom from debt. Plus, in today’s uncertain global economy, a girl really cannot be over-prepared for the ups and downs of the job market. Do yourself a big-picture favor and begin a savings plan – you will be surprised at how quickly it accumulates and how satisfying it feels to have a little something set aside for a rainy day.
4. Bad Boys Are Just That - BAD.
Having married a quintessential “nice guy” I may seem biased on this point, but believe me, I spent a shocking amount of my youth chasing the player/jerk/all-round bad boy, and guess what, with very few exceptions – that really only serve to prove the rule, in fact – bad boys are actually bad. Heed my advice, and add this to the top of your list of life strategies moving forward – relationships should be built on mutual trust, respect, honesty and caring, and those values are absolutely worth the wait. Yes, you may be one of the few lovely ladies out there with a bad boy who treats you right, or maybe you just prefer this type of guy, and that is your call, but for all those women working unhappily to stay in the favors of their not-so-nice-guys, keep in mind the adrenaline you feel trying to “win” over the rebel with the brooding attitude and list of rules is really not worth your time or efforts. You deserve someone who will love and respect you from day one, because for the record, you are amazing and your nice guy is out there.
5.Cherish Your "Homegirls"
No matter what stage of life you are in, a good friend is a blessing unlike any other. When you are young, however, you are often able to dedicate more time to enjoying your girlfriends, prior to husbands, children and other commitments that can take priority as you mature. Thinking of life strategies, I know if I could go back, I would tell my younger self to spend far more time cherishing my female friendships.Create more experiences with them. . .take more "girl vacations", host more cocktail hours, invest more in midnight talks. . . After all, when I think back now, it is truly those moments we shared together that resonate as some of the happiest, most supportive, wonderful times of my young life. A good girlfriend never goes out of style, so take advantage of the time you have together today.
6. Your Body is Truly a Temple
There are many different ways to live when it comes to diet and exercise and each woman has to find the path that works best for her. Lord knows I've been up and down more roads than one when it comes to "revamping" my health and wellness! When I was younger, however, I believed, like so many women do, that my metabolism would stay the same, I had plenty of time to develop good fitness habits, and I could truly treat my body with far less respect than I should have. Well shoulda, coulda, woulda’s aside, life lesson learned, because my body has changed with the years, two kiddos, and waaaay too much fast food, and now I am working to catch up. And truth be told, I have realized in maturity that loving and taking care of your body goes well beyond the valuable reasons for maintaining a healthy weight, it ties in to stress management, feelings of empowerment and self-esteem, and it can open the door to enjoying life in a truly healthy, centered way. Your body really is your temple and the better you are to it, the more it will give you in return.
7. Live in the Moment
The final point on a list of life strategies I would tell my younger self if I could really is the key to finding so much happiness, fun and joy in life for me, yet I can confess that it is a lesson that eluded me for many years – live in the moment! Being present for each day, truly invested in what is going on around you ensures you are not unproductively dwelling on the past, or wrapped up in what may happen down the road. Instead, you are awake for the now and able to better enjoy the blessings you have today, and be more prepared for the ups and downs life throws at you. Not every moment is going to be ideal, and I think we can all attest to the inevitable heartbreak that goes along with life at some point, but by living the moment you can put in to practice one of the most widely recognized and successful life techniques: the ability to hone in on the one moment you are capable of changing, relishing in, and truly maximizing.
It is never too late to adopt new life strategies, and while there are many things I would tell my younger self now, if I could, the road to the lesson is so much of the experience, there is very little I would change in the end. If you are part of the next generation of wonderful women, currently exploring your teens and twenties with the same innocence and optimism I did, I encourage you to find ways to live that speak to you, and to embrace the wisdom of those who forged the path ahead of you. And, if you are part of the maturing generation who assisted young women like myself, then I can promise you we are all grateful for your guidance and fail-proof advice. In that spirit, each one of our amigas, young and old, no doubt has a range of experience to share – what life strategies can you add to this list, ladies?
I'd love new wisdom to impart to, well. . .ME! Let's hear it!