This week I attended a networking event in which a local business owner was given an award. The host of the evening, Nancy, conducted a short interview with the winner, whose name was Trish. One of questions Nancy asked was, “What would you go back and tell your younger self?” Trish gave a long pause. And during that space, I’m sure every one of us was wondering what we would tell our younger selves. Finally, Trish said, “Nothing. It’s a process.”
That was not the response we expected. Nancy asked us all to pause and let Trish’s answer sink in, and I was grateful for the opportunity to do just that.
See, if you’d asked most of us that question, we would have felt obligated to advise our younger selves. We spend far too much time in the past wondering what could have been, what should have been, what might have been. We often revisit our “mistakes” and wish we could do things over. We are constantly apologizing to ourselves or others for failing to take that chance or for doing something because we thought we should. We spend a lot of time wondering what on earth made us think something we did was a good idea. Why didn’t we know better? And all that ruminating brings up feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, sorrow, resentment, and self-loathing.
But what if we didn’t go back in time? What if we just accepted that who we are now is a result of our failings as much as our strengths? What if we let go of all the old heartaches and expectations and just focused on where we are now? What if we also let go of past successes that cannot or should not be repeated? What if you didn’t offer advice, but only asked yourself, “What feels good about the life I’m living today and what can I let go of because it no longer serves me?”
As creative beings, we have the power to imagine anything. How about we imagine that our younger selves are exactly where they need to be. They may be hurting, or scared, or misled, but they are also strong, and wise, and free. They’ll be just fine. And so will we.
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