Dear Me at 26,
You are beautiful.
You are so much more than that, of course, but this is very important right now. You are beautiful. This is your first experience with being ashamed of how you look. You feel fat, ugly, defeated. You feel like you are being laughed at, like you have done something wrong. You feel uncomfortable in your own skin, and you try to hide under shapeless layers. You don’t believe that anyone could find you attractive anymore. You feel worthless, but more than anything, you feel terrified because you don’t recognize yourself anymore.
The voices in your head are wrong about this. One day you will look back at today, this very moment and say “wow. I was beautiful.” Something, somehow, crawled into your psyche and started crushing your self confidence. Things have become twisted and when you look in the mirror, it’s like being in a fun house- you’re not even seeing YOU anymore. You’re seeing something you’ve imagined for yourself that doesn’t exist. I wish I could tell you that this is short lived, but it lasts nearly a decade. It writhes around in the back of our brain- always present, always ready to sabotage even the happiest moments- your wedding day, a new job, nights out, brunches with friends- they will all become less because of it. So please, stop. The time wasted is heartbreaking.
Your fiancée thinks you are beautiful. And he means it. Sometimes you think he is being too nice. You wonder if he just doesnt realize what else is out there. Maybe he’s too young and naive. But he SEES you. Like you cant see yourself right now. Not just your physical beauty, but your heart and your humor and your creativity. He sees it all and he loves you. You’re so worried that the parts of you that you call “crazy” will push him away. He sees those parts too- and he empathizes or relates, or at least tries to understand all of it. Pushing through your insecurity to make it work with him is one of the best decisions you will ever make. He will be there as you start to love yourself again. He will support you as you work through the emotional injuries you’ve sustained. He may be naive in some ways now, but he will grow up- into an incredible human being who works tirelessly to support his family. And he’s pretty hot in a uniform too.
And there will be a family. A perfect one- just like you always imagined. It just comes at it’s own time. Don’t worry about it, beat yourself up, or despair. More than anything else in our life up to this point, the family came when it was meant to- and it was worth everything.
You are also smart! You’ve been dealing with a series of failures and a career path that is never what you planned for yourself. It isn’t fun. In fact, your work life is pretty miserable right now. But it doesn’t mean that you’re not smart or meant to be successful, or even that you made any major mistakes. Life happens the way it does for a reason. You believe that now, and I believe it even more having lived this. The things you are going through right this second make us so much more empathetic to those around us. We see the human spirit, we understand emotion, we love bravely and deeply- and it is because of this dark spell. But this spell also teaches us perseverance, drive, and passion. One day the right series of events will open new doors to you. You will be able to focus this drive, allowing you to be challenged, to grow again, to become even more educated, and you WILL end up doing what you love.
Start doing things for YOU. You are beginning a cycle of working hard at your job, working hard at home, making others happy, and sleep. You need to take time to do things you enjoy- reading or writing or art. Time is something we never get more of, and one day soon you’ll have far less than you ever imagined. Make that time a priority, and be protective of it. It is something I wish I had started much earlier, and it will make you feel so much better.
And finally, you are a good person. And you deserve good. 26 is a difficult year. There will be others. But your life is AMAZING. There is joy to be had, and it is coming soon. These things I promise you.
Love, me at 36
*this post is part of the CG Write Your Face Off event