Dear Twenty-Something Beth,
I am writing this letter to you as our 40th birthday is quickly approaching. Yep, the big 4-0. I know 40 sounds ridiculously over the hill to you, but here we are fast approaching that ripe old age. Thinking about reaching this milestone in life prompted me to want to write this letter to you, my younger self, in hopes I could pass along some of the wisdom I am just now acquiring as we hit (**gulp**) middle age! While I like to think I have very few regrets at this point in life, I do wish I would have started taking better care of myself, mentally and physically, a little bit sooner than I did. I know we tend to be a little bit, ok a lot bit, stubborn but it is my hope that by passing along these thoughts, feelings and lessons you will be able to navigate around some of the pitfalls that I wasn’t able to. So here you go….
Worry more about how you feel than how you look…
Prioritize your health in other words! It is our greatest asset after all girly. Yes, going out with your friends, staying up all night, eating greasy fast food at 2am is fun but do all those things in moderation. You should have some fun in your 20’s but you don’t need to be the life of the party every single night. Burning the candle at both ends is not sustainable, nor is it healthy. Your friends will still be there and like you just the same if you stay home and catch up on sleep one night or skip a happy hour to get a workout in a few times a week. Some other key ways you can start taking better care of yourself right now are:
Drink more water and get more sleep!
Both of these things are vital for our health. Get yourself on a regular sleep schedule. Make sure you are getting about 7 hours a night. Trade one of those energy drinks for a big glass of water. It’s amazing what water does not only for our overall health but also our energy levels as well. You don’t need to run on caffeine and no sleep. You will not miss anything I promise. Develop these habits now by going to bed and waking up at relatively the same time each day and making sure you carry a water bottle with you everywhere you go. As a bonus, this will also keep our skin glowing and us looking youthful which at 40 and beyond will be a much bigger deal than you realize right now!!
Don’t starve yourself to fit into those size 0 jeans!
Strive to be strong, not skinny! Skipping meals, restricting calories, doing cardio until you want to collapse all so you can be as skinny as possible is not only unhealthy, it is dangerous. Worry more about how you feel, not how you look. Do you feel healthy when you only eat ten crackers a day? Is it worth feeling exhausted all the time to be able to say you just bought those size 00 Abercrombie jeans you have been starving yourself to fit in? Oh my gosh girl, NO! Food is your friend, not an enemy. Eat whole, nourishing, healthy food to help your body perform at its best, keep away disease and illness, and help us age as gracefully and effortlessly as possible.
Pick up those weights!
Instead of spending hours on that treadmill, switch up your routine and incorporate strength training into it. Like I mentioned above, being a size zero should not be your goal. You should workout to be healthy, not a stick figure. Grab some weights, build some muscles and eat so you can continue to chase after your goals. Building muscle has been the greatest thing I have done for myself in recent years. I feel amazing, look better than we did at your age (sorry but it’s true), and basically I just feel like a badass. You will not get gain a bunch of weight if you reduce the amount of cardio you are doing, you will not get bulky, I promise. You will end up falling in love with watching and feeling yourself getting stronger and more fierce with every single workout.
It’s ok not to be ok!
I know sometimes you feel less than because you have anxiety attacks. I know it is hard for you to ask for help. I know you feel weak because you can’t stop them from happening. Don’t! Having mental health struggles is nothing to be ashamed of. It is part of our story as it is a part of a lot of people’s stories. You are not alone in this even though it may feel like it sometimes. Struggling with something like anxiety, panic attacks and even depression can feel very lonely, even isolating at times. Don’t be afraid to open up and talk to the people in your life that love you. You are truly blessed to have these people to turn to (which is a whole other lesson for another time). Let them know when you need help. Don’t beat yourself up because you feel like you should be stronger than this. Not being ok sometimes is perfectly ok. Nobody, I repeat, nobody is ok all the time no matter how it may seem. One of the most important things to do when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or uneasy is just to breathe! Trust me when I tell you the majority of the time whatever it is you are stressing over, worrying about and/or losing sleep because of will turn out to be just fine in the end. And in the small chance that it is not all ok, you will survive. You are stronger and more capable than you think of not only surviving but thriving! Just keep breathing….
Don’t worry so much about what other people think…
They are not you after all. What works for us may not be what works for them. Heck, what works for us may not be the most popular or mainstream things to be doing but you need to live your life for you. You are going to have to make decisions in your life that are going to be tough ones. Make those decisions based on what’s best for you and what is going to make you happy. People may disagree. They may have their own opinions. Actually, they will for sure have an opinion. A lot of the time people will have your best interest at heart. Sometimes they won’t. There is nothing wrong with listening to the opinions of others and taking in what they are saying but just remember you are the one who has to live the outcome of those decisions, not them. If they don’t like it, trust me they will get over it. And if they don’t, are they really someone you want in your life anyway? Which leads me to my next piece of advice…
Not everyone and everything is meant for you…and that’s ok!
With age comes the wisdom that sometimes some people and/or situations just are not meant for you. It is ok to recognize this and walk away. There is no shame in throwing in the towel to preserve your emotional and mental well-being. If you’re in a toxic relationship with a person get out of it. If the job you are in is not making you happy, find a new one. Life is far too short to remain in things or with people who are not good for your self-esteem, self-worth or just overall happiness. You are the only one who can control if you are happy or not. Do not look to other people or outside influences to find it. Create your own happiness by surrounding yourself with people who are good for your soul and want the best for you. You can’t change people so pick your battles and choose your fights wisely. Know that for the most part what you see is what you get with people. Also know the way a person treats you is really a reflection of how they feel about themselves. Remember that everyone is fighting a battle that you can’t see. Be kind when you can. Be firm when you t need to and most importantly at the end of the day if that little voice inside you is telling you that something isn’t right, LISTEN! And finally…
Learn how to say “no”
The old saying really is true, you can’t pour from an empty cup. There is nothing wrong with prioritizing your wellbeing. There is nothing selfish in admitting you are overwhelmed and can’t possibly take on one more thing. People pleasing is in our nature, always has been. We tend to take on more things than we can really handle because we hate to let people down. Girl, we need to get this in check. It is admirable to be a kind, giving person but not at the expense of yourself. There is also nothing wrong in saying no but explaining why you are respectfully declining. People will end up respecting you more if you stand up for yourself and voice your opinion in a respectful manner. It is my experience that unfortunately SOME people will take, take, take until you set boundaries. Having healthy boundaries does not mean you are cold or mean or selfish, it means you know your worth, have self-respect and are able to recognize when something or someone is asking more of you than able or wanting to give.
As an older and oh so very slightly wiser version of you, I hope you take at least some of what I said in this letter to heart. If nothing else, continue to love yourself and know that you are stronger than you probably think and more capable than you can even imagine. Tune out all the negative energy that inevitably comes along sometimes in life and focus on continuing to grow and better yourself every chance you get. Read as many books as you can. Travel every chance you get. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things as often as possible. Smile at strangers. Most importantly live every day with a grateful heart. There is so much to be thankful for in this life and even on days that those things seem few and far between know tomorrow is a new day and the bad days just make you stronger. And once again please please, please, don’t forget to take care of your body, it’s the only one we get!
Almost 40-Year Old Beth
One more thing…
If you wouldn’t mind taking a second and voting on my poll below I would greatly appreciate it! Your feedback on this site means the world to me so I would love to get your opinion!
Thank you as always!!