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An Open Letter to My Teenage Self

An Open Letter to My Teenage Self

Dear Teenage Self,

Oh, how I wish you could see what I see now. I’m older, and life has made me wiser. Nothing is the way I thought it would be. It’s so much better.

When I look back, I see you as one person but I know there were two of you: one that the world saw and the private one that only you knew. I remember the nights and days filled with worry, sadness, and confusion. I remember being both of you. I remember the smile I would show to my friends and then I remember the tears no one knew that I cried behind my closed bedroom door.

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Oh, how I wish I knew that everything would be okay someday. But, I probably wouldn’t have believed it at the time.

Oh, how I remember those teenage years as the most painful years of my life. Living under a microscope. Everything was magnified. I know it’s hard to believe, but your teenage feelings, friendships, family, and appearance are way out of proportion. You think that whatever happens will stay that way forever. Nothing is farther from the truth. Nothing stays the same.

Steve Carrell said it best in Little Miss Sunshine after Paul Dano told him that he just wants to go to sleep and wake up when he’s 18.  Steve Carrell answered, ““What? High school—those are your prime suffering years. They don’t get better suffering than that.“ “Do you know Marcel Proust? He had a miserable life. He gets to the end of his life and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, those were the best years of his life because they made him who he was. All those years when he was happy, you know… a total waste. He didn’t learn a thing. Sleep until you’re 18? Think of the suffering you’ll miss.”

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It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Your teenage years were the best suffering of your life. Those painful breakups, lonely nights, and tears cried are the times that make you stronger, smarter and sculpt you to become the rock-solid adult that you will become.

Peer pressure helps you define yourself.

If it weren’t for your friends testing your limits, how would you know what you believe in? How would you know what you like and who you want to be?  Peer pressure is a mirror that’s held up to your face every day that says, “is that really who you want to be? Which group of people do you want to be with?” Peer pressure is the fork in the road that helps you define your life goals. Even though it doesn’t seem like it at the time, you have a chance to know what doesn’t feel right to you. That’s how you know what does feel right. That’s how you know who you are, what you stand for and what you believe in. It’s when your morals and values become sealed in your soul.

Dramatic moments teach you to manage your emotions.

Your emotional moments feel like your world is ending. Every time your heart breaks from a boy who doesn’t love you (even though you thought he did), or when you feel people whisper as you walk through the hallways at school—these are the times when you learn how to manage your emotions. Through the tears, you discover your backbone. That bone becomes your core, your solid foundation that will carry you through all the losses, sadness, and even the joy of the years to come. Your drama helps you to regulate your feelings and stabilize your emotions.  

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The bedroom is your private place to discover your true self.

Those tearful nights that you spent feeling misunderstood were the nights when you discovered your creative visions. Those were the nights when my pen was my best friend, always there for me to help me work through my pain. Those tearful nights in your bedroom will bring out your creative self. Let it all out. Let your creative juices flow. One day you will look back on those nights and thank them for introducing you to your passions and creative future self.

There is no love like a parent’s love.

As much as you feel like your parents are out to make your life miserable, when you look back, you will see the love in your parent’s hearts. They were just afraid you would make the wrong choices and wanted to protect you, not control you. As my mother said, “You will only understand how I feel when you become a parent.” She was right. Thank you, Mom. I understand now. A mother wants to breathe her child’s air before he does to make sure it’s okay for him. Her heart yearns deeply for your success and happiness. Your father does too, but he probably doesn’t know how to express it. Your parent’s love teaches you how to become a parent.

Your first love was not true love.

You couldn’t eat, and you couldn’t sleep; love was all you thought about it. Nothing mattered but you and him. You thought you would never love like that again. Even though you were sure it was perfect, that was not true love. It was fun; it felt great and looking back, it still makes me smile, but teenage love does not compare to adult love. Love gets even better than that.

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Break-ups are not the end of the world.

Friendships broke up and boyfriends dumped you, and you were sure the world was coming to an end, when in reality, you were just growing resilient for the future challenges. Life is full of disappointments, break-ups, losses, and broken dreams. Those teenage losses taught you to deal with the ups and downs of life.

True friends are there for you no matter what, when, or wherever you need them.

Teenage years all about friendships. Some of those friendships will remain throughout the years. Sometimes you won’t speak to each other for years but whenever you need each other, you will show up and pick up where you left off, as if nothing changed. These friendships taught me the value of a true friend and how to be one.

Thank you dear teenage self, for the best suffering of life. Thank you for teaching me the lessons from those broken-hearted moments, breakups, and tear-stained pillows.

I learned that I became stronger than I ever thought I could be. I learned how to stand up for what I believe in. I learned that I am an artist, a poet, and a writer. I learned how to show my children love and teach them how to love themselves. I learned how to pick myself up, brush myself off, and continue to move forward through the difficult times. I learned the meaning of friendship and love. I learned that true love is real. Happily ever after does exist, but it’s hard work that’s worth the effort.

Thank you for the pain, mistakes, and heartache that will become the best teachers. Embrace those painful moments. Those are the years that will teach you how to laugh, love and live a meaningful life.

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Last Updated on July 15, 2020

How to Let Go of Toxic People in Your Life

How to Let Go of Toxic People in Your Life

“Entitlement is an expression of conditional love. Nobody is ever entitled to your love. You always have a right to protect your mental, emotional, and physical well-being by removing yourself from toxic people and circumstances.” -Dr. Janice Anderson & Kiersten Anderson

It’s not always obvious if you have someone toxic in your life. A toxic relationship is one that is harmful to you. A toxic person can create distress to the degree you feel inadequate and isolated. So, what makes a toxic person?

A toxic person has toxic behavior, meaning it’s not that the whole person is toxic[1]. It’s what they do that counts. Most toxic people run from accountability and misrepresent reality to you. They misrepresent your worth and your ability to heal from them can be stifled the longer you keep them in your life. You have a role to play with it as well; if your values are dismissed by them and you don’t act on it, you have allowed room for toxicity to grow.

When you are in a toxic relationship, you feel less than. You feel as though you are not worth anyone’s time or effort. You feel unheard, and sometimes you feel unsafe. You don’t feel good about yourself in a toxic relationship, whether it be with a partner, friend, or family member.

You may stay in a toxic relationship for a number of reasons. You may believe yourself to be a burden, have a lack of boundaries, resist change, fear conflict, try to be a people pleaser, find yourself codependent, or are partially stuck in a pattern or unhealthy cycle of abuse.

Letting go of toxic people may not be easy. In order to do so, you have to know why or how they are toxic to you and read between the lines that they do not have your best interests in mind.

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Letting go of toxic people is hard because you are good and want to see the good in others. You think their apologies are authentic. You have trouble believing they are being dishonest. You don’t spend time healing from it. You get pulled back into the pain because you don’t want it to end. However, if you feel like something isn’t right, it probably isn’t right.

You should walk away from a toxic person because you need to preserve your peace. You need to feel like yourself again. And you need better support.

Letting go of toxic people can involve four major steps.

1. Recognize the Red Flags

Red flags are signs a person is being toxic. It’s when someone shows characteristics that you should feel caution about. It’s when you feel any level of dissatisfaction and distrust. Trust your gut. When you recognize red flags, you can evaluate whether a person is trying to manipulate you or not. This gives you some level of control over what you allow in your life. The earlier you detect these behaviors, the better off you will be.

Red flags can include:

  • They always put themselves first.
  • They point out imperfections and sabotage your self-esteem.
  • You may feel drained or used when you’re around them.
  • What you give isn’t reciprocated. They don’t return the goodness you provide as a friend.
  • They ignore your boundaries and get angry when you tell them “no.”
  • You catch them in half truths or outright lies when you confront them about anything.
  • You are the villain; they are the victim.
  • Second chances always lead to repeated patterns of behavior.
  • They may engage in abuse.

2. Set Boundaries

There are emotional boundaries that one can set, but there are also physical ones[2]. You can leave any time. Setting boundaries is also an important part of self-care.

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You shouldn’t walk on eggshells. Tell them how you feel. Are they respecting you, fulfilling your needs, and listening to you? If not, it’s time to set up a healthy emotional distance and start letting go of toxic people around you.

There are levels to this. You have your inner circle, which could include family, and then you have acquaintances and strangers. If a toxic person is in your inner circle, it’s time to pull back and put up some boundaries for them to follow. If they can’t hear you out, you can cut off the connection completely.

You can give second chances, but you have to be careful. If someone knows they can get away with something, they will do it again. If there’s any chance for the relationship, they have to know not to cross certain lines.

3. Invest in Yourself

You deserve to know you are worthwhile. Try to remember that things will get better and that anything is possible. How do you do so? Invest in yourself.

This means self care, goal setting, surrounding yourself with positive support, and feeling a sense of peace. Your greatest ambition should be to love yourself. Without self-love, letting go of toxic people will be difficult.

Every relationship is a risk, but if you know yourself and what you will allow, toxic people will have less of a hold over you. If you are a giver or people pleaser, you are most at risk to being in a one-sided relationship. You shouldn’t be punished for caring, but sometimes trust needs to be earned. If you have self-love, you are treating yourself the best way possible. You know that others need to meet your standards; otherwise, they don’t get to be a part of your life.

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It’s possible that you can love yourself and still not see the signs. It can be difficult for some to be aware that toxic people exist. However,, if you know how much you mean to others in your life and what you are worth, you will be less likely to take on a relationship that is harmful to you or repeat negative patterns. Self-love is how we get out of toxic relationships, but it’s also how they never begin.

4. Know When Forgiveness Is Possible

There are times a person will prove their worth to you. They may make a mistake that makes them seem like a horrible person. They may forget to be good to you because of their own issues. They may just have no example of what a healthy relationship looks like. They may have an inflated ego that really comes from insecurity. The list goes on.

If they apologize, that’s a start. Look at their actions. Are they changing for the better because they really want to change or just seeming to in order to manipulate you? A person may control others with their image or perceived personality, but if you see through them, you may be able to discern the degree to which they are willing to be there for you.

If they start to do the right thing, you may begin to trust them again. Don’t start forgiving them until time has passed and you are sure there is growth, even if they show vulnerability or remorse. You can give a second chance if they truly have an awakening. Otherwise, it’s best to get out. Don’t let them walk all over you; let them walk out the door.

If you do give a second change and they still refuse to change, you have every right to remove them and continue the process of letting go of toxic people. The moment you even want to leave may also be a good time to get out. You don’t have to compromise yourself in order to care for them.

Forgiveness is the release of resentment or anger[3]. Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation. You have to go back to the same relationship or accept the same harmful behaviors from someone. You don’t have to let them back in. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

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Remember, forgiveness is ultimately for you, not them. You don’t need that person in your life in order to forgive them, and if you give them a second chance, proceed with caution.

Final Thoughts

Recognize the red flags, set boundaries, invest in yourself, and know when forgiveness is possible. This is how you cope with a toxic person impacting your life. You have power in the direction of your life and the people who accompany you as you move forward. Use it.

If a person is worthwhile, they will prove themselves through their actions, not their words. If they cross certain lines that really harm you, you owe them nothing. You have every right to feel what you feel and to be upset. Honor your feelings and communicate them because it’ll only continue to keep happening if you don’t.

If this is happening to you, it’s time to put a stop to it. It’s time to take control. It’s time to live for yourself, not for what others say about you. It’s time to set your standards higher than they’ve ever been before. And most of all, it’s time to let go.

Resource reminder: A physically abusive relationship is ALWAYS toxic. There are resources for you. Always speak up.

If you are in such a cycle or domestic violence or abuse reach out for help. For example, there is The National Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org/) which can be reached at 1−800−799−7233. There are other ways to get help if you simply ask for it. 

More Tips on Letting Go of Toxic People

Featured photo credit: Hannah Busing via unsplash.com

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