Dear 11 Year Old Sal,
I love you so much and I want to acknowledge where you’re at right now. What I’ve learned is that to know or to experience something and then have it taken away, is much harder than having never known or experienced it before.
In your case, you have known what it’s like to be significant, a leader, someone who draws people in. You know what it’s like to be the top of the class, the teacher’s pet, the first pick for the team, the lead in the musical, the leader of the pack.
So, to feel that all be taken away from you in the blink of an eye is deeply painful. It’s confusing. It’s your first real experience of loss and there is a grief associated with losing who you truly are.
I get it. You were so excited to finish primary (elementary) school and graduate to the ‘big time’ of high school. You had high hopes of making new friends, having your first boyfriend and continuing your golden run of achievement in sport, music, and academics.
Yet, what you didn’t account for or anticipate was CHANGE. Change in your body, change in your thoughts and feelings about yourself, change in the way others perceived you.
You were not prepared for puberty on any level. The changes in your body were shocking and unwanted. You were losing your freedom to just run around with your shirt off, to change your clothes in front of others, to play sport without pain in your chest and to swim without fear of leakage during ‘that time of the month’.
And all of a sudden, you became different from your siblings. And man, did they let you know about it! I feel your trauma of finding your dolls with massive sanitary pads stuck to them and ketchup squeezing out the sides. The embarrassment of being called ‘Prickles’ because you were starting to grow pubic hair.
And to top it all off, you became ‘Big Nose’. I wish you could know that your face will catch up to your nose and you will end up liking how you look. I promise. However, that doesn’t take away the pain for you right now of being called ‘Rudolph’ and truly believing that you are ugly. You aren’t ugly. You are in the process of change and the thing I know more clearly than anything else is…
…it’s all perfect. And when you recognise that what you’ve lost is coming back to you ten-fold, you will have a new level of gratitude and appreciation for your life. You will have a deep empathy for others, which you would not have experienced if you’d continued your life as the pretty blonde overachiever.
Sal, I know your heart. I know you are kind and loving to your core. You are about to hit extremely tough times in your life because the internal loss you’ve experienced around your sense of ‘self’ is going to leave a gaping hole and you’re going to desperately seek outside of yourself to fill it up.
Boys are not the answer. Being ‘popular’ is not the answer. Drinking (while fun and still very much enjoyed by your 40-year-old self!) is not the answer.
I wish I could hold you and let you know that you are amazing. You are smart, fun, funny, loving, giving and full of potential. The ‘true love’ that you are seeking starts within you.
However, you must go through what you are going to go through and at the other end, when you look back you will understand why.
And it’s that ‘why’ that will propel you forward and help you reclaim your true essence. Your leadership, your magnetism and your desire to spread your love far and wide.
Go forward and just be you. You are more than enough.
Your 40 Year Old Self xxx
This was a powerful exercise recommended to me by the amazing Dani Andersen in an activation session we had recently. Initially, I wrote this privately to myself. However, it’s my mission to empower the next generation of kids by helping free our generation of women. This cannot happen until we acknowledge and bring into our awareness the hurts of our childhood, so we can begin to let go of and free ourselves from the false beliefs that we created about ourselves. Only then, can we break the cycle and pave the way for the next generation. I encourage every single one of you to identify ‘that moment’ in your childhood where everything started to change for you, and write a letter to yourself at that age. There is power in your story. Write it for yourself and write it for the young girls and boys who can choose something different for their lives because of the way YOU choose to show up now.