Imagine if you could write a letter to yourself. Like advice from the future.
This week is anti-bullying week and today is World Kindness Day. Both subjects close to my heart.
But before I go any further, I would just like to point out that the photo above is full of lovely memories. None of the girls pictured above were bullies and in fact, are all bloody brilliant human beings to this day.
I have been bullied, both at school and in the workplace and the hardest thing to deal with is that for me, it wasn’t hidden. It was happening and no one did anything. And because my class mates and coworkers ignored things or found them unpalatable, the bullying goes unchecked, unchallenged, becomes a norm and can be very isolating and lonely.
I want to see an end to bullying. There is no need. So that’s what I based my letter to teenage Ruth on. Telling her she was strong, beautiful and courageous and that the bullies can’t touch her.
Lessons from Nana
If you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. That’s something my Nana taught me at a very young age when I was being mean to my little sister. Sorry Cath! Nana had your back and I learnt to be your friend, not just your sister.
Nana also taught me that it’s important to think before you speak. She had a saying that was, “If you wouldn’t say it their face, don’t say it at all.” The thing that’s on the tip of your tongue might be true, you might feel angry, but people have a habit of talking, sharing what others have said and appearing behind you when you’re talking about them! As has happened to me on one deeply embarrassing occasion. It’s not nice hearing mean things people have said about you, so this was another motto I try to live by.
Full of wisdom my Nana and I miss her so much.
Letter to my teenage self…
So here is my letter, written to my teenage self, trying to prepare her for life, work and everything.
I wish I could actually get the chance to write this letter to you so that you could actually read and learn from it. You’d be dangerous, you’d be a boss girl, kick ass super hero if you knew everything that I know now. But it’s OK because you turn out to be just incredible anyway.
And that’s my first lesson. I wanted to tell you that it’s going to be OK. It will all be OK. You are a kind and gentle soul and that’s a really good quality to have. I am so proud of you. No matter what you are going through, it’s OK to feel very, very not OK. Because life is sometimes so hard and that’s alright. Don’t bottle up those feelings and bury your emotions. Because a lot of those buried hurts and wounds come back to haunt you in later life.
Talk. You love talking and are good at empathising with others, but you have to learn to talk about everything. And I mean everything. It’s the talking that makes the bad stuff OK and helps you learn how to live with it. To find ways to live with things, memories and experiences that you wish hadn’t happened. Because you can’t change who you are. You have to learn to accept everything you can’t change and learn to live with it the best way you can.
You are beautiful in ways you will struggle to appreciate. Yes you are. You are really beautiful, with all your faults, eczema, atopic skin and allergies that make you feel like a freak, fussy and ashamed. You are beautiflawed in every way. Perfectly imperfect. and I love you/me just the way you/we are! These things only make you more fantastic. You were put on this earth to help people and in order to help them you have to experience the hurt, the desperation and the depths of despair that they are going through. It’s tough sometimes but you’ll be OK.
You are also strong. Stronger than you realise. You, my darling, are one of life’s warriors, the fighters who not only survive battles but go on to share, relive and help others in the same situation. You are not ashamed to go back to those dark, shameful places and to put yourself out into the world in an honest, vulnerable and real way. You will learn that this can help others to feel less alone, to feel normal, if normal is even a thing, and to demand better and ask for help when they need to.
That’s hard sometimes and you need to learn to look after yourself and to love yourself truly, madly and deeply. You can’t help others if you are not being kind to yourself. It’s OK to be selfish sometimes and to say No, when you are taking on too much. You will learn the art of doing absolutely nothing, of just being in nature, of soaking up life, peace and love. You will get better at self care and self love but you need to prioritise it, not just be kind to yourself when you have nothing else going on.
You’ll be bullied, quite a bit. You’ll fee let down, betrayed and lost. But what you’ll learn from this is that none of it was your fault. None of it was fair, it was very, very unfair but it wasn’t anything you did or said or didn’t do or say. It was actually that bully who is the sad person. The person who needs to hurt others to feel some power. Who knows whether they felt threatened, annoyed, just didn’t like you, or were just a mean ass, who cares. They weren’t nice to work for and you will never work for them again. What’s important to learn is that they can’t hurt you. You choose how you receive their insults and abuse. And you can choose to rise above it, to turn away, to refuse it. It isn’t important what they think. All you can do is to do your best, work hard and do a good job. Easy for me to say now but it’s true. And you have always worked hard. People see that, and they appreciate it, but sadly people often stand by and watch bullies. That’s not their fault either.
It’s hard to stand up to bullies. But you are one of those people who does. Keep doing that. Keep standing up and saying, Stop! Keep being you Ruthie, because you’re marvellous.
So there it is. My letter to teenage Ruth. I wonder what she’d make of that, whether she’d read it and learn or go on and make all the same mistakes again. The mistakes I made back then were to not ask for help, bottle stuff up and not talk and not value myself enough.
Only taken me 46 years to learn! What will I become over the next 46! I can’t wait to find out.
What would say to your teenage self if you could give them some advice?