My daughter has recently started writing a blog about doing what you can with what you’ve got to make a difference in the world. She includes the fashion industry in this, where clothes and fabrics are sourced. She messaged me requesting a particular photo of me wearing a pair of shorts that I got in my twenties and that she now wears in her twenties. The exact same pair. You can probably deduce from this that I’m not a great declutterer. I keep things that I think ‘might come in one day’. And I smile when I say to my daughter ‘Keep things long enough and they’ll be fashionable again.’ I digress.
Retrieving the photo of me in these shorts took me to photo albums from that time when my waistline could fit those pale pink Top Shop shorts. I looked at that woman and, 30 years on, I think she’s lovely. Now I can see her inner beauty reflected in her outward pose for the camera. I didn’t see it then though. When I transport myself back to who I was then, I remember the dissatisfaction of frizzy curly hair, feeling ‘fat’ and wanting to be more attractive.
So what would I say to my 29 year old self if I’d been receptive enough to take on life’s wisdom from my elder. What would have made a difference to how I felt about myself and how I approached life? The super-power of self-compassion, that’s what.
It doesn’t work like that though does it? The reality is that to get real meaning and grow, most of the time we have to work things out for ourselves. There’s an alchemy that creates insights and shifts our perspective. It might be when we experience the beautiful synchronicity of the right words for a particular moment - from a person, a book, a magazine, a photo, a film or TEDtalk. It might be when our experiences dovetail with another’s and we connect deeply, or when we’re ready and receptive to see what nature and life and relationships are reflecting back at us in the moment.
The reality is my 29 year old self would have listened but she wasn’t ready to apply the self-compassion practices that my 61 year old self is convinced will change the world. My 5 year old self would have been ready and receptive though. And this gives me hope for our personal narratives, accepting ourselves and for doing what we can with what we’ve got to make a difference in the world.