what advice would you give your younger self?

In ALL, MY LISTSby Stephanie Klein40 Comments

younger self talk

I‘ve been wondering lately, what would I say, if I could, to my younger self?  You know, if we went for drinks at a Mexican joint, and I began a sentence with, "Okay, there’s something you should know…" what would follow?  See, it’s easy to tent a blanket of "don’t take life so seriously" on it, but that’s like telling someone to "just relax." The words are there, we hear them, but they don’t make us feel any differently.  It’s too easy.  It’s lazy advice.  Here’s what’s harder to say:

Keep a diary.  And when you write in it, try not to dot your i’s with hearts or fat little circles.  Try to write about something other than the opposite sex or the fights you have with friends.  I wish I knew, when I was younger, to write about the good in my friendships and family, to document the loving moments.  Write about your relationship with your cousins, with your grandfather, with your parents.  I need to take this advise now, too.

Nobody cares if you bite your nails.  No guy is going to notice what shoes you’re wearing, and if he does, he’s the wrong guy. 

You actually look beautiful, and can leave the house, without makeup.

Learn how to keep track of your spending and realize no amount of shopping will give you real self-esteem.  Even the have-to-have handbag or shoes.  But, it’s okay to like nice things.  Don’t be too hard on yourself for buying into consumerism.  There are worse things.
Be kinder.  Try to treat people as if it’s your last interaction, but at the same time, care less, a lot less, about what other people think. Read that again.  Stop caring what other people think.  How? Understand that this is your life, not theirs, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself if things don’t work out the way you’d hoped.  At a certain point, you have to stop pointing fingers behind you toward your childhood. You cannot be walking around worried about what people will think of you.  At the end of the day, all that really matters is what YOU think of you.  Even if people say great things. Horrible things.  Their opinion shouldn’t matter more than your own. 

Don’t worry about appearing braggy or narcissistic.  It’s called having self-esteem, valuing yourself enough to think people might care about what you have to say.  Don’t be ashamed about anything because all our embarrassments are part of the human condition. 

Don’t play music on your outgoing answering machine message.  I know you think it sounds good and everyone else does it.  Don’t do that.

Rich relationships are a product of who you are, not where you are. You’ll make friendships anywhere you go, so stop worrying about the right places, schools, cities, apartment complexes, neighborhoods. 

Whatever decision you’re worried about, right now, whether you should do this or that, however important it feels to you, just stop.  Look Up. Remember, when you’re feeling like shit, to just step away from it, for fifteen minutes and just try, TRY, to enjoy the view.  Yeah, the stars shine bright deep in the heart of Texas, but I’ve preached this before.  Now that I’m in, what I consider to be, the ‘burbs, I never think, "I wish I were living in the city."  But when I lived in Manhattan, I always wished for stars, stairs, and a view.  So look up wherever you are and realize a world goes on outside your dramas. Really, all of it will pass, will be worked out.

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.  I’m not saying to discount the consequences of your actions, but try to worry less about choosing wrong.  We weigh ourselves down in it.  Second-guessing ourselves. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes because, really, you learn so much when you risk.  So really, it’s never a mistake.  Unless it involves wearing the color orange or anything to do with a hat.  These are usually mistakes best to avoid. 

Ditch negative people.  Don’t keep them around because you feel guilty.  Hold onto your strong female friends, even if you’ve had a pissy fight.  They’re really important.

I wouldn’t tell my younger self to listen more, or to be compassionate as well as passionate.  I think I knew those things then.  Yeah, yeah, live in the moment, in the now.  I already knew that.  Heard and knew the words.  That’s not something I needed to hear, and it’s still not.  I would have liked to have known that the truly big moments aren’t as important as the smaller quiet ones.  The sidelines matter more.  When traveling, I’m never impressed by the main attraction; I remember, more, the smaller moments, the little girl, when I was in Madrid, dressed in "her Sundays."  She saw me watching her walk by as I sat on a bench.  She kept turning to look at me.  I remember those moments most.  "Keep paying attention to the smaller things," I would say.  "That’s where the good stuff is."

Don’t be so damn hard on yourself.  Yeah, you screwed up.  You’re not perfect, fine.  Learn from it.  But don’t punish yourself.  Be kind to you, even when you screw up.  You’ll bounce back eventually.  You’ll make up for it. 

You are not fat.  You are within a healthy weight range.  As long as your doctor isn’t talking to you about health risks, you are not fat. Even if your fat pants no longer fit.  Try, as hard as it is, to realize how good you look now.  Here’s what I’ve learned.  When I’m a size four, I’m usually miserable and anxious.  Then, at a size ten, I’m happy in my life (miserable that I cannot fit into my wardrobe, but actually happy in my life), but as happy as I am, I long to be the miserable size four again.  It’s lame-ass behavior.  Stop worrying about it.  Your weight issues aren’t going away, so just deal and learn to love yourself at whateverthehell size you are.  Just deal. 

The man should love the woman just a smidge more.  Many wise woman I know have told me this (after the fact).  I wish someone had said it to me once upon a time.  I would have listened.  Life is too short to learn everything the hard way.  At some point, it helps to listen. Yes, you have to experience some things for yourself, but the things I’m saying here, and especially if I had a "back to the future moment," and it was coming from ME, I absolutely would have listened and reacted… at least while it was top of mind.  I hope to look back on this one day and just add to it.  I hope to keep this list top of mind, too.  Especially the bit about writing about the good.  As for the man loving the woman more bit, I’ve been in relationships where I just *knew* I loved him more… and in relationships where I totally just *knew* he loved me a little more… I still loved him completely, but knew, I guess, that he adored me and would never do anything to screw things up.

Don’t cling to what you know.  Holy shit.  This would have saved me some therapy.  Push your boundaries, explore; don’t rely on the familiar.  Move.  Make new friends.  Go out alone, and don’t be afraid of what others think about it.  No one else is just like you, and you, just as you are, are important.  I wish I knew and believed that then. Much more important that sunblock.  Okay, just as important, anyway.

Compliment people.  When people receive a compliment studies have shown that their blood pressure is actually lowered.  People are immediately set at ease. 

Accept compliments graciously.  Don’t pull the old, "oh stop," or "ew, no I don’t."  Don’t roll your eyes.  Take it in, and really accept it.  Shake your head and respond with a heartfelt, "thank you."

Get a pet.  You live longer and happier when you can care for it properly.  When you’re older, you tend to live longer if you have a pet.  It’s an activity; something is relying on you.  You matter, even when the kids are too busy.  They also lower your blood pressure.

When you feel blue, have a "self-esteem" music mix at the ready to lift your mood.  Then force yourself to take a walk, wear the anxiety tired. 

Eat three meals a day.  Try not to snack.  I don’t care what you’ve heard about grazing and blood sugar.  You know you and the way you can’t stop once you start.  Stick to three hots.

Realize your life is not like the movies.  It’s not supposed to be a Mark Ruffalo film.

Pointing out how the fake MIT Sunscreen speech of Vonnegut did it better?  Better re-read the title and figure out the author is doing more than "internalizing things;" she’s tipping her proverbial hat. Not a case of sloppy seconds, thank you very much.  Again, try not to expect the worst from people.


  1. You are a breath of fresh spring air on this crappy New York day, Stephanie Klein. Thank you so much for this. I too will make a list to my younger self.

  2. I turn 21 in a couple days and this was the perfect thing to read…it honestly felt like it applied so much to me right now. It's nice to have this information while I'm a bit younger, even if I don't appreciate it as much as I will when I'm older. A close friend just killed himself a week ago and I just wish he could've read it. I'm grieving and this helped a lot. Sometimes it's just nice to have some of the things you're thinking reinforced by someone else.
    p.s. I've read your post since the article in the NYTimes a couple years ago and this is my favorite post thus far.

  3. My list would be short, I think:
    Spend more time smiling and laughing.
    Say yes more often.
    Don´t hesitate, or wait, or save things for tomorrow.

  4. Remember people with love. When they pass remember how they lived nothow they died. Thank you, Stephanie.

  5. Thanks for re-posting this. I remember loving it the first time. I just forwarded it to all the woman in my address book and it was the perfect pick me up on this rainy day.

  6. Stephanie Tara Klein,
    You have no IDEA how badly I need to pick up what you're layin' down today.
    Thank you for doing what you do.

  7. Wonderful post. Since I just found your blog, it's a fresh read for me. No matter what the age, people can always get something out of these thoughts.

  8. this is my all-time favorite post of yours… i read it often and have shared it with many. hope you're having an awesome day here in sunny, beautiful Austin!

  9. *Ease up on feeling so self-conscious. People pay a lot less attention to you than you think.

    *If you want to snag the guy that you like, treat him just like you treat the guy that you don't like.

    *Wear mini-skirts while you still can.

  10. LOVED THIS. I was having the worst day and this post really made me reflect on my life and what's important. As usual, Stephanie, you give great advice without being preachy.

  11. When the elevator door closes your mouth shuts as well. BEST advice I ever got.

  12. Marriage is not a business. There is no need to be 50/50. Just love each other and give.

  13. The printer is already churning, so I hope it's ok with you that I print this off and give it to my daughter….Everything I always wanted to say to her and never knew how. Thank you.

  14. Having a bad day, and this both lifted and saddened me. Great writing, as I expect from you and very true.


  15. There is no substitute for good luck.

    Thank you Stephanie. This is now printed and hanging on work board.

  16. I don't know how you do what you do so well, but don't stop. You have such a way of getting inside all of us and saying just the right thing at just the right time. Your writing is amazing. I hope you have someone who does the same for you.

  17. Wonderful.
    The truth about "a man loving a woman more" hit home. I was being dramatic in the kitchen today and my husband said, "I would do anything for you. Don't you get it?"
    Yes, I know he loves me more than I can love him (at this time). We will be married 19 yrs next week.
    I suffer so much…since my father died and he suffers so much…not being able to fix it.

  18. "Imagine how happy you'd be if you lost everything you have….and got it back again"

    the proverbial version of "love the one you're with"

    just be thankful.

  19. I couldn’t agree more! The “Learn how to keep track of your spending and realize no amount of shopping will give you real self-esteem” was so on point!! It took me a long time to realize that my self-worth is more than the “it” bag I carry. No matter how much you try, or spend, you can’t buy your self esteem.

    My nod to sunblock–

    1. Never settle.
    2. Remember that everything looks better in the morning.
    3. Don’t marry someone you think you can live with, marry someone you can’t live without.
    4. Appreciate the positive, whenever I’m stressed about what you don’t have, think about how other people your age are living all around the world. How different your life could have been if you were born in a different country, or even zip code.
    6. Don’t wear things that look ridiculous just because their “in”. Only splurge on things that can be warn for several seasons.
    5. If you don’t like something about yourself or your life change it, we are all the captains’ of our own destiny. Don’t let anyone stand in the way of want you want. You can accomplish anything, you just have to believe. Claim it and it’s yours.

    And one of my favorites passed on from my Gram ….of all the things you will regret in your life you will never think, I wish my house was cleaner, or that I should have worked more. Basically appreciate all the things that mean the most especially family and don’t sweet the small stuff.

    I don’t think that my younger me would have listened. Maybe the best of life’s lessons must be experienced first hand.

  20. Except you don't have a pet anymore! ha
    This was very uplifting, however I don't know, it's hard listening to advice from someone who's life is going to swimmingly. i know i know, everyone has their ups and downs but still. it's quite hard.
    whatever, i think i'm sadly not up for this blog anymore and it makes me sad in a way. i really am going to be sad for this loss.

    best of luck to the babes.

  21. Well, I will be 48 in a few months and I thought I knew everything. Or everything I needed to know. Thanks Stephanie Klein. Very profound. Oh, I am going to the city tomorrow and I am buying your book. And putting the new one on order as well.

    "learn to love yourself at whateverthehell size you are." – thanks I needed that. Yeah, my size 14, nearly 48 year old body that has birthed 6 children (that is not a typo, I actually have 6 children with the same man!) aint too bad actually.

    Your blog is now in my favorites…and beautiful babies. Really, I dont say that to everyone! They are beautiful.

  22. I loved this when I first read it back in the day. In fact, it was one of the first posts I read by you- and since that day, I've been addicted to your writing.
    Thank you for posting it again… it's so very refreshing, eloquently written, and just all together amazing. As are you.

  23. Hell, I'm 45-y-o, starting a new business totally outside my comfort zone and this is all still awesome advice.

  24. Hello from sunny Sydney!
    Wow, Stephanie you have a way of articulating your words that is so beautiful, even when talking about mundane things.

    I will print this out for my mum, who's just undergone a double mastectomy & i'm thinking she will need a bit of reassurance to feel 'beautiful' again.

    Take Oprah's advice – write down 5 things you are grateful for at the end of the day. You might be stumped at first, but you will be surprised at what flows out – the tiniest things that you are actually grateful for, like a beaming smile from a complete stranger.

    Don't worry about your crows feet – they are merely the records of your laughter imprinted on your face…

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