For much of my 20s, I was on the look out, not the look in.
I would often become defensive, jagged and ungraceful with my expression, especially in intimate partnership.
Now, I’ve shifted toward the belief that self-inquiry is a prerequisite for self-expression. I asked myself enough questions to be able to live more freely in alignment with who I really am.
Then, I started asking others how they did it.
All of the women you’ll read about here are in the business of living all of themselves — every gritty, honest, beautiful cell of their experience. This is what I strive for myself, and this is what I believe can shift worlds — the authentic expression of every human being.
I’m writing a book about this belief, encompassing the full-length version of each of these interviews, interweaved with memoir. I’ve plucked out weeds/gems from my life, inspired by what each interview evoked (or provoked) in me, the intertwining of which, I hope, will show that our full expression is vital because it gives others permission to do the same.
As for me, I would tell my 20-year-old self to look inward, be still, be curious, be vulnerable… and to live from that space whenever possible.
As for the women I interviewed, here’s how they answered the question:
Amber Rae (Founder, Bold Academy; Writer):
1. Be true to you.
Ten years ago, I was in my second year of college. I would have said: Be true to you. I was in a relationship for a year that shattered me. It took me three years to get over it because I had gotten so far away from myself. I abandoned what and who I was to be with him.
I got away from being true to myself, and it brought out a lot of insecurities, pain and fear of abandonment. I am grateful for that experience; it pushed me to work through a lot of pain.
2. Take financial risks.
Another thing that comes to mind is: take financial risks. I would manage my finances more and have more systems in place. Now, I’m excited by the financial spreadsheets I feared before. My relationship with money now is one of being in control — it’s another just area of life to optimize.
Melissa Joy Kong (Co-creator, Loveumentary; Editor, Technori):
3. Love yourself first. Practice self-love every day.
What I would say to her is the same thing I would say now. I would tell her: love yourself first. Love is a thing that you do, a choice that you make — not just a thing you feel or say.
I would tell her to practice self-love in little ways every day, and trust that I’m fully deserving of the benefit of that practice.
Now, when I put things in my body, I think: Will this give me energy to do work that’s impactful, or will I feel tired after I eat this? When I look at a job, I think: is taking this job an act of self-love, does it expand and nourish me, or does it shrink me? If I do a job I enjoy, I get to bring that joy to other people.
Tonya Leigh (Creator, French Kiss Life):
4. Stop worrying about what other people think.
It’s not your job; what you think of you is your business.
5. Take more action.
I’d tell myself to get out of my head, because I know now that clarity comes through action.
6. Notice what people thank you for.
That’s always a clue to where you can give value in the world. People would say to me: “Wow, you give me permission to be feminine”; they thanked me for it constantly. I didn’t realize at the time that this was a sign as to how I could provide value.
7. Cut out the middle man.
Oftentimes, we put a middle man into our equation of happiness. We think: “When I’m my ideal weight, I’ll feel sexy,” or, “When I have X dollars, I’ll feel abundant.” I wish I’d known that I didn’t need that middle man — that I could create those feelings for myself right here, right now.
8. Live the essence of what you want now.
10 years ago, I believed that I didn’t have what it took or that I wasn’t enough or that no one would care. I didn’t realize that’s just a thought; it’s not who I was. I taught myself that I’m not my thoughts, I taught myself how to guide them better. Thoughts aren’t reality.
Mélanie Berliet (Journalist; Author):
9. It’s okay to quit.
When I was younger, my mom didn’t let me quit things, so I had this really big fear of quitting Wall Street. If you’re feeling misplaced, sometimes it’s ok to stop what you’re doing and reevaluate.
I finally started quitting in my 20s when I left Wall Street and began to explore how I could be a writer. Watching my sister go through everything that she did inspired me to do that.
Amy Smith (Creator, The Joy Junkie):
10. You’re absolutely capable.
I would have been in the middle of an intense quarter-life crisis. I would tell her that although it seems rough right now, you’re absolutely capable. You’re going to blow yourself away with what you’re going to create; the woman you’re going to be over the next decade is going to blow your mind.
11. Be open to learning.
I’m a firm believer that we keep getting presented with the same lesson until we learn it. And we never stop learning.
Jen Blackstock (Creator, The Unbridled Life):
12. Slow down and notice.
Ten years ago, I was working in New York City in the finance industry, wearing a suit every day. I would tell that girl to slow down and notice everything that’s happening around her. I was really numb back then; it’s so important to allow yourself to feel what’s really happening.
13. Spend time figuring out what your unique rhythm is.
Meditation and moving to the ocean has helped me so much. I also figured out that using an alarm clock was making me rush through the day, so I stopped using one. I wake up when my body wants to; it slows me down and helps me be in my pace.
Nicole Antoinette (Creator, A Life Less Bullshit):
14. Trust yourself more.
I spent a lot of time giving away my power doing things that weren’t right for me — people would tell me: you should pursue this, go to this school, and I would listen. It’s taken me a long time to be able to trust myself.
15. It’s all part of the process.
I’ve learned that things don’t happen in a straight line, and that’s beautiful. I was a food studies major, I worked for a chocolatier, co-owned a cookie shop, ran a children’s day camp… I would tell myself to trust that it’s all part of the process.
Susan Hyatt (Master Certified Coach; Author):
16. Life doesn’t have to be hard.
Ten years ago, I was a real estate agent. I wasn’t enjoying my work but I was feeling the pressure to make a lot of money. I thought I had golden handcuffs. I was feeling burned out and overwhelmed and like I really wasn’t doing anything well in my work or in my home life. I felt very stuck.
I would have said to her: life doesn’t have to be this hard, you can change and do whatever you want, you are smart and brave enough to pull off anything, and this too shall pass.