1. You have come so far. Please think about where you were a year ago, or three, or five, or seven. You have scaled mountains, you have overcome things you once thought would you never would. You have done things you did not think you could do, even if some of those were just getting out of bed and facing another day.
2. You can live within the questions. Life doesn’t start when we’re set on the answers, it unfolds within the questions themselves. It’s not knowing where we’re going to end up, but the journey of exploration and soul-searching and deep-diving and connecting and seeking and ultimately arriving at our north. It’s not always knowing exactly what we’ll be doing in 10 years, but having the courage to pursue what feels right and comes effortlessly today. It’s not always being certain that one relationship is the end-all, be-all of your existence, but showing up to it each day in spite of the unknown. Certainty is the cheap way out. It’s giving a final answer when you’re meant to unravel the question until the answer is a piece of you — so obvious, and so present, something you do not need to decide, but simply choose to embrace.
3. You’re not behind. You’re not off-track. There is no way to be. Your life is a continuous unfolding of yourself. It is shaped and guided by the world outside of you, and how you interpret and respond to that world. It’s an ongoing exploration of who you are and how you might be. Life does not begin when everything is perfect. It does not start when you think you’re worthy. It’s happening right now. You are not anywhere but where you are supposed to be, because there is nowhere else to be. The idea that you might have to earn your way into the life that is already yours is an illusion.
4. Life isn’t a linear ascent into perfection. When you’re watching a movie, you don’t spend the whole hour and a half just waiting for the ending, for the final answers. You understand that each piece of the story has meaning, each part is there to be enjoyed, savored, metabolized. You don’t expect all of the strings to pull together and for everything to make sense right away, but you remain curious, you observe, you interpret and predict and you stay the course. Your life is the same way. You’re living in a work of art while treating it as an equation that you have not yet solved. We do not create ourselves once and then never again, we are a lifelong project, an ever-shifting, continual blossoming.
5. Nobody expects as much of you as you do of yourself. I know this is so hard to believe. I know you imagine that everyone you come across is evaluating your successes and failures, mapping them through their minds and arriving at a conclusion about the light through which they’ll see you. I want to tell you a secret: that light is your own. That is the perception you’re projecting, that is the lens you’re seeing yourself through. The brain is a funny thing in that it’s primary goal is to feel affirmed, and often when our most pronounced fears about ourselves take the center of our consciousness, we end up seeking reasons to believe in them more, not less. The point is that you don’t know how other people see you, you’re not in their minds. You can only know how you imagine yourself to be, and then consider for a moment that you don’t spend much time evaluating every detail of someone else’s existence, and so maybe (just maybe) you are likewise at the center of your own universe.
6. Weaving through the shadows is part of the experience. Facing the hardships is part of the experience. There is no experience through which you cannot seep out a part of your soul that was once a mystery to you. That, in itself, is part of the magic.
7. Being reasonable is part of the problem. Almost anything that truly calls your soul will take you off the certain and consistent path that a million others have carved out of the wilderness. It means that it’s never going to be “reasonable” to want to travel, or pursue art for a living, or love the person you love. There will always be a reason not to, another thing you could or should or might be doing with your time. But sometimes, in an effort to make sense of our lives, we end up more lost because love isn’t logical, joy isn’t logical, passion isn’t logical, and fulfillment isn’t logical. You have to find the courage to paint outside the lines you drew for yourself.
8. You have to start being kind to yourself. Kind in the way that you’re kind to a child, to someone or something so innocent and endlessly deserving of your affection and praise. When we grow up only occasionally receiving the connection we need, we create rules about love and affection and who is and isn’t worthy of receiving it. Mostly, we remain on the undeserving end of that spectrum, and so we come to believe that even we aren’t allowed to give ourselves love until we are good enough to get it from someone else first. This isn’t so. We have to be kindest to ourselves when it seems least deserved, because that’s usually when it is most needed. Find the simplest and most obvious ways to do that. Over time, you will find that so much of the relentless internal pressure are voices you once heard and then took as your own.
9. You probably don’t need as much as you think you do. You do not need as much as you think you do. You do not need a lot to be successful, you do not need to be a lot to be enough. You do not need a lot to be content, fulfilled, and happy. You do not need as much as you think you do, and widening that gap in the name of ambition will not make you reach for more, it will only leave you emptier. Know what you need, know what you want, and draw a line in the sand. You cannot spend the entirety of your life desperately and exhaustedly seeking. You must make time to simply be.
10. The fullest expression of your potential isn’t about quantity, but quality. Being loved means being completely seen and embraced by a few close people, not seeing just how many people you can convince to admire you in total. Being successful does not mean making as much money as possible in your field of choice, but being able to wake up every day and feel grateful to be alive, even in spite of all you’ve been through, even in spite of the fear. It is not how much you have, but how much what you have makes you believe life is worth living. It is not about how far you might climb from yourself, but whether or not you settle in.
11. It’s normal to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is a beautiful messenger. Unlike its sister signal, pain, discomfort often points us toward where we are most primed for growth, where as hurt points us toward where we can no longer grow. Discomfort is what quietly communicates to us that something isn’t quite right, which means that deep down, we know there is an answer, we recognize that there is a solution, even if we’re afraid to embrace it completely. The point is that discomfort is your friend, not your enemy, and asking it what it has arrived to tell you is the only way to coexist with it, as opposed to being constantly at war within yourself.
12. Big things happen in small steps. You might be thinking that the problem with your life is the lack of big, breakthrough moments, momentus achievements and distinguishable exits from the past and entries into a new and more glamorous life. You might be thinking the problem isn’t that you don’t live in the coolest city, or that you’re not the most well-respected individual in your field, or that someone else has more than you which means you’re simply not doing enough. The truth is that big things happen in small parts. It’s not about those one-off changes, it’s about the accumulation of intentions you set day-in and day-out. You are far more defined by your daily routine than you are whether or not you moved someplace in particular or accomplished something in particular all by an equally particular point in time. The truth is that the path will lead you to where you need to be inevitably — holding your breath until you arrive only delays you getting there.
13. Nobody else has it all figured out. Part of the story that occurs in our minds that makes us believe we aren’t quite keeping up pace with our peers is this idea that everyone else has it figured out. How couldn’t we think that? Look at the endless stream of their accomplishments and moves and family photo shoots we see non-stop. How couldn’t it appear as though everyone has it completely together and we are just scrambling to stay where we are? The highlight reel can be deceiving. We aren’t supposed to know every detail and milestone of every person we’ve ever been acquaintances with since childhood. This is an experience that’s distinctly unique to the digital age, and it’s one we’re still adapting to. Before the internet, you’d move on from a place or a school or a group and you’d actually move on, not stay gently connected despite being geographically, mentally and emotionally in different worlds. It’s tricking you into thinking everyone you’ve ever known has it together, and you don’t. It’s just not so.
14. You’re right on pace for the life that is yours. The truth is that right here, right now, right as you are — you are right on time. You are running on schedule. There is no way you couldn’t be, because there is no wrong way to move through the path that is your own life. When we are too certain of what’s next in life, it is often because we are following someone else’s path.
15. The journey isn’t about convincing yourself that you’re enough, but loving yourself even if you aren’t. On the road to believing that you’re enough for this life, you will begin by trying to seek out evidence that disproves your worst fears. Of course, if you are sought after to date, you are appealing, and so you are worthy. Of course, if you get into your dream school, you are smart enough for your future, and so you are worthy. Of course, if you are liked by many, social proof says you’re a amicable person, and so you’re worthy. Unfortunately, life doesn’t actually work this way, because even when we gather all of those reasons we should believe in our worth, we really don’t feel it until we decide to love ourselves even if we don’t believe we’re worth it. Instead of trying to convince yourself that you’re the best person ever, try instead just caring for yourself and your surroundings unconditionally. Worth is not something we earn, but something we remember as we cultivate our own care and approval.
16. You are doing better than you think you are. You are closer to a breakthrough than you believe. You have come farther than you remember. You are doing better than you think, because your brain and body is basically hardwired to constantly focus on the next problem, the next threat, the next fear. This is meant to keep you safe, when really, it slowly fractures your heart. It makes you believe that nothing you accomplish is enough, that you are destined to live the rest of your life leaping from one high to the next, always bracing for the inevitable crash. Even if all you did today was keep breathing, you did enough. You are not only as worthy as you prove yourself to be. Your worth is a self-evident byproduct of the presence of your being. Maybe the point is that you stop and finally feel it.