This article is part of our series, “Lessons to My Younger Self.”
I have always been who I am. I recognize myself in the 4-year-old girl who loved, even then, wearing black pants and a white shirt. I recognize me in the 17-year-old girl who couldn’t wait to leave home and go off to college in Boston and a big world where I could do anything. (This is the age that I still secretly think I am!) I recognize myself as that super-charged woman in her tumultuous 30s trying to make sense of her marriage, a flourishing career as a TV reporter and critic, and three bouts with cancer.
I am still alive, still married, now a mom, and searching out my second career. So what is it that I would tell my younger self who is still very much me?
I know it has something to do with power. I have always felt that anything was possible, that I could do anything I set my mind to, and that I just had to figure out how. I knew this from the time I was a toddler, and sequestered myself in my bedroom determined not to leave until I had taught myself to tie my own shoes. I can still see myself trying different knots and twists and turns until I finally got it! I had such a feeling of power and accomplishment.
When I was in my late teens and early 20s and heard about “Women’s Lib,” I remember thinking—what do we need that for? I can already do anything I want. I was hardly radical—just on my own trajectory.
Now in my late 50s, I have circled back to this notion of female power, and am shocked as I look around at how little power women wield in the world. In the year 2011, women remain underserved, undervalued, underrepresented, and underpaid. I want to help change that.
I look at myself and realize that if I am going to move forward, I need to dig deeper. What is the real source of my own power? I picture myself as a young woman and realize what I would say to that young woman who was so intent on being “a good girl,” doing things perfectly, making sure everything was under control and the best it could be, feeling guilty about the smallest dust-up with a friend, worried about disappointing someone. I know exactly what I would say to that young woman who felt powerful in the outer world, but burdened on the inside.
I would tell her that she is OK as she is. I would tell her that she is worthy. I would lighten her load and tell her she doesn’t have to be perfect. I would tell her to trust herself to be in the moment and not always on guard. I would tell her to breathe, and not to waste time in worry and guilt. I would tell her not to spend herself on people who make her feel “less than,” ever. I would tell her not to be afraid to fail because every experience counts and will come in handy somehow, somewhere. I would tell her to trust her honest heart and good soul.
In short, I would love her.
This I tell myself now, and anyone who will listen—to love and have faith in ourselves; this is the source of our energy, our joy, and our real power—and will lead us to speak in our true voices to the world.