BLOG by Jenna

What I know now, that I didn’t know then…

I’m asked for advice at work a lot. Before I give it, I like to encourage people to find the answer themselves. It’s not for the reason they might assume. It’s because I think our instincts, or intuition, are always right, we just don’t always know how to listen. I never used to be able to. Which got me thinking about what I wish I’d known back then. When I was, shall we say, in my previous life?

I’d definitely have something to say to my younger self.

First of all I’d say— there’s a lot of advice out there as to how to live your life better, but please… ignore the generalized clichés. Live each day like it’s your last! Smile! Hug people more!

Younger Self, it’s okay if your response to these is more like—

How about you don’t hug me? Thanks. I like my personal space. And definitely, don’t tell me to smile. That makes me want to smack you, not smile at you. I’ll smile when I feel like it, when it’s genuine. Also, no, you can’t live each day like it’s your last. That’s about the most impractical piece of advice I’ve ever heard. Think about it for a second. No one would go to work. They’d all be running around to tell everyone they love that they love them, or spending all their money, or doing reckless things for the hell of it. It would be chaos. There would be no functioning hospitals, grocery stores, transportation. You want to jump on a plane to tell your overseas family you love them? That’s really nice. Except none of the airport staff or pilots wanted to go to work either. You can’t even drive over to see your best friend— some guy stole your car, cause he could. Cause the cops aren’t working either. The world would pretty much fall apart.

I’m going to suggest not listening as much to what others say. Hear your own voice. But this is the tricky part— we have a few different voices. (And it doesn’t make you crazy, just human.) But only one of them is your true voice, and it’s often the hardest to hear. There’s your critic, usually the loudest, that negative voice and the first to pipe up with things like—“That was stupid, why’d you say that?”, or “who do you think you are? That’s a crazy dream. Never gonna happen.” Guess what? This isn’t even your voice at all. This is an accumulation of other people’s voices. Your unsupportive fourth grade teacher, a critical parent or sibling, a bully at school. You collect all these negative beliefs about yourself from what you hear over time, and this becomes the persistent voice of your inner critic. Look, a little critical analysis is a good thing. But when you’re chasing perfectionism? No good. You’ve spent far too many years trying to be perfect to please the critic. And it will never be enough. But you are. In fact, you’re pretty awesome. (If I say so myself.) You just don’t know it yet.

You have another voice that says things like—

“Careful, don’t jump!” “Don’t try to do that. You might get embarrassed.” “OMG! That’s dangerous!”

This is the voice of your fear, of course. Fear is good when it protects you from doing things that could seriously harm you. For sure, don’t jump off that building, you can’t fly. But sometimes you have to ignore fear. It can hold you back from taking good risks and doing worthwhile things. Such as… the risk to try something new, that could turn out to be your undiscovered talent or passion. The risk to love someone…

The voice you really want to listen to, that incredibly small, quiet one, is the one that will tell you which piece of fear advice to take, and which to ignore.

It’ll let you know if fear is legit, or if it’s just insecurity you need to kick to curb. Don’t live your whole life run by fear, only making choices and decisions to avoid what you’re afraid of. It’s no way to live.

The secret is to listen to that quiet, innermost voice. It’s the voice of you. It’s not afraid, it’s not critical. It’s hopeful, it’s optimistic, and it’s your cheerleader. It believes in you. Your true voice, when strengthened, will also take care of the critic and unnecessary fear. Take an Olympic athlete, for example. It’s not that they never had a critic, it’s that they shut that crap down and made room for their inner voice to be their unconditionally supportive coach instead. “You’re a lean, mean, fighting machine and you’re the best!” “So, that didn’t work out. What are you going do? Cry about it? Hell no. Get up, dust yourself off, try again. I got you.”

It’s the part of you I want you to fight to protect. The more you listen to that part of yourself, the stronger and happier you will become.

My last piece of advice is not from me. It’s from the wise inner voice of Oscar Wilde…

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”