Advice to My Younger Self- Joleen

You don't have to be perfect. Dear Younger Joleen,

I know that you struggle with anxiety, but you really need to be much kinder to yourself with what you expect from yourself.  Striving for perfection will only make you more anxious, and will keep you from being in rewarding relationships.  Especially, the relationship with yourself. After all, if you are so worried about what other's think about you (and how they are perceiving your every word and action), you will be more worried about that, than getting to know people and letting people see your true inner beauty.

You will meet a mentor later in life that will give you great feedback:  "You don't have to constantly treat your life as though you are 'on stage'!"  Feeling as though you always have to be "on" and be "perfect" makes it feel like the world is looking at you through a magnifying glass... or even worse-- like there is a giant spot light on you at all times.  These words will resonate with you when you get older, but for now, just think about that!

When you struggle with social anxiety, it's rooted in shame and perfectionism (and fear).   You will never feel comfortable with social situations if you feel like a giant spot light is on you all of the time.  So, stop it!  Other people don't expect you to be perfect.  They only want you to be yourself.  Let them see this person. You are a pretty awesome person, and other's deserve to get to know you better.  Start listening more to what they have to say, and worry less about how they are perceiving you at every step of the way.  This will allow you to connect to your heart and find your voice.

I know this is difficult to hear, because it feels like other's have a lot of power over how you see yourself right now.  Don't worry... you will work on this and make huge strides, and it will help you in all areas of your life.

Other's will ask things of you and you will be afraid to say no, for fear of disappointing them.  You will worry they will be disappointed in you, no longer hold you in a positive light and see you as less than perfect.  STOP WORRYING ABOUT THIS!  It is okay to disappoint people!  You are not responsible for other's happiness and you are not responsible for other's lives.  You are only responsible for yourself.   Please take care of yourself.  It only makes you run yourself ragged to be in a role where you are worried about everyone else's feelings more than taking care of yourself.

Just remember this:  you don't have to be perfect to be loveable.  You already are.  Start loving yourself more today, and you will be much happier for having done so!

Love you, beautiful girl!

Your older self

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.