How to Receive Life Guidance from a Younger Version of Yourself

When I feel stuck, I often ask people what advice they would like to give to themselves when they were my age. “If you could go back in time and talk to a younger version of yourself, what would you say? What do you wish you had known?

I posed this question on facebook once, and the responses I received were astounding – travel, know that you are already enough, trust the unfolding of life. Smile more. Forgive faster. And a slew of other poetic whispers that deserve to be made into a collage and radiated to the world.

Listening to the guidance of people we respect  is a nourishing way to foster our humility and make us feel less alone. By soaking in the I-wish-I-had-knowns of others, we open our hearts to receive guidance from people who have walked this part of the path already.

Last week, Elizabeth Gilbert turned this question on its head and asked readers on her facebook page: what advice would your younger self give to you? She posted a picture of herself at age 19 and wrote a beautiful short essay of what guidance the lost woman in the picture has to offer – her reflection is worth reading (linked above) if you have a few minutes to warm your soul.

When I read her post, the idea of learning from a vision of my past overwhelmed me – which past self would I even start with if I was going to ask for guidance? We go through so many lifetimes in the blink of a few years on this planet, so many kaleidoscopic viewpoints and experiences and hopes rush through us at any given point in time.

Would I ask for advice from the ten-year-old version of Me who brought “How to Write A Damn Good Novel” to school and worried about getting in trouble for the title? The teenager? The college student? The child daydreaming of crystals and healing potions, back when I still had my eyelashes?

The Universe swooped down in a cascade of synchronicity – a few hours after I started thinking about this exercise and pondering where to begin, my friend Sara posted this photo to facebook that I had never seen before:

 younger self picture

I was thirteen years old, hugging my friend in a bustling hallway at my junior high school. I knew this was the picture I was supposed to meditate on. Even in some of my most painful years, my giant smile reveals that I was still enveloped by so many things to laugh about.

Zoom in closer. I was smiling, but I also had no eyelashes – the trichotillomania monster must have been winning at that moment. I was hugging my friend, but really I was clinging to her frantically as if she were a life buoy. As if one change in the tide would send me careening away. I was wild and glowing, I was desperate and lost and floundering – but my god, did I hold on.

Kelsey, Kelsey… age 13… what could you possibly teach me? What would you say if you saw me now?

When I got quiet and listened, this is the advice that came through:

Stop bobbing around in other people’s expectations of you, and focus on the hot pink lotus flower that is glowing in your heart. You are You – always, devastatingly You, and every time you try to sweep your Youness under the rug you end up ruined. You aren’t broken or inadequate when your business casual has one too many sequins, when your dancing is “too expressive,” when you still daydream about darkness after all this time.

Foster your empathy and intuition, even if you get burned a few times along the way. Take action faster. Don’t hope that enduring something or someone for one more year will somehow bring joy to a dead situation .

And lastly… don’t lament yourself and your life for being “boring” just because you have a Real Job and stability. Remember that in my chaos of grief and adolescence and mental illness, you once would have given anything to have that sense of centeredness.


I had no idea that my younger self had so much to say, her essence reverberating beyond the pixels on a social media website. We have so much to teach ourselves, so many lessons brimming within us that are only waiting for us to tap into their wisdom. I would love to see friends, loved ones, and readers on this page from all walks of life take part in this exercise too.

Having a photograph might help you focus, but the picture is ultimately optional – the goal is to clear your mind with a few deep breaths and ask what your younger self is willing to teach you. If you dare to take the plunge and write down what that person has to say, I invite you to:

*Share your younger Self’s advice to you in the comments section of this blog post

*Share your findings from this exercise on my facebook page, or share it on your own facebook page to inspire your loved ones and get a similar conversation going. (If we aren’t facebook friends, I would still love to read it!)

* Write it in a journal that no one else will ever see, if that’s more your style. Burn the pages. Pretend this exercise never happened, but silently take the lessons to heart.

*E-mail your writing to me confidentially – – and I will gladly send you positive feedback and support in your pursuit of self exploration.

Love & Sequins & Dusty Old Photos,



4 thoughts on “How to Receive Life Guidance from a Younger Version of Yourself

  1. Sometimes it’s most painful to think about what 13 year old me would have said. In her eyes, I’m still the loser I was then – maybe not so much socially as she once was – certainly in my confidence level. She would tell me to do unfathomable and unlikely solutions to my current life problems; at that age I thought I knew the answer to everything. She would be disappointed at me for “selling out” and conforming with the rest of societal work standards. And 22 Alex can only shrug in response. I’m still her – so quick to judge others yet not the person she is.

    1. I love the perspective you bring to this – the feeling that your younger self would be disappointed. You have an awesome way of reflecting on this and identifying that you are still her in some ways.

      I can relate to you on the “selling out” thing – my younger self thought I would be famous and traveling and exotic by now, and here we are in our cubicles 🙂 But the older versions of us have a unique wisdom to gently remind that little girl that we ARE fabulous and interesting, that we once ate mangos off of trees in rural Panama while helping a community stay resilient against climate change, and that our lives are full of laughter even in the unknowingness of where we are heading.

      At age 13, we were in the throes of “What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to do?” and other tremendous forces nudging us to believe that’s all there was to life. So in some ways my younger self would be disappointed too. Or is that just our own self doubt magnified back to us…?

      Thank you so so much for sharing your wisdom on this <3 <3

  2. Younger Stephanie would tell me to be exalt in daily happiness at all of the gifts in my life. I always seem to find something missing, something to fix, and that means I have things to dream of, goals to reach for, but younger Stephanie would tell me that I already have everything I ever wanted and that while it’s good to dream, good to plan ahead sometimes, I should be living more in the moment. Yes, I have responsibilities that shouldn’t be ignored, but I shouldn’t let myself be consumed by them or by fear of them. Yes, I need to find a job. Yes, I need to find a more permanent place to live, but if I put in the effort, those things will eventually come. Right now, I have loving and healthy family members, friends, and an amazing boyfriend. I have a roof over my head and food on my plate and books to read in my spare time and a whole new and exciting chapter is beginning in my life.

    Younger Stephanie was always a bit of a dreamer too, but she was more focused on the positive in the present, on the movie tonight, on the sleepover this weekend. This seems like a typical teenager thing and it’s so often discussed as something to be annoyed with or ashamed of but I disagree. Yes, it’s important to plan for the future, especially when others are counting on you. We all need some security. But, as younger Stephanie would tell me, being right here right now and caring most about the world that’s around you this very instant is ok sometimes. And it’s refreshing. Back then, my woes were things like homework assignments and now they’re things like bills. Yes, my responsibilities are different now, but back then, those responsibilities that seem so small now meant so much and I was still able to give myself a break and forget about them for a time, lose myself in the moment when with friends, and just breathe.

    I don’t think younger Stephanie would ever advocate actually running away from responsibilities (though she was a notorious procrastinator, something we still share in common much of the time) but she would say that it’s ok to give yourself some space to enjoy life and not be consumed by your responsibilities, worries, and fears. It’s certainly something I need to work on. And I think it’s something we could probably all stand to do once in a while.

    1. I love this so, so very much I don’t know where to begin! I can absolutely relate to that feeling of always being restless, fixing, doing, filling a hole, moving forward (… and the needing to find a permanent place to live in the next few months…), but I love how you juxtapose it with your younger self – especially in such specific detail. And you have a unique perspective on the teenager attitude that I have to agree with after reading your words – when was the last time as adults we really focused entirely on the given night with friends/meal/fun experience without something more “responsible” lingering in our heads before we go to bed?

      Gratitude is huge. I am working more on that these days – realizing that other people lament that they don’t have certain things I have (similar to what you listed…. actually basically the same…) and here I am at the same time lamenting about how I don’t have a different life. And I love that you share things in common with her still, that you can see that reflected in both images as a parent sees their own resemblance in their child. <3 Lots of love – thank you for sharing this publicly, and I am so so grateful that we have spent this awesome lifetime together in friendship

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