Dear MeContrary to what I tell those around me, I am 38 and not 29 years old. I am currently trying to find the “pause” button.

I often wonder what type of advice I will give to my daughters when they are young adults. If I could rewind 20 years, what would I say to the “18-year old Tina”?

Dear Tina,

The most important piece of advice that I have is to love yourself before you try to gain the love of others. The feelings that come with being in love are addicting. The highs of being in love (or thinking that you are in love!) allow you to forget the day-to-day feelings of insecurity, angst and self-doubt that many young women struggle with. I encourage you to feel those feelings instead of pushing them deep down inside because eventually, and when you least expect it, they will rise to the surface once again.

Once you’ve felt the feelings and have acknowledged them, I encourage you to work on them. A garden doesn’t grow without nourishment and you can’t grow as a person without nurturing and caring for yourself. Dig deep to understand your feelings and work through them with tender loving care. Emotional wounds are wounds even though you cannot see them. Find ways to work on these emotions whether it is through journaling, therapy or long walks on the beach.

If you discover something that you don’t like about yourself then by all means, fix it!  You can fix yourself but you can’t fix anyone else.  Forget the craft store, become your own do-it-yourself project! Hold yourself accountable with goals and rewards. Be easy on yourself: change doesn’t happen overnight!

Take yourself on a whirlwind courtship and discover who you are!  Go to the movies and buy yourself a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Go to dinner in a fancy restaurant overlooking the ocean and then take a long bike ride on a beach cruiser with a cute little basket on the front. Learn that silence is truly golden and embrace the quiet times to soul search.  Ask yourself all of the questions that you would ask someone on a first date.  Learn to fall in love with who you are!

Listen to your gut feelings and pay attention to every red flag. If something does not feel right to you, explore that feeling. Go to your quiet place and ask yourself what advice you would give to your sister or best friend.  Many times, we hold others in a higher regard than we do ourselves. Pay attention to what your inner voice is telling you.

Love shouldn’t hurt. It sounds like common sense and even a bit cliché however; I encourage you to let the simplicity of that statement resonate in your mind. There will be ups and downs, anger and moments of frustration but real love does not hurt. Use borrowed judgment when in doubt by talking to trusted friends or family members. Heed the advice of those that you admire when in doubt.

Say, “I love you” daily until you actually mean it.  You can’t have a healthy relationship with others until you learn to have one with yourself first.

Love, Me

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Click the link to purchase Tina’s new book, “Divorcing a Narcissist- One Mom’s Battle.”  You will find insight, red flag reflections and strategies on how to survive (and thrive!) while divorcing of co-parenting with a narcissist. Tired of panicking at the site of a new email from the narcissist in your inbox? Learn how to decode the emails and see them for what they are. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.



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