By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
Dear Teenage Me:
I know you’re young, but you’ve already figured out an important life lesson: relationships are complicated. In many ways, you’ve seen how relationships--including romantic relationships, friendships, relationships with family members, and any other kinds of relationships--can be the source of a lot of happiness, but also a lot of pain. You’ve been blessed with a lot of good, loving people in your life, but, just like everyone else, you’ve also experienced relationship problems that hurt you and others around you.
You’re a trusting person who tends to look for the best in other people. But at some points in your life, you’ll be tempted to give up your trusting nature. Don’t do it! Being able to trust others is an important part of having good, healthy relationships. But, at the same time, you’ll see that trusting others does open yourself up to the possibility of being hurt. It’s no fun getting hurt by others who you once trusted, but at the same time, you’ll learn that you’re strong enough to overcome it. Don’t give anyone the power to make you stop being trusting and open to the world around you.
Being trusting of others doesn’t mean you just blindly trust others, though. You’ve got to stay smart about it. Choose carefully the kinds of people you allow into your life. One of the best pieces of advice you’ll ever hear about starting new relationships is to “take it slow.” And this is important advice, because taking your time to really get to know someone is important for making sure that they have the qualities needed to build a safe, healthy, fulfilling relationship. Unhealthy relationships often start out looking very similar to ultimately healthy relationships, with people putting their best foot forward and not necessarily revealing their true selves right away. So, it can take time to figure out who someone really is, especially if there are feelings of excitement about the relationship clouding your view.
While you’re choosing who to let into your life, above all else, choose kindness. Surround yourself with people who are kind at the core of who they are. It takes time to figure this out sometimes, but trust your gut. Your intuition is a powerful source of guidance when choosing what level to allow people into your life. Look at not only how people treat you, but also how they treat and talk about other people around them. If someone shows any signs that they’re not a fundamentally kind person, be cautious of them, and keep clear boundaries up. You don’t have to--and sometimes, you won’t be able to--completely keep unkind people out of your life, but you can protect yourself by keeping them at as much of a distance as you are able to create. On the other hand, when you find people who are kind, supportive, and really care about you and your wellbeing, keep those people close. They are a treasure and will be one of the biggest blessings you could ever imagine for your life.
Beyond seeking kindness in others, always choose kindness for yourself, too. You won’t be perfect at this--nobody is! Even still, try and commit to acting and speaking with kindness in all areas of your life. One day, you’ll hear a wise professor of yours tell you, “You never help someone by hurting them.” These will be great words to live by. When others fall short of kindness toward you, you can still choose the path of kindness. Even if you’re setting boundaries to limit how close you let others into your life, you still can bring a spirit of kindness to those boundaries. If you’re in a difficult situation, and you make the kind choice, I don’t think you’ll ever regret it!
There are so many things I wish I could go back in time to tell you! But since I can’t do that, I take peace in knowing that you’ll learn the lessons you need to learn as you go. If you stick with kindness as one of your guiding values in your life, you’ll grow old without many regrets and with a lot of great relationships in your life.
Sending love from across the years,