You Are Every Age You’ve Ever Been


You Are Every Age You’ve Ever Been

At my thirty-fifth high school reunion, I lived this theory all weekend. Reuniting with the amazing people I grew up around brought the girl I used to be out to party. It felt like we all became those same giggly goofballs who wanted to spend lots of time together, catch up on what we had missed, and reminisce about the crazy stuff we did back in eighties. Like teenagers anywhere, we all just wanted to be young and wild and free.

That spunky former self of mine wasn’t the only one who showed up. Like our adult selves, the younger versions are also complicated.

At the big event on Saturday night, the angsty, insecure version of me popped in too–during a chat with a boy I had liked. That “boy” is 53. Back then, it was pretty clear I didn’t mean much to him. No shade intended, it was me who sent the message that it was cool, I’d stick around regardless. The confident adult I am now felt a stab of pity for that needy girl.  


It may sound odd, but quick access to those old feelings says something. Those vulnerable parts are still there, unresolved. And they need attention—particularly around their fears.  If we never revisit them, they just hang around, feeling angsty in perpetuity. Ideally, we want to feel fully integrated and whole but that takes some work.

A bit of self-compassion for our tender inner selves helps to realign so that we don’t end up making decisions or acting out from those unresolved selves. Instead, we want to lead from our steady core when we face challenges. We would all prefer to operate from the calm, clear, confident, curious, connected, compassionate, courageous, and creative Self who isn’t rattled by anything. Every one of us has that Essential Self. If you aren’t in touch with that part of you so much, this work is calling out to you. (See below for a detailed explanation.*)

It’s called Internal Family Systems, i.e., “parts work” and it can be done by yourself, in therapy or with a coach. I did it myself and demo-ed this valuable tool in a prior Friday Story.** When you feel a strong emotional reaction to something and the need to act out, that’s a signal for you to take a look inside.  


For me, that same self-conscious girl pops in when I am in a crowd of friends and clams up. She felt intimidated as a relative newcomer to this group of high school friends with long standing friendships, many since junior high and even elementary school.

So, in service to that sixteen year old who goes to every party with me, I will address her concerns. I have figured some things out as an adult which it seems like she may need to know. Maybe at the next party, she can relax a little and perhaps feel a wee bit less self-conscious.

Here goes:


  1. You think you need to change so much about yourself, but guess what? All you need to do is accept yourself exactly as you are. Once you love yourself better, you will take better care of yourself. It comes naturally. That is what we do for people we love. You will eat well, exercise, hydrate, and take time for yourself because it feels good. Not because you have to. That includes the people you allow access to you. They will be the ones who deserve you.
  1. You believe it’s better to hide the messy parts of you so that people don’t reject you. It’s a big NO to that one too. When you share your truth, people can relate. The more personal, the more universal. When you have the courage to show up exactly as you are, it creates space out in the world for others to do it too.


don’t worry, I’m fine, this is an old photo 🙂

  1. Your young mind believed all you had to be was thin, pretty and rich to be happy. LOL! That was just the culture trying to sell you stuff (looking at you, Cosmo.) Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s fun to be all of those things but that’s not the recipe for happiness. All these years later, I know super rich folks who are miserable, and thin, beautiful, people who are painfully insecure. It means jack squat. Happy is an inside job. And if you aren’t working on your inner life, it’s bloody impossible.
  1. You thought setting limits would alienate others and that boundaries are for people who don’t want relationships. That you should go along with everything just to keep others around. In truth, having no boundaries is only for people who want bad relationships. That bit of intel came back to me like a sack of hammers when I thought about my little sixteen year old self with a raging case of mommy AND daddy issues. SHEESH. That girl was so desperate for attention, it hurts to even thinking about it. Good job not getting yourself in more trouble back then, little miss.


  1. Friendship. Despite lots of friends, you felt like a lone wolf. You always assumed it was because you didn’t quite fit in. All this time later, it’s clear that you have difficulty in big groups and sometimes get overwhelmed. It’s a sensitivity thing. You worry about saying too much or too little. Your heart sinks at the thought that you won’t have any meaningful conversations and it will all be for naught. Know that there are always opportunities to connect. I found many this weekend and it was amazing. My old friends are the absolute coolest people ever. And I no longer have qualms going off alone to take care of myself. I no longer worry what anyone will think. Several of us acknowledged that we get overloaded and need space to recharge. I did that a few times—took a long run in the crisp Fall weather, meditated regularly, and followed a schedule that worked for me. And felt fine about it. Actually, I worried a little, tbh, but I did it. A few of us discussed how great it is to finally be okay taking care of ourselves. Progress, eh?
  1. You weren’t the only one struggling back then or now. You may have felt self conscious about how nuts your home life was but the truth of it is, everyone had hard times. Some we didn’t have a clue about until now. Abuse, alcoholism, neglect, you name it. And most of us kept it to ourselves. How great to be able to share what we went through from the safety of adulthood. How unfortunate that the kids we used to be just white-knuckled their way through it alone. Hug a teenager today. Tell them it’s going to be okay. They are carrying the weight of the world.


  1. You had the right idea about dancing it out. Angsty energy does need OUT of your body. Back then, you practiced and performed with your squad and took your show on the road with a fake ID and a buddy (love you Larue!) to go dance at a club whenever you could. Movement is an extremely effective spiritual and emotional detox. Not to mention, great for your physical health—a total reset of the nervous system. Animals do this all the time. If you watch the nature channel, two animals have a brawl, then run away, stop and shake it off. Quick way to start over. In high school, you were so smart to do it regularly. Good job.


  1. It is totally normal to feel insecure. It’s part of the human condition to want to belong and to feel like you really don’t. By nature, we are social creatures searching for connection, common ground, and acceptance. We all feel a little misunderstood. When we feel bad like that, it’s a sign that it’s not true. Truth feels free and expansive. We all belong to each other. Everyone is struggling with something. Assume that is true for everyone and you start from a place of love and compassion—for yourself and everyone else. Only good can come of that. And THAT, my friend, is the truth.
  1. Don’t worry about doing everything right and rushing to “get somewhere in life.” You are never too late on your own path. There is no finish line. If you follow your truth, it will unfold exactly as it is meant to and it will be beautiful.
  1. You’ve got this. Now go get ‘em tiger.

What can you tell the insecure teenager inside of you? She’s still in there. I know. I hung out with mine all weekend.



P.S. Lots of love to the class of ’87. You all are the absolute best.

* This is an awesome tutorial on Internal Family Systems and why it’s so valuable:

** This is my demo piece on IFS from a couple years ago.

*Curious about coaching?  I offer one on one coaching using the Wayfinder model designed by Martha Beck. If you would like to find out if this work is right for you, email me to schedule a Discovery Session. And if you are family or a friend, I have a wonderful coaching community who are ready to partner with you. Learn more at

For more on the Self we want to be in charge of our decision making, check out:

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