Dear Younger Me,

A day will come when you will be tempted to take your own life. You may not even believe it right now but there will be a moment when everything will change and life will never be the same again.

It began going downhill the day you lost your first love. The one you naively thought you would spend the rest of your life with, even though you were still so young and immature then. You pulled yourself together enough to make it to work the next day with eyes all puffy from a night’s worth of tears, only to find out that you cost the company $17,000 just because you, the intern, had forgotten to send out an important invoice. Then one of your closest family members had to be warded into the Institute of Mental Health. Everything in your life suddenly seemed to fall apart and all you wanted to do was end it.

You questioned your existence. You questioned your ability to hang on.

Why was this happening? Why to me, of all people?

And then you decided to check out of reality. You squashed those memories and buried them so deep by layering on vice after vice.

A once God-loving girl, you turned into Satan’s ‘lil devil overnight. You partied to get drunk and numb yourself so you’d forget the pain. You picked up smoking because you thought it made you look cool and, more importantly, you never felt alone with a stick in between your fingers. Sleeping with anyone who made a pass at you made you feel powerful and in control for the moment but after that, you cried yourself to sleep because you felt like shit, empty and purposeless. It was all in the name of fun, you told yourself. Yeah. Right.

Back then, you had the emotional capacity of a peanut to take on the world and all the issues you were grappling with; of fixing the broken family, getting a real job you were passionate about, finding “the one”. So you travelled extensively to escape and you made sure it looked like you had your shit together on Facebook.

The truth is, you did have a lot on your shoulders and it was really hard to see the silver lining behind the grey clouds. Bouts of depression would kick in every time you felt like a failure. You felt like the world was against you yet you were still somehow expected to behave like a mature adult. But what did it even mean to be an “adult”? You had no clue. You didn’t have any strong role models to help you navigate the early years of adulthood. Neither did school equip you with the resilience and other life skills to handle such adversity.

So when you go into that dark phase, I want you to remember these words: “Wake the fuck up and stop feeling sorry for yourself. You’re wasting so much time and money on useless pursuits. Your life is waiting for you – and it’s going to be beautiful.”

You do not need to spiral into that attention-seeking, melancholic and insecure patterns of behaviour. You do not need to spend your hard-earned money guzzling booze with friends on weekends in the hope that they will like you and keep listening to your sorry plight. You do not need to repeat your sorry story like a broken record just to validate the situation you are in, and justify the destructive choices you are making. Because all this only served to entrench your low self-esteem and self-worth.

I’m sorry darling, but truth is, no one cares about you but you.

One day you will begin to understand that self-worth doesn’t come from external validation. It has to come from within. It’s a metamorphosis of unravelling your true self and loving yourself for who you really are, flaws and all.

Only you can empower yourself.

I know this sounds like a total cliché but there’s a reason why many young adults get butterfly tattoos – to symbolise the transformation of how an ugly caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly after a period of being cocooned.

Similarly, we, as individuals, have to first accept who we are in order to grow into who we want to become.

Growth is a painful and humbling experience but you can help yourself by letting your guard down and being vulnerable, honest and open with yourself. This requires a level of self-awareness and it’s the first step towards being a real adult. Why? Because if you know who you are and accept who you are, it’s going to be easier to decide which parts of yourself you would like to keep, discard or change in order to arrive at an “upgraded” version of yourself.

Unfortunately, the rebel in you will resist any advice that comes your way, and you’re going to have to learn the hard way. But try and hear me out anyway.

It’s hard to be beautiful if you’re in self-destruct mode and doing bad things to yourself. You may think it’s cool to be a little promiscuous but the reality is you could get STDs or get pregnant and stuck with a father of your child that you would never willingly choose. Besides being money down the drain, excessive alcohol isn’t good for your body or brain. It’s nice to buy nice things but it’s sad when it’s because you’re trying to fill a void, and you end up being a hoarder. Going out too much and being a social butterfly may make you seem well-liked and popular but the reality is, it’s just a ton of fake friendships and these people won’t be there for you when you really need them. And smoking, it’s fun and “cool” but it’s an expensive habit that will be very hard to quit.

The wake-up call will come in your late 20s when, through all the partying, you meet some older girlfriends and realise that you don’t want to end up like them when you’re older. Thankfully, the realities of their dysfunctional lives will slap you sober.

Instead of turning to all forms of escapism to numb yourself, you will finally learn to be comfortable with being alone with yourself in silence. You will start reflecting about the life you have lived. You will begin to see a very different perspective of things. You will then realise how all those vices were convenient distractions that hindered true growth, and how much time you had wasted denying yourself that growth. It will hit you how wrong you were to abuse the body you’ve been given. Wrong to live so recklessly and irresponsibly. Wrong to deny the consequences of your actions. Wrong to want to take the easy way out by checking out of life.

You realised how you were really cheating yourself of your true potential.

And the moment you were finally ready to be real with yourself, that’s when things turned around. You were ready for Big Girl Pants. No more self-sabotage, no more wrong men, no more wasted days and nights. Girls’ nights out drinking and dancing became for fun and not for seeking attention or trying to get laid. Shopping was only for necessities and not frivolous wants. Friends, you kept the real ones and learnt to look for more positive connections that would spur you to achieve your dreams.

You got a proper job and that taught you how to be responsible. You finally embraced that responsibility instead of resisting it. You rose to the challenge of looking after yourself and your family financially and emotionally. You decided to live your life in line with the values of integrity, honesty, compassion, perseverance and faith. You took risks – the healthy kind – and grew from them. You decided to take whatever lemons life threw at you and you were focused on learning the life lessons inherent in each.

You discovered that popularity doesn’t beget respect: The only way to get real respect from others was to get your shit together, and so you did. You earned it by living out your values and inspiring others around you to follow suit.

Eventually, you found your real passion and purpose in life. You got better at making decisions and sticking to your word because you learnt that it helped you trust yourself more (especially after a lifetime of “wrong” decisions). You learnt that striving for perfection is great but, like unicorns, it doesn’t exist. What matters more is trying and evolving. You promised yourself that you would wake up each day a better version of yourself than the previous day, and really appreciate each day because you finally realised how fragile your own life is. You also learnt to check in with yourself more frequently and allow yourself more space to grow.

And grow you did – into an empowered, self-assured, confident woman, and I’m so fucking proud of you.