Mental Health Moments: An Open Letter To The Little Girl Version Of Me
⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten ⌛
A couple of weeks ago, I listened to the 15th episode of the “You’re Welcome With Hilary Rushford” podcast. While I usually listen to this podcast to give me that extra pep in my CEO step, she discussed one of the core areas of my being: perfectionism.
This is a facet of anxiety I know all too well. I was the little girl who pulled the fuzz off her stuffed animals every time one was in my hands. I antagonized over grades, fitting in, whether I would graduate summa cum laude, if I would ever find true love. You name it -- I have worried about it and probably had a panic attack to accompany it.
I’ve discussed my perfectionism in bits and pieces through #mentalhealthmoments blog posts for a little more than a year. This post will read a little bit differently than the rest as it is more of a glimpse into the redemption I know see for myself. And I want to show you that you, too, can find that peace with the voices in your head.
In her podcast, Hilary talked about looking at your anxiety struggles through the lens of your former child self. Essentially, I view myself in two lights: the Kaylin you know and love (or not) in her public relations glory, accomplishments and confidence. The other version is more negative and gives into fear. She survives on self-deprecation and This is the one only those close to me see. I want to differentiate between the two and bring each into the light instead of thriving in darkness. Both of them need to see the illumination of day instead of coming out at night like a vampire.
Because, my friends, life is not like your Instagram highlight reel. It’s much more vibrant than the beautiful photos you post of you and your friends by the pool or on vacation in your favorite city. It’s full of highs, lows and boring in-betweens. It’s full of love, loss, beauty, ugliness.
So, this blog post is more than what I post on Instagram. It’s more than what I have ever written publicly, and it serves as the springboard of a project I will work on in 2020 -- a collection of essays discussing mental health and my crazy-beautiful journey.
The anxious me has a name, and it’s Kaylin. It’s no one but the little girl version of me. And all she needs is a little self-love. So, here is my open letter to the anxious little girl who didn’t know how amazing she was and would grow up to be:
Dearest Kaylin at 10:
You don’t know how precious you are. You are sitting there on your bed, tears streaming down your cheeks as you watch “The Empire Strikes Back” for the hundredth time in your 1980s Beech Fork State Park T-shirt. You crave adventure, love and aspirations that could fill an entire universe. But, your anxiety lines the path in front of you, and you don’t know what it even is yet. This is your normal. This is your everyday. This is perfectionism.
You wonder if you’re enough. It everyone likes you. If you’re a good big sister and daughter. If your grades are superior to those unrelenting high standards you think are the norm. If you will ever be that illustrious version of you that you want to be. The one who gets her own version of Han Solo and a career in which you can make a difference.
I’m here to tell you that anxiety isn’t an everlasting flood of emotions. It’s a temporary rise of the creek near your childhood house. It’s a fleeting pattern of headlights dancing across your bedroom walls in the middle of the night. It’s one tear on your pillow but the hope of a brighter tomorrow.
So, stop being sorry for who you are. You’ll look at yourself in 20 years, and you will be in awe. You’ll have what you always wanted -- and more. And anxiety will still be there, but you will look at it with love because it’s who you once were before your experiences and growth took over. While it’s deeply rooted in your brain, it doesn’t define you. Look at it with empathy, hope and love.
This was you when you cried yourself to sleep. When you sat in math class in frustration because you just didn’t get the algebra concept in front you. This was you when you walked the hallways of your high school wishing a boy would like you. When you were finally in a relationship but it was poisoned with abusive lies. This version of you that rises to the top of your emotions -- this is the girl who needs love most of all.
So, stop being mean to this version of you. Celebrate everything she is, from her successes to her missteps. Wear your classic TV shirts in high school. Play video games and love “Star Wars” before it’s cool to be geek-chic. Remain dedicated to writing and everything related to school and your career. And never settle for less than you deserve in life and love.
You don’t know how precious you are. How kind. Beautiful. Intelligent. Wear that heart on your sleeve like a badge of honor. Stop apologizing for who you are and want to become. Just comfort that little girl inside of your brain who still lives in there. Anxiety will shake her and you to your cores, but one thing remains: your resilience.
Self-love is your new normal. Your everyday. Your new definition of perfectionism.
To be continued…
Kaylin at 30 (almost 31)
Please note: These blog posts are not clinical, although we will provide symptoms and other information. These posts are based on my experiences with anxiety and mental health in general. If you or someone you know needs help, visit a website like Mental Health America to learn more.
Mental Health Moments blog posts are every other Tuesday of the month. Our CEO and contributors highlight what it's like to live with a mental health disorder and continue to fight the stigma through storytelling.
Kaylin R. Staten, APR, is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer based in Huntington, WV with nearly 16 years of professional communications experience. As CEO and founder of Hourglass Media, she uses her compassionate spirit and expertise to delve into the heart of clients’ stories. She is a recovering perfectionist, mental health advocate, wife, cat mom and Leia Organa aficionado. Connect with Kaylin on LinkedIn.