Life is best understood in reverse.

As grown-ups, we get to a point at which we can look back at all the moving pieces, all the parts that didn’t make sense, all the things we wanted but didn’t get (and the things we got but didn’t want), and bizarrely, we find this sense of peace in knowing that every single dot was connected all along – even if we couldn’t see it at the time.

When we become parents, we become gifted with the opportunity to act as our children’s guide to life; someone who’s been there, and can point out helpful hints along the way, what to choose / what to avoid, all with the intent that we can help them navigate the experience in an even smoother way than we did, while still making that experience their own.

Raising three girls, I think about this a lot: how can I best facilitate their hands-on learning, while keeping them safe? How can I give them the insider scoop on the life lessons I’ve learned, while encouraging them to go through the process of trying, failing, learning, and trying again?

Here are the top five things about being a woman I wish I’d known as a girl, that I embed into everyday life and conversations with my own kids, while allowing them the space to live life on their own terms.

1. Authenticity is Your Superpower

Really, if I could impart one thing to my kids, and even my younger self, it’s this: your greatest strength in life will always be the gift of being yourself. It’s actually that simple. Who you are is who you’re meant to be, so own it, and embrace it. You were born a complete package with so much to give, and so much to receive. Enjoy the simple pleasure of being yourself, and watch the magnetic force that will carry for good throughout your life; you alone are enough.

2. Both / And Trumps Either / Or

There is a misconception that women have to “choose.” That you have to choose between being soft or fierce. Independent or cooperative. Opinionated or soft-spoken. This is a fallacy. The most interesting women I know are the ones who’ve adopted that they can be both / and, instead of trying to squeeze themselves into a false definition of one characteristic or another. You are allowed to shine, in whatever way feels good to you.

3. Your Body is Your Own, Period

Your body is a vessel that contains all that is you. It’s your privilege and job to treat it with tenderness, care, and respect. You are your own standard of beauty, of shape, of size, of ability. Every single part is special, something to be proud – and never ashamed – of. Including your period and most intimate self. Allow pleasure into your life and enjoy receiving it, and sharing it with the right person at the right time. Your body will send you messages when you are doing the right thing, and also the wring thing; listen to those messages and act accordingly.

4. You Are the Only Person You Need to Please

There is one person you are accountable to in this life – every single day of this life. And she’s looking back at you from the mirror. Unless you plan on transforming yourself into a plate of food truck tacos, you will never, ever be able to please everyone. Set all the healthy, loving boundaries you need to, in every relationship – including your family – and be mindful that you are always acting in accordance with what aligns with your values and vision. No explanation necessary.

5. Forgiveness is Like a Drug

Life is designed to be trial and error; perfection is a total myth, and people are going to make mistakes. Constantly. Including you. That means that people are going to disappoint you from time to time. The secret in healing that pain and disappointment is forgiveness. Appreciate that more often than not, we are all doing the best we can, and sometimes we still mess up. Appreciating that will allow yourself the space to forgive YOURSELF when that happens, and to let go of carrying the weight of all the ways in which people of wronged you. Forgive them, make your own peace with it (staying true to those boundaries we talked about), and move on.

This life is precious. It’s so rich and juicy if you let it be, and too little are we supported in fully knowing or appreciating that. We get so much internet wisdom as we go through the figuring out the process of adulting; sharing these insights with my kids is such a gift to share.

This post was written for and originally published at Sonnet Insurance for International Day of the Girl

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