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ver la bella : how to stay positive + present when life's hard

on positivity: a letter to my younger self



Recently Ashley, the founder of Your Super Awesome Life, asked me to weigh in on what I wish I'd known when I was a teen girl. (For those of you not familiar with Your Super Awesome Life, it's a wonderful website where Ashely provides tips, tools, and inspiration for teen girls who want to begin living in a way that reflects their deepest, truest, most super awesome dreams. Her mission is for every girl to feel empowered and super awesome.) The list of what I wish I'd known is endless, but what I really wish I'd known back then is how important having a positive attitude is. 

It's so easy to look back and say, "If only I'd known..." Clearly I cannot go back and teach myself what I know now, but I can help others who are where I was to see what I was once blind to: positivity matters. There's a lot I would say to my younger self about how important positivity is so I've written a letter to the girl I once was. Though it's addressed to teenage me, it's something I hope all teenage girls (and perhaps anyone!) can learn from.  



Dear Teenage Dani, 

I know it's tough being where you are now. Pardon the Britney Spears reference, but you probably are feeling as if you're no longer a girl and not yet a woman. You sometimes long to be in your twenties or thirties, free from the confines of living with your parents and finally living as an adult. You sometimes wish you could go back to the naivete of childhood, to a time when you didn't care so much about boys, didn't have to worry about grades, and didn't feel like you were constantly on an emotional roller coaster. You're in the in-between, a kind of life limbo, and it's a tough place to be. 

It's also a great place to be. You're on the verge of adulthood -- old enough to have some sense of who you are, yet not so set in your ways that you feel trapped by your own self. The worries you have now seem daunting -- college, boyfriends, friend drama -- but they will only magnify in adulthood. I'm sure the last thing you want to hear is that it gets worse, but that's the truth. It also gets better. As an adult, you will have more freedom, more experience, more fun. You'll become the person you were meant to be (and, oddly enough, you'll realize that this person is quite similar to your childhood self). 

As wonderful as those wild, experimental teen years are for you, the things you'll experience later in life will be so much better. Life will be harder, but it will also be happier. Though taking advice is probably one of the last things you want to do (you love to go your own way), listen up. I've learned some things over the past ten years or so and I wish I'd known them back when I was a teenager. Here are some of the things I wish I would have known... 


  • Your attitude matters -- and you can control it. You have the power to choose your attitude. No matter what happens, you can choose to focus on the positive in the situation. At times it seems like it would be way more work to focus on what's going right (those negative thoughts are tempting!), but focusing on the negative only makes it harder on you. You have the power to control your attitude so make it a positive one (no matter how hard it is!). 
  • The tough times will bring out the best in your life. I'm sure you've heard it before: "Without the rain, there can be no rainbow." Cliche? Yes. True? Yes! Without the really tough times in your life, it's hard to appreciate all of the awesome things you have going for you. The tough times will really help you see (and be grateful for) all the good things in your life. Don't forget to learn from them.
  • You must stop doing things that make you unhappy. Look at your life carefully. Are you doing anything that makes you unhappy? When you find yourself at your lowest point, is there anything that has caused the low point to occur? Often there are patterns you just aren't admitting to. Be honest. (And take an extra close look at any alcohol or drug use. These will cause serious unhappiness and negativity for you.)

  • Always surround yourself with people who bring you up. Choose not to be around people that cause you to be unhappy. Sadly, you're probably around a few people that bring you down, not up. If you find people in your life bringing you down -- yes, even family members or significant others -- find a way to separate yourself from them. If you want to live a truly positive life, you must be surrounded by positive influences.

  • Be open-minded to living a positive life. You'll want to call of this "positive living" stuff bullshit, but try to be open. The more you start opening your mind to new ideas, the more you'll realize there are so many benefits to focusing on the positive. Every idea for living more positively might not work for you, but having an open mind will help you learn to make your life as awesome as it can be. 


These things might sound impossible -- too hard to even think about trying -- but at least think about them. Each of these has made such a positive impact on my life. Had I known -- no, not just known, but believed these things -- back when I was a teenager, I might have avoided a great deal of heartache and mess in my young adult life. You might not realize it now, but you have a lot more power over your life than you realize. Don't ever forget that. 

Adult Dani  


My younger, teenage self probably wouldn't have listened to a word of this. Or maybe she would have and thought it was too far out of her reach to even try. I might not have been able to reach her, but I hope this letter will reach someone, somewhere, who can learn from the lessons I've learned over the past decade. Learning to live a more positive life has been a challenge, but it's a choice I've never once regretted. 


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Wonderful post -and perfect timing for all those teens out there who are graduating, or just going through a lot of change!

Bonnie - Thank you! I didn't think about the timing when I wrote it, but you're right - it's great for all of those new graduates.

That was a beautiful post:-)

A few years ago, I wrote a similar post to my 22 year old self. My tips were to:
1. Embrace Not Knowing
2. Travel
3. Be Open
4. Discover the God of Your Being
5. Eliminate Have-To’s

Pretty heavy stuff when I look back on it. Today I would keep it simple and say do something you truly enjoy everyday.

Nneka - Those are great tips! I particularly like "eliminate have-to's." That's such an important thing to remember and great advice for anyone!


Thank you for sharing your letter.

I put together a book series where celebrities and powerful women wrote letters to their younger selves, and I think you might enjoy reading them. I also think my readers might enjoy reading yours! I would love it if you could submit it to my website here:

Thank you,


Ellyn - Thanks for your comment. I've actually read your books and love them! I just submitted my letter. Feel free to use it on your site, books, etc.

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