Letter to my younger self

What would you like to say to your younger ‘me’ if you could?

That unique opportunity presented itself to me when I was 40 years old. Author Viola Welling asked me to participate in her book ‘Letters to my younger self’, in which a select group of prominent Dutch women was asked to write a candid letter to themselves as a teenager.

Writing a letter like that confronts you with essential questions: what would I have wished to know at the time? What knowledge do I have now that I would like to transfer to my younger self? What message would I like to give to myself?

I can recommend everyone to write such a letter. It provides many insights and has a therapeutic effect. It was a great experience. Hereby my letter.

On the occasion of my 50th birthday, I read the book again.

Letter to my younger self

This letter still impacts me and makes me want to share more of what I have learned and done.

Curacao, November 6th, 2010

Dear Esther,

I am delighted to have the opportunity to write you this letter. During my workshops, I sometimes ask the participants to visualize themselves in their own successful future. From there I ask them to write a postcard to their current selves; advice from their future to their current self. That always works perfectly. Funny that I never thought of doing something like that for myself.

Courageous little Esther, you have been an outsider all of your childhood. You didn’t mind and liked to play by yourself, get lost in books, and enjoyed the uncomplicated, unconditional love of animals. The Golden Retriever Waldo was your best friend and you dreamed of going to school by horse and cart when you were older. You automatically assumed that your world would always be so small and safe.

Letter to my younger self

However, soon there will be a time when you will want to ‘belong’ and fit in with others. I would like to warn you about the strange ‘codes’ that groups of people have. It is good to try to understand those codes so that you can adapt when required, but I want to let you know that you will always be different. And that it will somehow be obvious to everyone around you. Remember when the sixth-grade primary school teacher asked who still believed in Santa Claus? And that you were the first – and only one in the class – to enthusiastically raise your hand? When everyone, including the teacher, looked at you in surprise, you tried to pretend you were smoothing your hair, but it was clear to everyone: 12-year-old Esther lived in a completely different world from the rest.

As an outsider, you learn that life is about discovering yourself. It turns out to be an art to accept yourself, including all your strengths and weaknesses. Yet in the end, you realize that you are the way you are and that your attempts to be like others don’t make sense. That is why you incessantly look for those ideal circumstances in which ALL your qualities can be used and appreciated, even the weak ones, because that’s how you grow.

During your travels, you will learn that ‘normal’ or ‘average’ is a flexible term and that the world is much bigger than most people know. You will discover other ‘outsiders’ just like you, all of whom have a special talent. Sometimes they are bullied for it, some are even prosecuted because of who they are and what they stand for. Others have learned to use their talent for the greater good and are therefore appreciated. You will recognize injustice everywhere and that will unleash a force in you that allows you to break any barrier.

When you hatch the idea of helping charities, for many years you will not be taken seriously because you are so young and inexperienced. Hold on, however, because at some point – as soon as you start getting a lot of publicity – you will find that the ‘girl next door’ image actually comes in handy. Now people suddenly call you ‘accessible, spontaneous, and approachable’, instead of naive! When you start working as a freelancer for large companies and you unleash your enthusiasm and decisiveness on your temporary colleagues, they will sometimes label you as ‘pushy’. Later, when you use exactly the same qualities for charity, you suddenly become a ‘go-getter’! You continue to be amazed at the way many people cannot think outside of the box.

Letter to my younger self

I don’t want to tell you too much, because a lot of the lessons of life are in the experience itself; the unexpected circumstances, choices, and mistakes learning from them, and ultimately achieving your goal. If I were to tell you now what you will encounter on your journey, you might be making different decisions and everything could turn out very different.

Take it from me: it will not be easy and every now and then you will feel lost. People, organizations, and even charities will disappoint you enormously. Looking back now, I wouldn’t want to experience all that again; people with double agendas, injustice, frustration, hard work and not getting the appreciation you deserve, because other people involved feel threatened, jealous, or have other interests. But I certainly wouldn’t want to have missed it, either. You will meet a lot of special people, find inspiration, and get to know yourself under extreme circumstances. Ultimately, I promise, it’s all worth it. Afterward, you can connect all the dots and the bigger picture becomes clear.

The sharp edges of life eventually got me where I am now. I am very sturdy and manage to save myself in any situation, anywhere in the world. I have raised millions of euros for charities, lived in an abandoned cave without food for weeks on a reality TV show, seen a lot of the world, and can now choose what I want to do, when and where I want. Trust me, it’s worth it! There will even be a time when you will inspire other people and help them with your experiences. Thousands of people will come to listen to your stories and will buy your books to pursue their own dreams with the knowledge and inspiration you provide…

The most important tip I have for you is: never doubt yourself. Follow your intuition, your inner compass. Even if everyone says you are wrong, if you feel that you are in your right, hold on. However, do not try to convince others in such situations. That takes way too much energy and some people simply don’t want to hear the truth. There is a difference between being right and being acknowledged for it, you have to realize that. You will encounter a lot of injustice. You can change many things, but not everything. Some things are not worth getting upset about or putting your energy into. ‘Choose your battles wisely’.

Letter to my younger self

Don’t be put off by my advice and stories. You are the chairman of your own meeting: you are in charge! So don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Nobody takes away from you the feeling of freedom that you get when you are traveling, collecting experiences, and gaining impressions. You have to create the memories you want for later!

I wish you a lot of fun and strength in the near future.

Greetings from your 40-year-old me.


Ps: Please don’t forget to take good notes of everything you go through. Keep a journal with thoughts, quotes, feelings, and facts. This will be a tremendous help when you want to get to know yourself better, especially when you start writing books. And, last but not least … make regular backups of your computer files, that will save a lot of stress!

Will you also write a letter to your younger self?

I invite you to write such a letter to your younger self. Not only is writing a beautiful experience, years later it is fantastic to read again with the knowledge you will have gained then. Do you find writing difficult? Just sit in a quiet place and take your time. Try to feel what your subconscious has to tell you. You can’t go wrong. Write what comes to mind. It does not have to meet specific requirements. Write from your heart.

Want to discover your superpower?

People who are slightly different often have a special ‘superpower’. What makes you different, and is sometimes seen as a weakness, can provide tremendous added value in the right context. In my live online workshop ‘How to turn anything into a business‘ I help you discover your added value and convert it into a business.

The workshop ‘Light your fire, without the burnout: energy management for people with a passion‘ may also be of interest to you because powerful people often find it difficult to recognize (their) limits, and just keep going until they are completely exhausted. If you are truly passionate about your mission, it is important to find a sustainable way to manage your energy.