Despite all of the freedoms and successes women now enjoy in the 21st century, it is still very much a man’s world, and as such women often times forget how to properly love on themselves and one another and apologetically go after what they want and deserve.
Thankfully, Uzo Aduba is not going to stand by and watch that happen. Teen Vogue recently connected with the Orange is the New Black actress and asked her to recite a rather introspective letter to her 18-year-old self. And while the words she spoke may have been aimed at young women, the wisdom Aduba imparted on camera is as applicable for a woman in her 20s, 30s, and 40s as it is any teen taking her first steps into adulthood.
Here are the lessons Aduba outlined on self-love, relationships, friendship, and heartbreak.
It’s me, Uzo. You are 18 years old right now. You are getting ready to embark on the greatest journey of your life and this is what I need you to know.
Love and relationships
“Set your bar high. Don’t climb down from where your bar is set. Demand the respect, love, care, honor, queendom that you were given and born into this world deserving. Second thing, don’t be afraid to love. Love is beautiful thing. Love is a freeing thing, and you should always, always, always dare to open you heart and step into it.”
“It’s going to hurt. I’m not going to lie. But I think that’s the risk we have to take to reach the side of greatness and that’s where love lives. It’s going to challenge you and it’s going to test you … and I think what I would tell you more than anything when it comes to heartbreak is even though you felt it, dare to love again.”
“Guy friends, we need them absolutely. Continue to be a girl’s girl. You gotta be a girl’s girl Having a female support next to you, a female strength next to you is going to encourage you to be a better person. It’s going to empower and uplift you. It’s going to inspire you and it’s going to create an aspirational environment for you. That is what women do for women so lean into that. [Friendships] are the most valuable thing in your life, second only to family. Do not throw away good family.”
“Always know your worth and stand firm in that. Some people are going to try and challenge that but you know yourself. You know who are, you know the woman you want to be and the woman you hope to become. Stay firm in that knowledge. That is who you are and there’s nothing wrong with knowing who you are. It doesn’t matter.”
At the end of the taping, Aduba joked that she almost wants to recite one of these letters every 10 years and we actually think she should. In the day-to-day hustle to get to where we want to be, many of us forget how far we’ve come and neglect to have any compassion for ourselves. We beat ourselves up for not hitting a particular milestone or wasting so much time on a bad relationship, or not being over an unrequited love, but if we actually spent as much time listing all the ways we’ve grown and all the obstacles we’ve overcome in that same span of time, we’d realize it’s okay to feel how we do in the moment. And, most importantly, remember it’s just that: a moment.
The same anxiousness you feel at 18 when you’re expected to figure out your first steps toward your entire adult life just days after everyone around you told you how to think, look, and be, can easily creep back up on you as you contemplate a career change, a relocation, ending or beginning a new relationship, asking for a raise, or strengthening a friendship. Write a letter to the woman you were 10 years ago. The woman who didn’t know she would and could become the woman she is today, and let that success story be what helps you take the next steps for the bright future ahead of you. Bonus points if you share that letter openly with us below so we can all learn from you like we did Aduba.