Illustration of Polly Gillespie with a clock, calendar timer around her

Why Polly Gillespie said sorry to her teenage self – and why you should too

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1 January 1970

Reading Time: 3 minutes

An Aha-moment at a psychoanalyst’s office gave Polly the break through she says everyone needs. This is why you need to talk to your 13-year-old self.

It’s 2021. It’s well and truly 2021. We climbed the hill of doom and disaster and here we are. Did anything magical happen? Nope. Not yet. But I’m open for magic. I’m open for magic, romance, money, gifts, men on white horses, revolutions and a bloody good massage.

I went to a psychoanalyst. I’m not going to pretend it was for research – it’s because I struggle sometimes with boundaries. OK, I always struggle with boundaries. I tend to trust everyone, fall in love with people, get hurt, hurt other people and then start all over again.

I have firm boundaries around work and my belief in justice and ethics. I am fully fenced when it comes to social conscience and wanting everyone to feel valued and loved. I’ll march for what I believe in, and lead battles if it’s for a fair society, but can I actually maintain a relationship without throwing grenades? That’s a little trickier.

As I sat in the psychoanalyst’s chair with a glass of water and box of tissues beside me on a little table, I wondered if I’d need either. I wasn’t planning on crying or getting a dry mouth. Silly me. I cried and I needed two glasses of water.

The therapist was softly spoken and asked me questions I was not expecting. Wait a minute. How did he know to ask me that? I’m an interviewer and this guy was good. He asked me about my 13-year-old self and that’s when I started crying. How did he know I’d left that teenager stranded out there. How did he know I didn’t want to acknowledge her or the pain I’d been through. Damn it, this guy had me pinned.

“What would you say to 13-year-old Polly to make up for all the time you’ve ignored her, bullied her and scoffed at her?”

I sat quietly, thinking, crying and sipping water.

“I’d tell her I’m sorry I was embarrassed by her,” I said. “I’m sorry that no one recognised how hormones had affected her brain chemicals and made her full of fear and anxiety. I’d tell her not to worry about bullies and not being popular, because eventually that wouldn’t matter.

“I’d tell her she was kind and funny and generous and a wonderful friend. I’d tell her that her teeth would get fixed, she’d get cooler glasses, and that laser technology would help with the wee facial hair issue. I’d tell her that not having a date for the school ball wouldn’t matter, because she’d be throwing men aside 30 years later. I’d tell her how beautiful her soul was and how her creative mind would take her around the world.”

It’s January, so along with all the New Year’s resolutions (I never do them – setting myself up for a tumble) and the gratitude lists and bucket lists and grocery lists, how about a chat with your 13-year-old self? My God, that change from child to young woman can be tricky as hell. Suddenly your body is flooded with hormones, and sometimes it can all go pear shaped or apple shaped or hippopotamus shaped. It’s a horrible time for so many of us, so let’s just have a chat to her, eh?

Let’s tell her what you want. Praise her, apologise to her, warn her, but embrace her, and let’s go marching through this year a little more complete.

I used half the box of tissues. Fact.

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