If you wish you could warn, encourage, or whisper wisdom to your younger self, you’re not alone. These reflections may resonate with you.
We strive to share insights based on diverse experiences without stigma or shame. This is a powerful voice.
On a recent episode of the “Inside Mental Health” podcast, I spoke with “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Big Bang Theory” star Wil Wheaton. The topic was related to his new book, “Still Just a Geek,” an update of his autobiography “Just a Geek” that he wrote 20 years ago.
The premise of the episode was simple: Does Wheaton agree with what he wrote all those years ago or does he believe he missed the mark?
During our conversation, Wheaton admitted that he was shocked to face so much accidental misogyny, homophobia, and racism. He makes it clear that he didn’t understand this at the time and wasn’t being malicious — he simply didn’t understand what privileges he truly had or how other people experienced their lives.
Nuggets of wisdom from the podcast
“There are moments, and I address this in the book, where I am mortified by something that I said or believed or did not think was problematic.
“When I was first going through this and looking at these things for the first time in 20 years, my attitude as a nearly 50-year-old was real impatient and annoyed with who I was as an almost 30-year-old.”
“I became aware for the very first time in my life, and this is embarrassing to admit it happened to be very late in life.
“I was made aware of just how myopic and privileged I was. And since then, I have discovered the perspective and found it and realized that these times where I thought I was being funny, I was being hurtful, I didn’t mean to be.”
“The person I was then was doing his best. It is nowhere close to what my best is now, which is awesome. If my best when I was 28 was still my best when I’m 49, I would not have grown at all.”
Wheaton’s updated memoir takes a unique format in that nearly every page includes footnotes and parenthetical comments clueing in his younger self, with insights he’s acquired since its first publication.
He came to personal growth alongside receiving diagnoses and support for mental health conditions after surviving childhood narcissistic abuse. He manages symptoms of:
- complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD)
- generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- major depressive disorder
After interviewing Wheaton, I started wondering what advice I’d give 20-years-ago Gabe (who was unknowingly living with bipolar disorder). I also wondered what advice my co-workers would give their 20-years-ago selves to boost our own mental well-being.
“You know that nagging feeling you have that something isn’t right? Act on it. Don’t push it down and hope it goes away, because it won’t. It’s impacting your life in ways you can’t possibly understand right now, but someday you will.
“Be brave and seek help. Don’t believe the people around you who say you’re fine. If you take nothing else away from this message it should be this: You are not fine, but you will be.”
― Gabe Howard, Psych Central Podcast Host
“Take the semester in South America. Wait on the engagement. You don’t have to check all the boxes. It’s healthy and wise to change your mind and mean it — you’re not letting mom and dad down by listening to that still, small voice.
“There is value in self-investment. You’re not an impostor. You’re worthy … without striving.”
― Kristin Currin-Sheehan, Psych Central Editor
“In ‘Beautiful Boy,’ John Lennon sings, ‘Life is what happens to you, while you’re busy making other plans.’ There’s a lot of truth to that, but even if life doesn’t pan out the way you had planned, it’s going to be OK. Try to roll with it and adjust your path accordingly.”
― Sanna Arthur, Psych Central Editor
“Everything I did 20 years ago seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I have no regrets.
Still, I’d say: ‘Mind your own business: You’ll benefit in worrying less about what other folks have to say. Stand tall in what you know. You’re right about your own path. Appreciate the beauty of your life more and be easier about all of this. Things are going to work out just fine for you.'”
― Douglas Backstrom, Psych Central Editor
We can get caught in the “should-of, could-of, would-ofs,” but I think Wheaton encapsulates hindsight best:
“I eventually recognized I need to have compassion and empathy for myself. The person who wrote ‘Just a Geek’ in 2004 was really struggling and really hurting a lot and really doing the very best that he was capable of doing.
“One of my fundamental rules for life is to always do your best and acknowledge and accept that your best is going to be different from moment to moment, from day to day.”
As you consider what advice you’d give your younger self, here are some resources to round out that introspective exercise:
- How Do You Forgive Yourself? 6 Steps to Get You Closer
- 5 Ways to Practice Self-Compassion for Anxiety
- How to Be More Compassionate: 6 Tips
- How to Be More Empathetic
Want to learn more from Wil Wheaton? Click the player below or visit the official episode page for “Advice I’d Give My Younger Self with Wil Wheaton” Inside Mental Health Podcast episode.
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
Gabe is the host of Healthline Media’s weekly podcast, “Inside Mental Health.” You can listen and learn more here.
Gabe can be found online at gabehoward.com.