Your impact matters.

I am an ambitious, determined woman and have long had a clear, non-negotiable vision of my future. Attend law school. Pass the Bar exam. Become a criminal prosecution attorney. Be a young, successful professional.

This past year has thrown my future plans into question and forced me to reevaluate everything I presumed to be true about life. I struggled to find a steady job. I grappled with anxiety and depression. I consciously decided to put law school on hold so I could focus on my mental health. For the first time in my life, I felt left behind — unsure of my future, desperately searching for a new identity, wondering if I could ever make a difference in the world.

Until the day I discovered my own power. Until the day I learned that my words had changed someone’s life. Until the day I realized that positively impacting others is far more important than immediately working towards a successful career.

Two months ago, I wrote a piece on my evolving self-image and my journey to reach complete self-love. When I discovered that my best friend’s mom had sent my writing to someone she felt needed to hear my words, I was elated. But what I learned next flooded me with emotion.

My words had helped someone gain unapologetic self-confidence. My words had helped someone take ownership over her identity. My words had changed someone’s self-perception. My words had left a lasting, positive impact on someone’s life.

Tears formed at the corners of my eyes as I realized the truth: I may have spent months questioning my worth, wondering if I have the power to make an impact as my aspirations crumbled around me, but my writing had helped someone embrace herself. I had helped someone embrace herself. The influence I have on the lives of others — the mark I hope to leave on the world — is far more meaningful than any degree, any salary or any career.

There is a force far greater than living the “perfect life” — using the life you have now to make a difference in the lives of others. Every word you speak, every smile, every small act of kindness has the potential to help someone — to change someone’s life for the better.

You don’t need a degree or a high-powered job or accolades or recognition to make a difference. You don’t need to be at the top of your field. You don’t need to be the best. All you need is kindness, empathy, and love. All you need is to be yourself.

Right now, you might not be where you have always imagined. But if you use your circumstances for good, you will be able to positively impact the world. Know that your heart will spread to so many others. Work to make a difference. Believe in the power of one.

It’s okay if your life hasn’t turned out exactly the way you planned it. It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re going to do next. It’s okay if you have to put your dreams on hold to prioritize your well-being. It’s okay if you feel lost or directionless.

You are powerful.

You will make a difference in the world.

Your impact matters.

You matter.

Kelly Douglas

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

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