Nicole Richie was the prototypical "wild child" of the early to mid 2000s. The adopted daughter of Lionel Richie made headlines for her underage cocaine-assisted partying, antics with BFF and Simple Life co-star Paris Hilton and getting arrested for heroin possession — all before she turned 22. More than a decade later — with a happy marriage to Joel Madden, two children, and the successful House of Harlow line under her belt — the star is undeniably a very different person. But Richie has shed the shame she used to feel about her past, as she reflects in a beautiful piece for Lenny Letter marking her 35th birthday. Richie writes that she constantly feels pigeonholed by strangers' perceptions of her dramatic transformation. "Moments of congratulation and celebrating who I am do not come without strangers pointing out how dark my life once was. I hear a lot of 'Wow, you once looked like this, but now you look like this!' and 'You once were wild, and now you’re an angel!'" Though the star acknowledges she made "bad decisions" when she was younger, she wisely poses the question: [But] how bad are they if it’s part of a journey to understanding who I am and what I stand for?"
Richie explains why she now feels grateful — not ashamed — for that time in her life. "I am actually extremely thankful I was so beastly in front of the world," she writes — adding that her behavior was so "so bad in people’s minds that there’s nothing that can embarrass me now" and that being closely watched and supported by the public helped her keep it together when she decided to put her party days behind her.
The 35-year-old closes on a very inspiring and poignant note.
"Mostly, the utter freedom I experience from having all of my past out in the open allows me to truly accept and embrace my former self, allowing her and every subsequent version of me to know that we are going to be OK, because we are not static... all of these things I learned by being me in my teens and twenties are just more tools that allow me to live in a more peaceful, safe way. The simple yet difficult act of forgiving yourself is so powerful, because it’s all within you. We have to embrace ourselves and hold every part of our journey in some type of light."
What a beautiful way to acknowledge the "bad things" we all have in our pasts that helped us become the people we are today. We should all take a cue from Richie by forgiving ourselves and recognizing the value in loving every part of ourselves — even the ones people expect you to be ashamed of.