Nicole Richie - Lead 2016
Credit: Michael Kovac/Getty

As a newly-minted 35-year-old, Nicole Richie has come a long way from her party girl days, but that doesn’t mean she’s ashamed of who she once was. In a powerful piece for Lenny Letter, the designer and mom-of-two reflects on growing up—literally and figuratively—in the public eye.

“As firmly as I believe in the importance of looking forward, there are some moments when we should, and even have to, look back. Often for me those moments come while I'm on the couch with my girlfriends, or listening to my husband make fun of the younger version of me. The end result is sometimes smiles and laughter, and there are often moments of disbelief like I'm talking about someone else,” Richie wrote.

“Other moments come when I'm out in the world, and that's a very different picture, one of danger, darkness, and shame. Moments of congratulation and celebrating who I am do not come without strangers pointing out how dark my life once was.”

The former Simple Life star acknowledged that she now lives a very different life from when she was a partying socialite, but that doesn’t mean she has to apologize for her past.

“When I am out in the world naked and vulnerable, I acknowledge that I was young, had a lot of freedom, and made some ‘bad decisions’ ... but how bad are they if it's part of a journey to understanding who I am and what I stand for? I feel the need to support women loving themselves. It's by loving ourselves that we give permission to others to love us,” she wrote.

“Being ashamed of your life is not OK. I realized I am actually extremely thankful I was so beastly in front of the world for a few reasons. It's so bad in people's minds that there's nothing that can embarrass me now. I got a little surprise gift of freedom!” Richie wrote. “I also truly believe if I didn't have so many eyes on me, it would've been easier for me to slip back into my reckless behavior. I had people rooting me on and watching me at a time when I needed that.”

“I am not going to apologize for being me so you can get your triumphant ending,” she said. “We have to embrace ourselves and hold every part of our journey in some type of light. Instead of reliving my past as a point of shame, I've embedded the lessons into my skill set.”

VIDEO: Hear Jessica Alba's Best Career Advice

Proof that the learning really is in the journey. Read her full piece on Lenny Letter for a dose of inspiration from this empowered star.