To the teenage girls I saw at the park yesterday…

Dear teenage girls I saw at the children’s park yesterday,

As I was pushing my infant daughter on the swings yesterday, I found myself thankful for many things, including the fact that she doesn’t fully understand language yet. Based on your vast repertoire of crude jokes about the female anatomy, the shortness of your shorts, the quick flip of your hair, and the constant need of attention from the boys you were with, I can only come to one conclusion: you are insecure. The reason I know this to be true is because I was the same way.

As I listened and observed, I was affirmed (yet again) that it’s tough for girls out there. And since I was a girl once, I thought I would share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. (Truth-be-told, this post could easily be called “A letter to 13-year-old me.”)

1. What you’re feeling is valid.

I say “valid” because you have reason to feel insecure. Let me explain. There is a multi-billion dollar industry targeted at you, telling you that you’re not good enough the way you are. So if you’re feeling inadequate, fat, not pretty, or undesirable, it’s because you are constantly being sold the message that in order for you to be adequate, skinny, pretty, and desirable, you must change yourself. That’s deceitful marketing that preys on the vulnerable. That’s garbage.

You are infinitely more valuable than the sum of your parts and how they look, and the most attractive quality a girl can possess is one of confidence in who she is as a person.

2. Get to know yourself.

This is a tough one. Life is one long journey of discovering who you are as a person. Since change and discovery are two of life’s guarantees, I encourage you to start being cognizant of the things that bring you to life. So much of our time as women (and maybe men too, although I have no insight to offer here) is spent focusing on the areas we perceive are weak. While it may be important to be aware of your weaknesses, it’s most important to know your strengths.

A great way to discover your strengths is to try new things. Cultivate your interests. It’s okay to fail at something. No one is great at everything, all the time.

3. Volunteer!

It’s amazing how much a person can learn about themselves when they branch out to serve the community, an organization, or another person. Not only do you become more self-aware, you develop a broader societal perspective. That perspective makes you more interesting. Why? Because you become less concerned about yourself. Seriously, people who exclusively talk, think, and fret about themselves really aren’t that interesting, are they? It’s been my experience that self-absorbed people have the tendency to become isolated from others because they’re too busy saying “I..me…my…” that they miss what else is going on around them, be it globally or in their backyard.

4. You don’t need to try so hard.

This is an important point. Don’t waste your energy trying to be something you’re not. Why? Because you are okay just the way you are, and investing your energy in loving yourself will serve you far better than trying to be something or someone else. The world is hard enough on you, you needn’t be hard on yourself.

5. Your life has value, meaning, and a purpose.

Sometime after high school, I developed a strong faith in God, specifically Jesus Christ. By getting to know Him, I got to know myself. My talents. My passions. My purpose. The life He lived showed me that actions do have consequences, and words hold meaning. To be clear, I am not talking specifically about “sin.” While I know sin exists, that’s not the purpose of this point. My point is that it’s easy for us to get caught up in the trivial things life has to offer, such as: entertainment, money, wasting time…

Even if you’re not a person who has put your faith in Jesus, understanding that the life you live impacts people, society, the earth, etc. is a very important thing to learn. Why? Because that understanding [hopefully] fuels you to be intentional, to be purposeful. The decisions you make DO matter. You’re not simply a passive character in an elaborate story. You’re a contributor. How you contribute, though, is up to you.

The sad reality is that there are a lot of adults that could benefit from this advice, and if you can start practicing and believing in these points now, you’ll do better in the long-run.

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