Dear Teen Girl,
Whether you are in middle school or high school or college, growing up in this harsh world can be so very hard. I want you to know that I see how you try to manage it all- the stress of being you at this age. I see you at school and at the sporting events, out around town, and when you come to my own home. I see you out with a group of friends and I see you sitting in the corner of the classroom. I see you walking home from school or preparing to go to college. I see you working in various stores and studying at coffee shops. I see you everywhere because I was once a teacher, a therapist, a youth leader, and a mom of a teen girl too. But most importantly, I was once you.
Things might be very different these days, but our internal struggles and societal pressures are very much the same. I would have given anything to read what I’m about to tell you, but back then no one talked about these things. So, this is for you- soak it all in slowly, and remind yourself of this regularly. May you find the hope and encouragement you need so that in time, you will learn to believe these things for yourself too.
Believe that you are beautiful.
I’ve never met a teen girl who didn’t care deeply about her appearance. I’ve also never met a teen girl who felt pretty no matter how hard she tried. But this is what you need to know: Pretty is fleeting, but beauty is lasting. The definition of pretty is constantly changing depending on what our culture decides or what our current social circles dictate. Pretty might look like less clothes and more make-up, promiscuous pictures, and flirtatious gestures. Pretty might be long silky hair and tight leggings, or short cute haircuts and baggy jeans. Pretty can mean super skinny bodies or bulky muscular builds. Pretty is a wavering wishy-washy precarious trend that changes on a dime and the fluctuating influence that surrounds you will go on until the end of time. And no matter what the media or masses say, none of these things make you beautiful anyway.
Beauty was born in you. It’s seen in the way your eyes show different shades of color when the sun shifts and shines on your face. Beauty is evident in your freckles and skin, the figure you’re in, each hair on your head, and how short or tall you stand. Every piece and part of how you were created has an extraordinary design that was given to you as a gift. You are one of a kind. You are the only person in the entire human race that looks like you, and that very truth means you are beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The way you walk and talk and lean slightly on one leg while you stand, or the way you light up a room with your big toothy grin. The curls in your hair, the curve of your nose, your wispy eyelashes, and the line of your lips, are all incomparable to anyone else because they were purposefully made in you. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? The reflection staring back at you is marked with miraculous details, soak them all in with gratitude. Don’t dismiss them or criticize certain things you don’t like. Make sure you honor all those physical aspects you were given, whether you think they are pretty or not. Because pretty is fleeting and beauty is lasting and you will always and forever be beautiful, just as you are.
Believe that you are strong and capable of doing hard things.
Life can be so challenging and confusing, stressful and exhausting. These teen years are full of so many hard things you will be forced to go through. The list is long, I know. You have peer pressure and friendship issues, or you might feel like you don’t belong anywhere so you keep yourself isolated. You are probably taking really hard classes and you’re facing even more difficult decisions to make every day regarding what to do or not do as you meander through this murky teen terrain. You will probably take some wrong turns along the way and make mistakes, or you will do something foolish and feel so much shame. You might try new things and fail miserably and wish you had never tried them at all. Maybe you trusted someone with your heart and they betrayed you and hurt you and now you don’t know if you’ll ever find true love. You might want to do certain things you can’t do or desperately need something you don’t have. You might feel so alone with your overwhelming emotions and stressful situations and think that no one feels the same way you do. You don’t think you can handle everything you are facing because there are times you feel so defeated and discouraged about it all.
Let me tell you something you might not know but I hope you will soon believe to be true. You have more strength inside you that you have yet to find. I promise you, it’s in there. You simply can’t give up on yourself because if you do, you won’t discover the warrior that lives within you. Just keep digging deep and you will discover wisdom and endurance, confidence and courage. You will find them if you keep taking those scary steps forward and search for them every day.
Those pieces and parts of you that build perseverance and independence will emerge and make you the person you were meant to be. During these really hard years, you are figuring out who you are and how to take care of yourself too. And through each new stage you endure, you will eventually realize you’re stronger than you thought you were and you will grow more self-secure. And beloved teen girl, that is the greatest growth you will ever experience. You will come out on the other side of each battle with new weapons to use for any future fights you have to go through. You will start to believe that you are capable of doing hard things because you are a strong soldier now- and that in itself, is your victory.
There are so many other things I want you to believe, but if you can start with these two, the rest will follow…
Like believing you have a purpose and a future that will be fulfilling and successful. Believing you have talents and traits that are special and useful. Believing that your dreams and passions are valuable and listening to your inner voice that stirs you to follow them. All of these will take time to believe as you continue to grow up through these difficult years. But you are worthy of them all, and until you believe that is true- I will believe in them all for you.