As a teenager, I was an insecure, neurotic mess. I never thought of myself as pretty, and constantly compared myself to my friends, always concluding that I didn’t quite measure up. When stupid boys in junior high told me I was fat and ugly, I believed them (even though I was not). I let those words haunt me, and hated myself for years because of it.
As I’ve aged, I’ve learned to look at myself through more mature and forgiving eyes. I see myself as I truly am — a strong, confident woman who is a daughter of God. I like what I see when I look in the mirror, and it has nothing to do with my looks or body. I feel like age has helped me embrace my flaws, but also acknowledge my finer points, too.
The teenage years are hard ones, fraught with emotions, challenges, and insecurity. As you grow older, you learn that hating yourself is a huge waste of time. Each decade brings more confidence and empowerment. Since these years of contentment might be a ways off for some of you, I thought I’d share some of the things I wish I’d known as a teen. Think of it as wisdom from a fellow soldier who was once in the trenches like you.
First, and foremost: You are good enough. Stop comparing yourself to your friends and celebrities on social media. Who you are is not defined in the way your body looks or the vacations you might take. Who you are is inside and it’s absolutely fantastic. You are beautiful. You are kind. You are enough, just as you are. Seriously. Stop with the comparisons. Besides, have you seen the perms and big bangs we moms had back in the 80s? We were ridiculous. You are sleek, YouTube-make-up-tutorial-watching goddesses who never leave the house in pegged jeans and baby blue eyeshadow. You’re MILES ahead of where we were.
People aren’t noticing your flaws because they’re too busy worrying about their own. Honestly? This is the biggest lesson life has taught me, and it holds true for most adults I know, as well. Those cringe-worthy moments that we all lose sleep over, wishing away and reliving? The only one who noticed or thought much about them is ourselves. Stop beating yourself up. Everyone is insecure and uncomfortable. Everyone feels stupid. Stop wasting time worrying, and start enjoying your life. You only get one; spend it feeling happy.
Boys are stupid. Oh, girls. If I could drill one lesson into your pretty little heads, this would be it. Stop letting boys dictate your happiness! Don’t dress for them; dress for yourself. Don’t lower your standards because you think it will make them like you. The ones you find yourself crying over today will be the stories you laugh at with your children someday. Don’t take it all so seriously. Don’t try to find your husband at age 16. Have lots of guy friends and leave the drama at the door. Don’t let the affections of a boy define your worth.
Your parents are on your team. I know, I know. They don’t seem like it sometimes, but they are your biggest cheerleaders and the ones who love you the most. The rules and restrictions are there for a reason. Your parents are not perfect, but they’re doing the best job they know how to do in order to keep you safe. Sometimes they might screw up, but their hearts are in the right place. Cut them some slack and keep the peace. Try opening up to your mom or dad about what’s hard in your life. They’ve been where you are now, and they understand better than you think.
Not everyone peaks in high school, and that’s a good thing. I know it feels like the popularity contest in high school is either a pass/fail, and you probably feel like you’re failing. You’re not. If you’re not popular in high school – that’s a good thing! That means your best years are ahead of you. College will come, and with it incredible freedom and opportunity to spread your wings and be who you want to be. In my experience, the ones that peak in high school never seem to do much of anything after that. Embrace who you are now and stop wishing you could be something or somebody else. Your time will come. And it will be all the sweeter because you’ll be able to appreciate it.
Mean girls grow up to be mean women. Don’t be one of them. I wish I could say that drama ends when high school does. Sadly, I’ve seen grown women act catty and cruel, lashing out in childish, vindictive ways. You never really outrun these types of people. My best advice is to avoid turning into one. Be kind. Have a soft heart. Look out for the underdog and love everyone, regardless of their differences.
You have a village; use it. There are a plethora of people in your life who love you and want you to be happy. You have your parents, your friends’ parents, your youth leaders, your teachers. Seek out the advice and reassurance of those you trust. Lean on their experience and wisdom. Trying to figure out what you want to major in? Got a question about a situation with a boy? Seek the counsel of those who have already done it. Use your people. They love you and want to help.
Lastly, and most important, You are a daughter of God. Remember who you are. When the world feels like it is crashing down on you, know that there is someone (a team of someones, really) pulling for you on the other side. Trust that your Heavenly Father has a plan for you. He has not left you on your own. You are worthwhile. You are beautiful, inside and out. You are incredible because you are His. He loves you and is going to help you through these troubled years. Believe me when I tell you, YOU ARE WORTH IT.