My college girl sent me a picture of herself the other day with this message: “I feel very pretty today.”
I loved this. I know my daughter is beautiful, inside and out, so I want her to feel the reality of that. On the other hand, though, I hated that she had to put “today” in there. I hate that my daughter doesn’t feel good about herself every day.
But this is the world our daughters live in. A world where voices from peers, social media, and the entertainment industry tell them lies about who and what they are. Which is why our voice as parents needs to be louder and more persistent, overriding those lies with truth.
I’ve raised one daughter to young adulthood and am steering another in that direction, and based on that experience, here’s what I think all teen girls need to hear:
An Open Letter To Every Teenage Girl
1. You are valuable.
Your worth isn’t tied to being class president, first chair, or the most valuable player on some team. Your value is in who you are—and no one can take your place. You fill a space in our family, in your school, and in the world that would be empty if you were not in it.
2. You are likeable and loveable.
These things are true whether or not you ever go out on a date or get asked to prom. And they have nothing to do with how many friends you have on social media. You’re likeable because you’re not afraid to be real, and your authenticity draws people in. Once they get there, they find out how fun and funny you are. But you’re also compassionate and care about other people, and those qualities make you loveable. Everyone wants to be known and valued for who they really are, and spending time being real with people is what makes you special.
3. You are beautiful.
Your beauty has nothing to do with a number on the scale or what you wear, or how your hair or skin look on a given day. You are simply beautiful because of your passion and your spirit. These come from inside you, which means they can’t be undone by things outside of you. (Not even hormones. See #8.)
4. There are different kinds of smart.
Your intelligence is not dependent on, or necessarily reflected by, your GPA, your class rank or your SAT score. Knowing how to learn—and especially knowing how you learn—and how to work hard are going to serve you so much further in your future than a number on a standardized test or next to your name on some class list.
5. Disappointment is a part of life.
You can’t always control the outcome of things, but you can control your input. So take a chance on friendship, try out for the part, study hard for the test. You may not like the results, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you tried.
6. Be kind.
You will never regret showing kindness, grace, and compassion to others.
7. You will experience heartbreak.
At some point in your life, you will get your heart broken. Guard your heart the best you can, but don’t harden it.
8. Some days, you’re just going to have to blame the hormones.
It’s okay, we’ve all been there. OR: They might as well be good for something.
9. Weird can be wonderful.
I understand that you want to fit in. But it’s okay to be different and stand out sometimes, too.
10. Be the kind of friend you want to have.
The best kind of friend knows about your rough edges and likes you anyway. Try to find this kind of friend. Try to be this kind of friend.
11. Trust your instincts.
Trust that little voice inside you what warns you when something is wrong or confirms when something is right. That voice knows you pretty well and can be a good guide. But at the same time…
12. Be willing to take (good) advice.
Be open to the wisdom of people who care about you and have your best interests at heart. Sometimes, it’s hard to see what’s true outside your own experiences and emotions, so keep a short list handy of people who can be trusted to steer you toward center.
13. When in doubt, give yourself some time.
Try taking a deep breath, going for a walk, drinking a glass of water or taking nap. It’s amazing what fresh air, a change of scenery, hydration, and rest can do to help bring clarity to your thoughts.
14. There’s no one right way to be a teenager.
There is more more than one way to do this season of your life. Lots of people will tell you to make the most of your teenage years, but what that most looks like for you is up to you.
15. It’s okay to make mistakes.
Life is not about being perfect. It’s about process and progress. People like to say that “practice makes perfect,” but in reality, that’s rarely true. There’s almost always something that can be better, higher, or just more somehow. But what practice does make is possibilities. Are you going somewhere in your sport, your art, your studies? Are you moving along toward a goal? That’s its own kind of perfection, even if it does come with some stumbles and roadblocks along the way.
16. You are more than your problems.
Whatever you might be struggling with right now is not your whole story, and it is not all of who you are. Your problem doesn’t define you…but it just might refine you. Hold onto hope, and take the next one step you can see in front of you. I promise there will come a day when you suddenly realize you’re out on the other side. And it will feel so good. Hang in there! It gets better.
17. I love you.
Remember that I am on your side—always.