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Dear 15-Year-Old Me, Love Yourself for Who You Are

To My Teenage Self,

I see you standing in front of your full-length mirror comparing yourself to the women in the pages of your Vogue magazines and J.Crew catalogues.

You think, “If only I looked like them with their flawless skin and long toned legs, I’d be happy.” 

One day you will watch your daughter have the same thoughts as she looks at her reflection and feels unsatisfied, and it will practically break you. In that moment, you will realize you wasted a lot of time trying to be perfect and you never want anyone to feel the way you are feeling. Least of all your own daughter.

Right now, how you look—and how others see you—is the focus of your world. At 44 years old, I now know that wanting to be someone else, or comparing myself to anyone, doesn’t lead to happiness.

Making yourself uncomfortable to look a certain way will never be the answer.

In fact, some of the things you are doing now will come back to haunt you later. But you don’t know that yet, nor will you listen when people try to warn you.

Yo-yo dieting and skipping meals to fit into a dress for a dance may have short-term gains, but long-term consequences. Sure, the dress will zip, but fitting into an outfit today is meaningless compared to having a healthy metabolism later in life. 

Taking diet pills and living off shakes that claim to keep you full aren’t the solution to consuming super-sized fast food meals and too many slices of pizza.

The reason you feel foggy in math class every morning is because you skip breakfast to save some calories.

Comparing your hair, skin, and hip circumference to all the other girls who pass you in the halls is only good for one thing: making you feel less-than. Comparisons won’t change your genetics or the body you were born to have.

Those visits to the tanning bed and lying out with tanning magnifier will lead to skin cancer scares and deep lines later in life. Having a “healthy glow” for prom isn’t worth it, I can promise you that.

The sooner you accept and love yourself for who you are, the happier you will be.

Right now, you are so concerned what others think about you and your body that you’re putting their feelings before your own. Which is silly, since you have to live in that body you aren’t caring for properly.

At this moment in time, I know the fact that you have a tan and can slip on a size 4 feels like everything. Damn the consequences. Believe me when I tell you, your happiness will multiply when you learn to let those superficial things go. 

You can have a good, well-balanced diet without writing off brownies or French fries. Stop the self-torturing cycle now.

You can move your body for pure enjoyment instead of forcing yourself to “feel the burn” every single time. The sooner you get into the regular habit of exercising because you love your body instead of doing it because you hate your body, everything will shift in all the right ways.

Don’t just take care of your body, start taking care of your mindset about the way you look. A healthy perspective and positive relationship with yourself are the best ways to achieving confidence, self-respect, and knowing your true worth—which is way more than those calories you keep counting.

These are all things I wish I had believed when I was my daughter’s age. Things I want to convince her of now so she can be free of some of the demons so many of us carry around about our bodies and how we look.

I want my daughter to know that self-love and acceptance are part of a constant ongoing journey. The teenage years are about instant gratification and fitting in, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try my hardest to help my daughter find her way sooner than I did.

Katie Bingham-Smith had three kids in three years and crafts herself silly in order to stay sane. She loves to write, wear faux leather pants, eat at burger joints, and make beautiful things. You can see more on her Facebook and Instagram.

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