I have a 13-year-old daughter who is in the thick of adolescent challenges. The following is a letter I wrote to her, but I believe all young girls would benefit from understanding the principles therein:
You are entering into a new and exciting time in your life. You are preparing to leave a little bit of your childhood behind as you blossom into a beautiful young woman. It can be a wonderful time of self-discovery, but it can also be a challenging and confusing time.
With all my heart, I hope that you will consider the following suggestions as you embark on this journey:
1. Begin With the End in Mind
Decide now what kind of person you want to become and make daily decisions that will get you to that point. Don’t wait until temptation arises to determine whether or not you will use drugs, drink alcohol, get into the car with a drunk friend who is driving, or have pre-marital sex. If you make those decisions now, it will be much easier to follow through with them when you are staring temptation in the face.
2. Avoid the Comparison Trap
Adolescence is often a time of insecurity. You will likely spend much time and energy trying to figure out who you are as an individual, and what you have to offer to the world. You will probably wonder if you have worth to others. You will wonder if you are pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough or anything enough.
Those insecurities will undoubtedly be amplified if you compare yourself to others. Your gifts and talents are just the ones that you need to make a difference. Develop them. Own them. Use them.
Don’t spend energy wishing you were more like somebody else. Diversity is a blessing. The world would be a boring world if we all looked the same and had the same gifts.
3. Don’t Worry About Being Popular
Sometimes adolescents do crazy dumb things that they otherwise would not have even considered because they want to be popular. Don’t fall into that trap. It may bring temporary acceptance, but it may also bring long-term misery.
Remember that fitting in is usually not the goal of people who achieve amazing things in life. People look to them for direction because they are comfortable with who they are; they stand out.
They understand that being different is what gives them the power to make a difference. They are the ones who change the world.
You have the potential to become one of them. You were born to lead. Don’t lose sight of that in moments of temptation.
4. Don’t Be a Mean Girl
Sometimes girls your age are just plain MEAN. They may try to make you feel bad about yourself. They may leave you out. They may act like your friend and then talk about you behind your back.
DON’T be one of them. Trying to fit in by being mean will come back to bite you every time. Kindness will always win out in the end. Most people will respect you for it, and those who don’t are not the type of friends that will enrich your life, so let them go.
5. Don’t Gossip
While we are on the subject of being mean, remember gossip brings heartache and ruins relationships.
Even if you are upset, have been hurt and feel justified, don’t spread those feelings around to your friends. If you do, they will soon learn that they cannot trust you, and will begin to wonder what you tell other people about them.
Save the drama for the stage.
6. Surround Yourself With Friends Who Encourage You
Friends will have a huge influence on your choices and the person that you will ultimately become. Select them wisely.
Invest in relationships that lift you and have the courage to walk away from toxic ones that bring you down. Life is too short to do otherwise if happiness is what you seek.
7. Don’t Look to The Media for Body Image Advice
The media will give you all sorts of messages as you grow into young womanhood about what you need to look like if you want to be attractive and successful. Do not pay attention to them.
The truth is that only a tiny percentage of women can naturally attain the body ideal that the media portrays. Most have to go to drastic, unhealthy extremes if they want to reach that standard.
Focus on nutrition, fitness, and caring for your body, and you will be much better off than if you focus on size or weight. Beauty is about much more than that. Real beauty comes from within.
8. Keep Your Relationship With Your Heavenly Father Strong
You are His daughter. You were His before you were mine, and He loves you with an eternal love. If you truly understand this, you will also understand that your worth is not determined by what other people may say or do to you.
You will understand that your potential is LIMITLESS – that YOU have the power within you to LEAD, to LOVE, to LIFT, and to make the world a better place for all who know you.
You will understand that YOU can be a light on a hill – that YOU can rise above the challenges of life with greater vision and broader perspective –that YOU can be a POWERFUL force for good.
If you ever get to a point where you don’t feel like you can do all of those amazing things, come to me and I will remind you of the greatness that will always be within you, just waiting for an opportunity to emerge.
I love you more than you understand. Please know that I am your biggest fan, even if we don’t always see eye to eye.
Although these years can be full of challenges, they can also be full of joy. I pray that you will seek out the sunshine – that you will follow the light within you. I will always be here to support you on this journey, no matter what.