A few years ago, over breakfast, I told some friends that, for the first time in my life, I know who I am and I love myself just as I am. I couldn’t believe I was hearing myself say it. It was the first time that I said it without hesitation. It felt good.
Learning to love yourself isn’t just for the realm of psychology. It is actually a part of living out the great commandment. How am I to love others as myself if I don’t really love myself? How will I know how to extend love and grace to others if I have not learned to love myself as God loves me?
I spent a few years in various forms of spiritual direction and counseling, sorting out my inner life, my past and my present. There was a period of time, mid-way through my process, where all I could see was my dysfunction. I could only see my lack. It left me despising myself, and grieving the loss of the way things could have been.
However, after processing all of that, of course, I realized that everything did, in fact, work together for good. None of it was wasted and all of it contributed to who I am at this very moment.
I learned that grief was part of my process and I had to traverse it to get where I am now…filled with gratitude.
In my inner work, I came to love and appreciate all of the seasons of my life. Each of my younger selves did the best they could to traverse my life story, one decade at a time. Now that I am in my 50s, I will continue to faithfully traverse my life so that my 60, 70, 80 and 90-year-old selves can be grateful as well.
To commemorate my progress, I took a little time to write a letter to the teenage version of myself, thanking her for who she was and giving a little encouragement for her particular season of life.
Dear Teenage Me,
I wanted to write you a thank you note and give you a little encouragement for this lovely and precarious season in which you find yourself. I have nothing but gratitude for who you are and how you are paving the way for me to be who I am now.
Thank you for making choices that kept my innocence alive for so long. Thank you for pushing through your fears and making great strides. I see this particularly in your friendships and how you excelled musically.
Thank you for being so open to God. Your choices laid a wonderful foundation on which I have been able to build a lifetime of growing relationship with Him.
You may not feel as though you fit in right now. That is ok. Believe it or not, most of your friends feel exactly the same way. Who you really are will flourish as you grow up. That is a very good thing.
Anxiety and growing pains are a part of this season. I know it may be difficult, but try to enjoy right where you are as much as you can. All of the raw material for who you will be as a mature woman is in place.
Do your best to be unafraid right now. Express yourself and your creativity as best you can. Push against the tendency to think your voice doesn’t matter. It does.
Don’t compare yourself to the “perfect” girls. If you were to dig a little deeper, you would find that their life is not as perfect as it looks. Some of them are unsafe in the most terrible of ways. Some of them will grow up angry. Some of them will grow up just fine and have a beautiful, full life. But no one has it all together.
Things are not always what they seem on the outside. That is why I would suggest you focus on the inside, on the things that really matter.
Even though you don’t always fully comprehend how much you are loved (this is difficult for any teenager), just tuck this little gem away: there is unconditional Love being extended to you at all times and in many ways. In fact, there is no measure to the amount of Love offered to you.
There will come a point where this will be evident to you. It will unfold for you one precious moment at a time. Be open and ready when those moments come.
Finally, please enjoy the metabolism and energy of youth. Eat ice cream with caramel and chocolate sauce and whipped cream, run, laugh hard, enjoy your friends, dance to really loud music, remain a little girl for just a while longer.
You are beautiful. I love you and care about you and I desire the very best for you.
How did this letter strike you? Did any thoughts or emotions awaken as you read the letter?
Why not take a few moments and try writing your own letter to your teenage self.
- What would you like to say?
- What could you say to allay any fears?
- What could you write to inspire and enourage?
- What would you encourage yourself to do?
- Who would you encourage yourself to be?
The great thing is that teenager is you. And if you missed out on any of the things you said to teenage you, you could do those for yourself starting today.
You might enjoy these posts as well:
Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash