Today I was working with a group of girls who were all 16 or 17 years old. We had a lot of fun. Planning a fundraiser. Decorating cakes. Talking about life. Sharing about hopes. Laughing. Learning. All-the-good-stuff.
But one thing struck me throughout today. In quite a powerful way actually.
Not one of these girls had high self esteem.
Or even mediocre self esteem.
Or even existent self esteem.
They actually didn't feel good about themselves at all. They talked about not looking good enough. They were honest about just not being good enough for the people in their lives. They dated guys who they didn't trust or feel valued by. They did things that they didn't want to do because they wanted people to like them. They allowed things to be done to them that they didn't really want to happen because they feared rejection. They wished they were taller. Or shaped differently. Or had different hair. Or were smarter. Or were just someone else.
And they couldn't see the truth.
That they were beautifully and perfectly created by a God who knew them intimately and designed every intricacy of their frame with exquisite craftmanship.
It broke my heart a little bit. More than a little bit.
I wished I could literally grab every single one of them so tightly, hold their gaze and tell them that the lies they had been sold were just not true.
Because they just didn't feel beautiful.
And they just didn't feel valuable.
But they are.
We all are. Really.
Truthfully, I remember being their age and asking some of the same-kind-of-questions. I was a Christian and I loved Jesus, but even so, the war of insecurity that I think most of us battle against at some point in our lives is a very real one. Learning to trust the God who made us is a lifelong commitment. That we have to stay committed to.
So this blog post is written for the girls that I mentor. Those who know God as their Father, and those who are still at a point way-before that on the journey. Those who may be a decade or more younger than me, but those who I love dearly. Those who I cry with. Those who I pray for. Those who I see such potential in.
These are 10 things I wish I'd grabbed a hold of with more zeal when I was younger. And 10 things I pray God plants deep, deep within your hearts.
1. Learn how to like yourself without make-up, hair dye and false eyelashes. Now, none of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but you are beautiful without them. You really are. And you don't really need them. No more looking in the mirror and trying to bargain with God about your appearance. You know? 'God, if You'd only give me great abs…' 😉 Find your definition of beauty in what is eternal, and that means what God sees. Take a day off make-up occasionally. Let your hair be frizzy sometimes. It's more than ok. He loves you, just the way you are.
2. War for purity. And have high standards about what your eyes see and your ears hear and your hands touch. Don't watch trash on TV. Don't listen to music with crude lyrics, even if the beat's really good. Don't be more moved by Hollywood than the Spirit of God. Modesty isn't boring, it's liberating. If you don't respect yourself by what you wear, then it sends out the wrong message to everyone else you meet. And you are worth more than that.
3. Value friendships. Real friendships. And that means not talking down about the people God has placed in your life. Don't say behind someone's back what you wouldn't say to their face. Don't make yourself feel better by pulling someone else down. Remember that encouraging others is one of the greatest gifts you have to give in your day. Smile at people. Say 'Hi' to the person no one else does. Be kind.
4. Find a mentor. And be painfully and brutally honest with them about absolutely everything. Even when it's embarrassing. Even when it goes against your human instinct. Don't be too proud to learn that we were not created to run this race alone. And sometimes that means listening to wisdom that is tough to hear. And taking it like a (wo)man.
5. Don't be scared of being strong. Keep fighting for what you believe in and know to be right and who God has made you. If people bully you then forgive them but move on. Don't give up. Ever, ever, ever. You fight for the things that God has placed in you by loving the things He loves. That's why we pray that He will make us more like Him. And that's why we remember that He is tenacious when He fights for us. Take godly risks. Life with Jesus is an adventure.
6. Don't compare yourself to other people. I know the lies come at you from everywhere. You turn on the radio or the TV or Facebook, and everyone and everything is telling you to follow them, and look like them and be something different than you are. But you have a story that no one else has and it deserves to be told. You can waste your whole life wishing you were someone else, someplace else, but if you do that then you forget to live life to the full as He wants you to do here and now.
7. Whatever you imitate, you become. Seriously. Get good role models. Aspire to be like the best and not the worst. Don't shout loudly about God on a Sunday but then spend your week trying to be like the world. Or a celebrity. Or a popular kid in school. Jesus looks for something different. We know the end of the story. And that's a heaven-filled-eternal-hope.
8. Remember that God made you uniquely and beautifully you. No one else can love Him in the way that you can. And He made you to be in that relationship with Him forever and ever and ever. God has a plan for you. He has a mission for you. You are not the one person who doesn't have a purpose. Even if it feels like it. I promise.
9. You don't have to date. And you definitely don't have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. If a guy wants to kiss you (or anything past kissing you) without commitment, then he's not worth it. If a guy won't respect godly boundaries then he's not worth it. If he won't wait until marriage, he's not worth it. If a guy puts you down in public, then he's not worth it. If a guy is struggling with pornography then he shouldn't be in a relationship with anyone, let alone you. You get me? Have high standards.
10. There is no mistake that you have made, are making or could make that God can't forgive, restore and renew. There are sometimes painful consequences to our actions, but He is big enough to carry you through. And when you run to Him and not away from Him you realise that nothing can separate you from His love. You are not the one person that God doesn't love or can't forgive. I promise. He's not finished with you, or me, yet. He's painting a masterpiece, but sometimes we just can't see the finished picture… But the potter doesn't give up on the clay.
God loves you. He likes you. And He is the best hero you could ever have.