An Open Letter To My Teenage Self…

“Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Dear Preteen/Teenage Me,

First things first…

I know that this may come as a complete surprise to you, but you do not become rich and famous, marry Bret Michaels, or live in Beverly Hills. You finally meet him one day, but that’s as close as it gets.

It is for the best.

And contrary to what you may think at this moment, 42 is not one foot in the grave. I know it’s hard to believe; but you are actually going to love your late 30’s & early 40’s, and I mean that with all my heart. The confidence you gain through experience and maturity will help you grow more comfortable in your own skin, and it is liberating. There is a freedom with age that cannot be duplicated in youth.

That being said, you are living some of the best days of your life, and you don’t even know it. Hindsight is 20/20, so here are a few thoughts I’d like to share with you on your teenage years…

1. Enjoy school. While it may seem hard at the time, it’s the easiest thing you will ever endure. Yes, it’s boring. Yes, you have tons of homework. No, you will never need to know the hypotenuse of a triangle to change a diaper or land that dream job, but it’s a rite of passage so suck it up and endure. A roof over your head, good food in your belly, and no bills to pay. Stop wishing those days away. You will have the “opportunity” to work the rest of your life. Good grief, don’t rush it!!

2. Appreciate the skin that you are in. Be thankful your parents won’t let you wear makeup at 12. You don’t need it!! Your skin is glowing and without wrinkle. Why cover it up? There will be plenty of time and money spent on beauty products in the years to come, not to mention, tutorials galore on which makeup is best and how to contour until you are unrecognizable.

Stop trying to look like the girls on TV. Your body is going through numerous changes right now. Give it time. You will grow into those curves you hate so much, and freckles are not a curse. You are beautiful just the way you are.

But please, for the love, use sunscreen!!!

3. Wear what is flattering not just what is fashionable. All fashion trends do not look good on all people, and this is true no matter the decade. If it doesn’t look or feel fantastic, just don’t…or you will look back on pictures one day and wonder why you did.

That.is.all.

4. Quit worrying about boys. There will be plenty of time for boyfriends and relationships someday. Your worth is not measured by what a boy thinks of you. Jesus thinks you are precious and beautiful, and that’s all that matters. Spend these days making memories with family and friends, and stop wasting emotions and tears on boys who are hormonal and lack maturity and common sense.

It’s a proven fact that the brain of preteen/teen (sometimes older) boys goes through an enormous amount of change during these years causing them to say and do stupid things. (I know, I have two of them right now) So bypass this stage and catch them on the upswing! It will save you a lot of heartache.

5. Cherish your friendshipsRecognize good, healthy friendships and hold them close. Nurture those relationships and make the effort to keep in touch even when life takes you separate ways. If not, you will reconnect years from now and mourn the time you’ve lost and the memories you could have made.

And while we are talking about relationships, learn to extend grace to struggling friends but cut ties with toxic people. Neither of those become any easier as you grow older, but both are extremely important. Knowing the difference is key.

Find your tribe and love them hard. 

6. Be kind. Popularity is fleeting and matters very little in the grand scheme of things, so don’t waste your time, money, or energy trying to keep up with that crowd.

Instead of dwelling on your own problems, look for those who are sitting by themselves and join them. Let them know that someone sees them and that you care. You have no idea how far a kind word can go to lift the aching spirit of a lonely soul, so open your eyes to those around you and listen with your heart. It could significantly impact a life. Not only theirs but yours.

7. Listen to your parents. They actually do know what they are talking about and don’t say “no” just to make you miserable. Believe it or not, they love you more than life itself and desperately want to protect you. Let them.

Someday you will thank them. Someday you will want to talk to them every day even though you live 13 hours apart. Someday you will want your mom by your side when you are sick or having your first…second…and third baby. Someday they will be the first people you call when you need a listening ear, a comforting word, sound advice, or prayer. Someday you will realize they were right.

And you know that list in the back of your journal? The list of things you will “never say or do to your own children”?

You say and do them all. 

8. Chase your dreams. Don’t settle for what is practical or makes sense. Most successful people don’t follow the safe route. They find what sets their souls on fire and pursue it with every ounce of their being. So do that. Don’t wait. Start now.

If you are passionate about what you do, you will never work a day in your life.

9. Seek Jesus. Every day. Don’t just go to church and check boxes. It’s not about following a list of rules. Dive into His Word, and seek Him daily. Build a relationship with Him stronger than any other relationship in your life, and you will never regret it.

Will it always be easy? No. Will life be perfect? No, God’s not a genie in a bottle. But no matter what happens, you will always have Jesus and the peace and comfort that only He can give. He will see you through whatever you may face…and that’s a promise.

And lastly, but certainly not least….

10. Be thankful you don’t have social media!!! You have the wonderful opportunity of screwing up without the whole world watching. Don’t take that for granted! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

The bottom line is this. Life is hard no matter how old you are. Pros and cons accompany any age, but the key lies in what you do with them. Embrace every stage and live it to the fullest or you will look back and wish you had.

We get one chance at this thing called life, and we need to make it count.

So buckle up, buttercup, and enjoy the ride.

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” ~ Emerson

The Pleasing Pit

We don’t become people-pleasers overnight; and at the same time, it isn’t a life sentence. We can overcome the need to please, but it takes work…and Jesus.

Guess what, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of you.

Gasp.

What?!?

I know…it’s shocking.

We live in a world where everyone has an opinion about everything and that includes what they think about you. But why do we care?

Hi, I’m Theresa, and I’m a people-pleaser. 

That’s why. At least, for me it is. I’ve spent a majority of my life caring far too much what people think, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.

But you know what, the desire for others to like us in itself is not a bad thing. For the most part, that’s human nature and can sometimes drive us to do amazing things. It’s when it seeps into our souls like a cancer, eats away at the good inside, and consumes our every thought that it becomes a problem.

It starts out small…

When I was 4 years old, my biological father decided he didn’t want to be a husband or a dad anymore. It wasn’t a highly emotional thing for me; in fact, I don’t remember him much at all. I think the fact that my mother surrounded us with loving people went a long way to smooth the jagged edges on both of our hearts.

But not all of them. Although I was too young to truly understand what was going on, the people-pleaser in me still felt like maybe I did something wrong. Maybe I wasn’t good enough.

And so it began…

After many years on our own and a move from the beautiful mountains of Tennessee to the blustery state of Ohio, my mom remarried a wonderful man who took me on (at the age of 9) as his own. Poor guy had no idea what he was in for, but I will love him forever for taking the plunge!

In the years that followed, our lives practically revolved around church and the affiliated Christian school that I attended, but it was an environment that constantly left me feeling inadequate. It’s a feeling that is not foreign to many who grow up in church; however, I think it is often magnified in people like me. The people-pleaser in me wanted to cross all of my t’s and dot all of my i’s…but not for the right reasons. I wanted others to like me. I wanted them to think I was a good Christian girl who did all of the right things (on the outside) so they would include me.

But the truth is, I couldn’t live up to the expectations. I didn’t even understand why I was doing some of them. So I just became really good at faking it; and to be honest, I wasn’t even good at that.

“Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4

Then came the hurt…

I won’t go into great detail, because kids do dumb things. They shouldn’t have to relive them forever, and we are all still friends to this day.

However, during my sophomore year of high school, a friend of mine became upset  with me and started a rumor that I had done something scandalous, especially for a Christian school. It wasn’t true…but people believed it. For weeks, nobody would speak to me, even my closest friends.

Just writing this reminds me of the way I felt and has convicted me of my own guilt. How many times do we believe something that’s not true simply because it’s scandalous?  (food for thought))

Thank goodness we didn’t have social media back then. I can only imagine how this would have spiraled out of control had there been an instagram, facebook, or twitter added to an already toxic situation. It’s no wonder kids are depressed and angry now with the ability to inflict emotional pain for all the world to see at someone else’s finger tips.

The people-pleaser in me was devastated. I could no more control what people believed about me than I could control my biological father not wanting to be part of my life.

“If you live for the approval of others, you will die by their rejection.” – Rick Warren

So I focused on something I could control…

At this point, it was the early 90’s. While the fashion was really quite awful, we still had the same pressure to look a certain way that kids have in 2016. Everyone wanted to be 90210, and it didn’t help I went through a chubby stage while all of my friends were petite and could buy the cute clothes that passed dress inspection. (tall girls with boobs, I get you!!)

To this day, I’m not exactly sure what led me to stop eating, but I honestly don’t think it was any one thing. In fact, I haven’t even told this part of my story to many who didn’t walk through it with me. Partially, because I’m afraid of what people will think….and partially, because I don’t want to put ideas in impressionable minds. The hell I went through called “anorexia” is not a place I would wish on anyone. It’s not a solution, and it has long-lasting effects. Some permanent.

But it happened….and it consumed 5 years of my life.

What started out as a need to fit in and impress people turned into an avalanche of all the pent up emotions throughout the years…and it almost killed me. I thank God every day He brought me out of it, but not once have I wished it didn’t happen. It took me to a place of complete dependence on Him, and it made me identify and face what led me there in the first place. I am who I am because of where I have been.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives..” Genesis 50:20

Maybe you’ve been through traumatic events in your life as well…events that created the people-pleaser that lies inside of you. Maybe you are going through one now. I see you. I understand. It’s hard, but it’s worth the fight against it.

We are all uniquely gifted. Different talents, different shapes, different sizes.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart…” Jeremiah 1:4

We need to start embracing those things that make us special and stop worrying about what others think about them. As long as we are good with Jesus, then we are good. Claim it. Own it. And don’t forget it. He’s got us.

“The more I fill myself with God’s Truth, the less I need validation from others.” – Lysa TerKeurst