Recently, the mom of a former teen client reached out to me. Her daughter (who I will call Gwen, because that is not her real name) is approaching her 15th birthday. For her birthday, Mom is putting together a book that is full of words of advice and courage from women Gwen admires.
I immediately loved the idea, and felt honored when she asked if I would be willing to contribute. Of course my answer was a wholehearted YES!
A few weeks later, I sat down with the prompt Mom had sent. It asked for “words of courage, strength, wisdom that you have from your life and maybe wished a strong woman had shared with you at age 15. Another way to think of it – who were you at 15 and what have you learned? What’s one piece of wisdom you can pass along?”
Here is what I wrote.
When I think back to 15-year-old Annette, the first thing I want to do is give her a big bear hug. At that age, I was a straight-A student. A girl who laughed with my friends over white hot chocolates at our favorite coffee spot. A mediocre sibling to my sister, because I was obviously way cooler than her and her 8th-gradeness. A daughter who took her parents for granted, not realizing that the opportunities and love they gave me were incredible blessings.
But none of that is why I want to give her a hug. I want to give her a hug because 15-year-old Annette was also incredibly insecure.
Not the obvious type of insecure you could see on the surface. The under-the-radar (or so I thought) type of insecure that had me evaluating my every move, trying to decide if this or that comment or action would make people like me.
I wanted boys to like me.
I wanted girls to like me.
I wanted my teachers to like me.
I wanted colleges to like me.
I wanted the approval of the entire world, served to me on a platter, so that I could be assured of my worth.
Gwen, since I’m lucky enough to have spent time in heart-to-heart conversation with you, I know that you are far more comfortable with yourself than I was at your age.
But I also know that the desire to be liked – the subconscious tendency to give others the power to tell us if we’re good enough – is more or less universal.
So I want to tell you what I wish someone had told me when I was 15:
You are worthy, exactly as you are. There is nothing you need to do, have, or be to earn your worth. And when you know this, deep in your bones, you open a glittery door that leads to a beautiful place within you that is free and at peace, always and forever, no matter what.
Happy birthday Gwen! May you trust in the magic that is YOU.
Why do I share this?
Because as I was writing it, I felt like I was also reminding my current, 33-year-old self of these truths – and I thought you might like a reminder as well.
As the poet Galway Kinnell says, “Sometimes it’s necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.
To owning our loveliness,