Authored by Mara Hodler
This is not something I talk about often. I touch on it with my kids, beginning to paint the picture, but they’re still pretty young. Talking about it with teens, like you, I haven’t done in a long time. But, if I could talk to you about one thing, light one path on your journey, it would probably be this.
You have something very precious, something that is yours to protect. You! Yes, you are precious. You are full of worth and value. You have something to offer. Do not sell yourself short!
If that message could be embedded into the minds and hearts of every young person, this world would be a different place. Bullies would not be asserting themselves, trying to find their self-worth in their oppression of others. Boys and girls would not give themselves to harmful relationships just to feel a sense of belonging. Kids would not cave in to peer pressure in order to feel popular or accepted.
Jesus implied a very curious thing when He said “Love your neighbor as yourself.”1 Think about it. Loving others actually begins with loving oneself. In order to establish any guidelines on how to love others, we have to first figure out how to love ourselves.
These essential life lessons eluded me as I entered my teen years. I remember seriously lacking self-confidence. I was the short unnoticeable girl with the brown frizzy hair and big glasses. At least that’s how I saw myself. For a good couple of years I sought out affirmation and validation by doing things I thought others would like and by putting myself in compromising situations to get attention from guys.
Neither method produced much of that hard-sought-for confidence and I ended up loathing myself even more. After all, I had compromised so much for others that it was hard for me to respect myself.
What I learned is that as long as you are seeking your self-worth or validation from other people, you are going to come up lacking. People like your parents, family, teachers, and friends can certainly contribute to your feelings of confidence and value, but ultimately you are validated by two things: Your belief in your value, and your understanding of your value in God’s eyes.
That last one really should be the cornerstone of your belief in your own value. You are special, loved, and valued because you are a creation of God. He envisioned and formed you. God knew the world would not be complete unless He put you in it. He could have made someone else instead, but He chose to make you. You! Get comfortable with the idea that you are precious to God!
Listen to what King David said about how God made us:
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”2
That doesn’t sound like something God slopped together. You aren’t a collection of things He found lying around in His workshop. You are made intricately, wonderfully, fearfully, and with great love and care. I hope that makes you feel special.
When you understand that you are special to God, this should make it easier for you to love yourself. You’re doing God a favor just by loving and caring for yourself. By becoming the best and happiest “you” you can possibly be, you are helping God out.
Conversely, by putting yourself down, compromising yourself, and giving in to peer pressure, you are damaging something that is precious to God. Whoops! You probably didn’t think of it like that before!
Your teen years are all about discovery—discovering what you like, discovering what you’re good at, figuring out what kind of friendships help you thrive, learning about what you have to give others, and probably making some great big mistakes as you figure this all out. That’s okay.
When you understand that you have tremendous value to God, it is easier to understand why certain activities and situations that undermine your value are harmful to you. Things like taking drugs, drinking, bullying, and inappropriate sexual contact hurt you; that’s why you need to steer clear of them. Anyone that wants to put you in a position of compromise on any of these issues clearly does not understand how special you are, and you need to avoid their company. Feelings of confidence that come from feeling daring, dangerous, or flirtatious are misleading and will end up disappointing you.
Hold out for the friends who “get” that your value—and their value—comes from God’s amazing love for each of you. They will support you in making good decisions. By not selling yourself short, you will steer clear of many hazards and damaging decisions.
Don’t worry if it doesn’t all come together for you while you’re still in high school. That’s perfectly fine. In fact, you’ll make me feel a lot better because there are a few things about myself that I am still trying to figure out.
But I have learned one thing (largely the hard way), and that is that when I chose to value myself and believe I was worth not “selling short,” I earned some self-respect. When I learned to respect myself, it didn’t take long before others respected me too. I was a better friend because I didn’t need to always validate myself. I felt validated, so I could focus on validating others.
1 Mark 12:31 ESV
2 Psalm 139:13–16 ESV
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2016 by The Family International