“I’m weird.”

The words shot across the interior of our car and pierced my heart like an arrow.

“What do you mean, buddy? Why would you say that? Did somebody call you weird?”

“No, Mom. No one called me that. I just know I am weird.”

With that simple conversation, I felt a huge shift. My usually confident boy was now doubting himself. And in that moment, my mama heart broke a little.

My 7-year-old has reached an age where he is starting to really notice things. Like the fact he is the shortest boy in his class. Or that none of the other kids in his class wear glasses. Or that he is the only one on the basketball team that can’t get the ball as high as the basket. He is beginning to notice the ways in which he is different, and has already started to talk about the “cool” kids at school.

Although my opinion still matters (and hopefully always will), the way he feels about himself will be influenced more and more by the voices he hears outside of our home, and by how he lets those voices affect the narrative running through his head.

I would be lying if I said that doesn’t both scare me and make my heart ache at the same time. I know I can’t protect him from the words of others, and I know those words won’t always be kind or life-giving.

I want him to view his physical features as not something to be embarrassed about, but rather something that makes him unique.

I want him to love himself unconditionally.

I want him to not care so much about being “cool” but instead know how much more important it is to be kind.

I want him to believe anything is possible, and not let anyone else’s opinion hold him back from his dreams.

I want him to exhale the negative garbage this world will throw at him and inhale only the good.

The truth is, over the past few years, I have greatly struggled with my own self-esteem and body image. I have let a number on a scale dictate how I feel about my worthiness in the world. I have let someone else’s negative opinion rain on my parade. I have worried so much about fitting in and forming friendships with other moms, I haven’t always been the truest version of myself. I haven’t loved myself unconditionally. There are days I haven’t loved myself at all.

And as I think about all of the things I wish for my son as he grows, I am beginning to realize these are probably the same things my heavenly father has always wanted for me.

He doesn’t want me to live with a defeated spirit.

He doesn’t want me to question my self-worth.

He wants me to understand and appreciate what it means to be His beloved daughter.

He loves me no matter what mistakes I have made in the past, no matter what the scale says, and no matter how many times I mess up as a parent.

He loves me in the same unconditional way I love my own child.

I know I won’t be able to keep negative thoughts from entering my son’s head. I know I won’t be able to keep him from the hurt we all experience at some point in childhood.

But I can keep reminding him of God’s truth: he was created in His image and is loved beyond measure.

And I can keep reminding myself of this truth as well.

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