I saw your smiling face crumble out of the corner of my eye. I noticed you stopped scrolling on your phone and looked deeper into the screen. Your body that was sitting comfortably in our minivan went rigid, and then you shifted in the leather seat to look out the window toward snowy trees and empty soccer fields. Your sigh sounded like you had the entire world on your shoulders.
When we stopped at a traffic light, I turned and softly asked, “Are you OK, honey? Is something wrong?”
And you replied, “No, Mom. Everything’s cool.”
But I knew it wasn’t. Someone in this world just told you that you were not enough.
I knew better than to pry. I’ve learned the hard way when dealing with teenagers that fewer questions usually lead to more answers—eventually.
That knowledge didn’t stop me from wanting to take you in my arms and protect your beautiful spirit or wonder what it was that changed your mood.
There are so many times this world will try to beat you down, so many times people will tell you that you are not worthy.
Was it your grades? Please know your GPA, your class rank, or what college you attend can’t measure your goodness. Remember that life is about the impact you have on others, so work on building your brain and growing your heart, and the rest will fall into place.
Was it a picture you saw on Instagram or a mean-spirited message on SnapChat? Please know that what others do on social media is not about you, sweet girl. Give those people the benefit of the doubt, and try to give them grace. What people write online says infinitely more about them than it will ever say about you.
Was it an ad you saw with a supermodel who sported perfect hair and a killer body? Did that make you feel disappointed in your appearance? In this crazy world, media tells women they are inadequate a minimum of one thousand times a day, and photo editing changes what we think is “normal”.
You will want whiter teeth or straighter hair. Nicer clothes. Plumper lips and thinner thighs. I wish I could say it gets better, but it doesn’t—it all depends on how you see yourself. Fight the urge to conform and love what makes you unique. Remember, cookie cutters should be used in baking and not for people.
Did someone break your trust? Unfortunately, this will happen a lot over the years. Your friends or people you date may not adhere to the same standard of privacy as you do, or their desire to feel “in the know” is more important than your relationship. Learn that when people show you who they are, you need to believe them—but never forget that some friends also deserve a second chance. Go with your gut.
Are you sad for someone else? I hope you never sit idly by when someone else gets treated poorly. You have to live with yourself and adhere to your moral compass. Remember to use your voice. It is stronger than you think.
Dear daughter, I know you may never tell me what sank your spirit today, I may never know who told you that you are not enough.
But please remember this: no person or achievement, no amount of likes or fans, no number on the scale or score on a test can make you happy. It is a choice you have to make every day, and it is hard.
Find what makes you the happiest and do a lot of that.
And know that you are exactly enough as you are at this moment.
Anyone telling you differently just wants to feel enough, too.
This post originally appeared on Grown & Flown.