She just turned twelve. She is everything that I think a pre-teen girl should be. She’s smart, funny, obnoxious and care-free; she would wear athletic shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops to church every Sunday if dad would let her; she
secretly loves hates Justin Bieber; and, to be perfectly honest, she thinks I’m pretty much the coolest person in the world.
She adores and mimics me in more ways than I even know…
Last year I went through a phase of wearing pigtails. Within a couple of hours of me visiting home from college, her hair was also in pigtails (coincidence? I think not).
I have to be pretty selective with my word choice. She has been known to take-on words or phrases I use often (freaky, random and awkward all come to mind).
I just so happen to be in over half of her profile pictures on facebook (not that I’m counting or anything).
And last spring when I caught a case of Bieber fever, she warmed-up to the teenage heartthrob too (ok, so I made this one up… a girl can dream, though, right?).
The admiration that this young, impressionable girl has for me is flattering, humbling and incredibly overwhelming. This responsibility makes me cautious and intentional about everything that I say and do in front of her.
I have been going through a hard time recently. I have been struggling to no end with self-doubt, negative self-image and destructive self-talk. I have brought myself down. I have felt like a failure, a waste of space and someone undeserving of love.
I have looked in the mirror and told myself that I am disgusting. I have avoided people and secluded myself in fear of breaking down. I have cried myself to sleep and endured several sleepless nights wishing that I (looked, talked, sang, dressed, worked, wrote, felt, lived) like someone else. I have been in a pretty low place.
Last week I called Katie. I talked to her for 20 minutes, merely asking her questions and listening to her simplistic, hilarious, pre-teen answers. It was so refreshing from the complicated, dry, adult-like conversations I seem to be having more and more recently. Growing up really sucks the fun out of some people. I could tell in her voice that she loved every minute of our conversation. It was a time of undivided attention from her big sister who lives five hours away.
When I hung up the phone, I wondered if Katie ever felt the way that I had been in the past couple weeks. I suddenly broke down at the thought of her hating the way she looks, feeling like she isn’t good enough or acting like she doesn’t deserve love. It broke my heart to think about the greatest, funniest and sweetest girl in the world beating herself up the way that I did most of my pre-teen, teen and young adult years. I was tempted to call her back and, through my sobs, yell at her, “You are beautiful, funny and amazing just the way you are! Don’t ever feel like you aren’t good enough!”
I quickly began to wonder why I couldn’t believe the same thing I was dying for my little sister understand. If it broke my heart to think of Katie feeling that way, how much must it break my husband’s, my mother’s and my best friend’s heart each time I make a negative comment about the way I look and the way I feel?
I want Katie to grow up strong, confident, bold and adventurous. I want her to feel beautiful not only on the outside but also on the inside because of her kind heart, her joyful spirit, her spunky attitude and because, simply, she is a child of God's. As
Lady Gaga my mother always told me, God makes no mistakes.
But how could I expect Katie to be confident and to be secure in herself when her big sister, her role-model, constantly scrutinized herself and never felt good enough? It’s like decaf coffee: It’s a walking contradiction. It just doesn't work. She could emulate my hair, my sense of humor, my adventurous spirit and my taste in music, but I could never forgive myself if she emulated the way I felt about and treated myself.
Ditching my negative, destructive and pessimistic thoughts and embracing my beauty, talents and uniqueness never seemed more important.
The last installment of this series will be coming soon… stay tuned.
Thanks for reading, you are all so beautiful.