Dear Teenage Girl,
I know things aren’t easy for you. The world is a cruel place to people like you. It makes you think you’re only as good as you are pretty, that your self-worth is tied up in a number on a scale, a number on your clothing tag or how beautiful you are compared to the other girls around you.
Worse, that comparison game isn’t something that only happens when you’re with your friends. It’s non-stop. Every time you look on Instagram or SnapChat or Kik, you’re faced with that never-ending curiosity and wonder…
Is she prettier than me?
Why didn’t my picture get that many likes?
Why didn’t my best friends ask me to hang out?
Why doesn’t that boy like me?
These questions, whether you realize it or not, turn into false conclusions like…
Things would be better if I was prettier.
Everything would change if I just had a boyfriend.
I have to sleep with him to make him like me.
If I could just lose 15 pounds everything would change.
It’s confusing. And I get it.
But I have something to discuss with you, and it’s kind of important, so hear me out. When I met you in real life, my impression was that you were sweet and good. Kind and funny. Witty and smart. Because those are the qualities you showed me. I like those qualities. They’re good ones to show off.
So I’m confused why your Tumblr account is full of vile, awful photos and even worse words. Invitations for perfect strangers to do things to you that you are far too young to be doing. I’m confused why someone as talented and sweet as you feels the need to invite boys to look at you not as a person, but as an object? What is it about yourself that you don’t see? What don’t you feel is good enough that you have to substitute your best qualities with ones you keep hidden behind your internet persona?
Maybe you never showed me the real you…but I’m choosing to believe you did. I’m choosing to believe the person I spent time with is who you are when you’re comfortable in your own skin, and the person I see online is the person you’re trying to be to make up for whatever it is about yourself you think is missing.
Dear girl, I know it’s hard to be a teenager—harder than when I was a teenager, and frankly, it was pretty darn hard then too.—but you. YOU are better than this. You are sweet and kind and good. You’re funny and witty and smart. Don’t you see it?
You don’t need to use your body to sell something to people who don’t deserve you. You don’t need to sell sex just because the world thinks you should. Do those photos really make you feel good? Are you really comfortable with them? Would you ever say any of those words and phrases out loud to actual real, live people? And if so, next time I see you, why don’t you show them to me?
I suppose in many ways, who you are online is who you are, because that is how people form their opinions of you… so ask yourself, is that who you want to be? And if it is, why is that person so different from the one I met in real life?
I wish you knew how special you are. I wish you didn’t need strangers to validate you or boys to tell you so. I wish you knew it from a place deep, deep down, that you are not only special, but you are loved. You are a masterpiece.
Please, please, start treating yourself like one.
Someone who cares…