“So, how was your week?”
Steven and I were about four weeks into pre-marital counseling. Things had been going pretty well. We scored off-the-charts on our compatibility assessment; our counselor was incredibly encouraging when he reviewed our communication styles, ‘people like you two should be getting married,’ he would always say.
It felt nice to know we had support from a professional relationship therapist. Oddly enough, our therapist specialized in failing marriages, so I’m sure our relationship, just on the cusp of marriage, was thrilling for him to witness. I’m sure he was thinking, ‘finally, two people who remember why they fell in love!’
“Oh, it was good! We did hit one little bump in the road.” I giggled. It was so silly, I thought. Such a silly, silly argument: definitely giggle-worthy.
Fifteen minutes later, I was in an all-out ugly cry. Over what, you may ask? Organic green beans.
Our counselor picked up on the fact that I was giggling over a bump in the road: anything that brings dissension in your relationship usually isn’t very funny. Steven and I had already talked out this particular issue, but I have a particularly difficult time putting words to my frustrations. Instead, anytime I get angry, my words turn into tears. If any one of you have read any single one of my posts before this, you’ll know that I am never at a loss for words. So, you can guess that when I get angry, I am never at a loss for tears.
Our therapist continued to peel away the layers of my frustration. “Let’s figure out what the root of this particular issue is,” he probed, and gave me the cue words to put a word to every tear.
“I worry that if I make a mistake on a larger scale, I will disappoint him. I worry that I am not enough.“
It would be the only time I would cry in our therapy sessions. Inadequacy is at the root of all of my insecurity; Steven and I are careful to communicate around this inherent issue.
I suspect that if a therapist were to take any given girl by the shoulders if he were to look deep into her eyes and insist, “You are enough. You are enough. You are enough,” she would collapse into his arms and weep. I suspect that her knees would give way, unable to stand up under the relief of it. I suspect that all of us would be undone as we, battered and bruised, climbed out from under the weight of all the things we’ve been measuring ourselves against for our entire lives.”
You guessed it, ugly cry.
That’s thing about Kate Conner: she speaks to the heart of all women, in all of our beauty and our mishaps. Spending the day with her book made me realize on this beautiful Friday that I really miss my students. I carry no regret in my decision to stay at home, but I miss being able to pour into the lives of my students and encourage them with a similar mantra to Conner’s, “You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.” And honestly, I wish this book would’ve been around when I was a teenager.
Her words could’ve saved me from myself when I attempted to please everyone:
“ When you value the opinions of other people over what you know to be true, those false labels will wrap themselves around your heart like a hungry boa constrictor. They’ll squeeze–gently, steadily–until they strangle your heart to death.”
She could’ve saved me from my attempt to get what I wanted using my ‘feminine wiles’:
“…too many women have worked too hard to see women esteemed for you to act like a flirtatious twit to get what you want.”
And above all else, I would’ve identified that passion, not drama, would satisfy my restless teenage heart.
We need big, out-of-the-box thinkers. We need you. Don’t follow your heart; it will only lead you as far as your own self-interest. Your dreams, however, might just change the world.
I cannot begin to tell you how important this novel is for all women: not just teenage girls. There is so much wisdom within each of the pages and relevant questions for discussion. I can see this working really well in a teenage girl small group. I can also see this working well as a family study, using Kate’s companion novel, 10 things we should be telling teen girls. If you have a little girl, buy this book. Had Steven and I had a little girl, we would DEFINITELY keep this on her bookshelf (which is why I was so happy to see Kate’s husband wrote 10 things for teen guys!) Honestly, I can see her words permeating through the hearts of all women. Her voice is strong; her humor is evident on every page; and her gift for light-heartedly approaching heavy topics is uncanny.
In the spirit of her sound advice, I am re-visiting a post from my old blog (The Teaching Traveler’s Wife), in which I developed 10 things I would tell my 16-year-old self. These ten bits of advice are nowhere near as eloquent or scripturally based as Kate’s, but I wanted to leave you with 10 personal things on this beautiful Friday.
Follow the steps below to enter my giveaway of Kate’s 10 things for Teen Girls.
Dear 16-year-old Bekah,
1. Make more time for girlfriends, and stop trying to find a boyfriend. In fact, best not to date at all. I hope that my daughter (should I have one) understands that life is richer when you have wonderful women to share it with. The time spent obsessing over boys is wasted time.
2. Spend more time with your parents, and less time worrying what other people think about you. My parents are incredible. I wish I would’ve seen that when I was sixteen.
3. Listen to Godly advice. And follow it.
4. Pursue what you love. Swim. Dance. Play the flute. Don’t worry about what other people think about what you love to do.
5. Stop trying to be cool. You’re not. Even though you feel like you don’t fit in now, maybe you’re not supposed to…and that is ok.
6. Stop being so self-deprecating. It is not humility. It is not noble to hate yourself.
7. Don’t wish that bad times never happened. Consider it all joy. The difficult times are what shapes you and allows you to become more relatable in the future. Know that what ails you know will help you connect with your profession in the future.
8. Your father loves you. Call it cliched, but I certainly had….Daddy issues. I had a difficult time understanding the difference between disappointment and anger. At sixteen, I always felt like my father did not love me, which couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Certainly, he was disappointed in some of my choices, but he never stopped loving me. It is always easier to see that with a fully developed brain and years of emotional development, but I know now that love manifests itself in more than just a hug.
9. Stop taking everything so seriously. Learn now to let things roll off your back. I think in ten years, I’ll be saying the same thing to my twenty-six year old self.
10. Always remember that you can never outrun God’s love. No matter what mistakes you make, own up to them and realize that he will eventually use your foolishness to showcase his glory.
What would you tell your 16-year-old self?