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Trading Places

Entering puberty is challenging. Kids experience body changes in ways they had heard about, but never thought could be possible. Bumps and pimples cover their once smooth and pristine skin. Many kids get glasses and braces at this time, too, which adds insult to injury. It is one of the worst times in a young person’s life as they try to make sense of the world around them and the new world inside of them.

I recently came across a picture of myself from the 7th grade. I, of course, had gone through most of the physical changes that puberty brings by that point, and the pain of adolescence appears beneath my fake smile. In the picture you can see my short bangs and frizzy, permed hair. Silver braces cover and hide my teeth and make it almost impossible to press my lips together. You can see the makeup that is attempting to cover my many blemishes, but the inconsistent color actually accentuates them. I am wearing a seafoam green half turtleneck (pastel colors were in during the ’80s), and I am wearing a whitish lip gloss. At first glance, one would see a typical preteen, but when I look, I know the heartache and heartbreak of this young girl who is yearning to be someone, anyone but her.

I grew up with some remarkable peers. These girls were beautiful, smart, talented, athletic, and in my opinion, lived the perfect lives. I believed that they had it all, and to be one of them would have made everything in the world right again. I remember actively wishing that some higher power would come down from the heavens and switch me with one of my popular, fabulous, perfect peers. I believed that living in their skin and being in their ideal life would make me happy. Of course, those things only happen in movies, so I never got to live that fantasy.

This desire to escape my body was born out of feeling that I was not enough. I didn’t realize this in my teens or even my 20’s, but I now see it for what it is. There are times when this old habit rears its ugly head, but overall I am happy to say it is close to being retired. While I still have my insecurities, I am proud of who I am. I wish I could go back in time and talk to my younger self. I wish I could tell her that this awkward time will pass and although it appears that certain people have a perfect life, that is just a cover. Everyone, on some level, feels inadequate and lives from a place of not feeling like they are enough. It manifests in different ways, but it is there. You are not alone; in fact, you are in great company!

My daughters and I just watched Ugly Dolls this week, and it filled my heart with such happiness. It communicated a great message about being loved for and loving your imperfect self. It also has a rocking soundtrack as well. When the movie finished, we danced and belted out “Broken and Beautiful,” which is sung by the fantastic Kelly Clarkson. I am so grateful that this movie exists as a message to kids and adults. It helps to offset the programs that regularly bombard us about perfection. The messages that if we do and buy all of these things, we will be perfect, and we will be happy. What they don’t tell you is that happiness is in you, not outside of you.

Messages to my Daughters: You are perfectly imperfect. Don’t spend your time beating yourself up and comparing yourself to others. Iyanla Vanzant says, “Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” I agree wholeheartedly. If you are unhappy with who you are, then look inside yourself to see what you can do to change it. Your happiness and the love of yourself resides in you. Don’t look any farther than you.

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