My youngest is a young teenager and is going through a lot of the typical issues that face young people today. She is a very sensitive soul and wears her feelings on her sleeve most of the time. She has been the target on and off for most of her educational experience of bullying, which is far more prevalent than most of us realize. Where we live, the school systems are not very proactive in dealing with these issues although they tout anti-bullying campaigns that encourage students to report such incidences.
My sweet girl has her own style which is very opposite to the general style most in this area wear. We live in the midst of the bible-belt and her choice of clothing and makeup is generally viewed as someone who is into evil things. Labels- always a label for everyone and everything. As humans, we feel that this helps us be safer and make better sense of the world around us when in fact not only does it not make us safer and place logical sense to things, it ends up alienating and degrading others. It is little wonder then that the rates for suicide for girls ages 15 to 19 doubled from 2007 to 2015, when it reached its highest point in 40 years, according to the CDC. The suicide rate for boys ages 15 to 19 increased by 30 percent over the same time period. We not only have to deal with bullying in person but now online as well.
It’s time to change the tide- we need to teach our children to look at the person, not their outside apparel, not their social status, not their religion, and especially not their disability. Respect for both sexes needs to be taught. Our girls need to be raised to be themselves and shine for who they are and our boys the same. They need to know the value of the other- to care and treat one another as a valuable person- because they are! If they don’t like what they see- move on. For a lot of us, the change needs to start in ourselves so that we set the right example for our children.
Below is the letter I wrote to my baby girl- straight from a mama’s heart!
My Beautiful, Intelligent, Amazing Daughter,
I wanted to tell you how incredible, powerful, and capable you really are.
YES- YOU REALLY ARE!
I know that you may not feel that way sometimes- maybe even most of the time. You are a brave young woman- you have your own style and are not afraid to express it. However, you do allow those around you with lack of understanding affect your self-esteem- your view of yourself, your essence, who YOU really are. It is a normal feeling to want to fit in. It is human nature to be social as it is also human nature to fear what you do not understand. That fear is what you see when others stare with judging gazes, when they make off comments about what you are wearing or the beliefs that are commonly attributed falsely to your style. You walk with your head down, hurt and confused. My darling, DON’T! Walk with your head up, with confidence! Smile when others stare and move on! You are unique just as everyone is- society teaches that we are to conform to the trends of the time, to what is popular in the area you live. Some of the greatest inventors and activists of all time stepped out of the box- they shined in their own unique way- they didn’t conform to everyone’s popular thought at the time. They had ideas and inspirations that were ahead of their time. No, they were not popular at the time- they often faced harsh criticism and rejection from their peers and even their communities. But, because they stuck to their beliefs and ideas, we are enjoying many products and freedoms that we would not have otherwise had.
I tell you this so that you will embrace yourself – be true to who you are, love yourself wholly, and walk tall and proud of who YOU are! Your tribe will come to you- they will be your closest confidants and stand proudly next to you as well. People will be inspired by your confidence- it will make them want to be themselves as well.
Depression and anxiety are things that everyone goes through at one point in time or another in their lifetime. I can relate to the feelings that you have- I went through the same at your age. I struggled with my identity and when I expressed myself I was looked at as “weird” or “strange”. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a mom that was so tuned in to what I was going through- I don’t want you to feel that way and know that I am always here and will always do my best to help- to listen. I found my savior for the intense emotions and circumstances that I faced at your age- and that was music. I would play the piano for hours sometimes, especially after a bad day, and would find release and peace in it. It was something that got me through those hard years and helped me cope tremendously. Even with all that was going on, I didn’t lose my ability to care for others, to help when I saw it was needed- to do my part, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I did not allow others to dull my light- yes it hurt when I saw their judgmental stares and whispered words-but I pressed forward knowing who I was and knowing that I most likely will never see these people again and that what they thought really didn’t matter. I needed to be ok with me- to love myself and in turn that would radiate to others and make their day better.
It pains me to see you struggle, to see you so negative and moody. It hurts to see you hating school because of what people say and do- your education is more important than you realize right now and will give you the foundation to having a wonderful life- even better than I have had. You are a loving, caring person- please don’t let others steal that beauty and uniqueness away.
I love you so very much and want to see you succeed- to be yourself- a strong, caring, beautiful, independent woman who knows what she wants from her life and goes for it with gusto. One who lives her life to the fullest, confident with who she is.
I Love You,