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A Letter to My Teenage Self: What I Wish I knew about Loving My Body

Jessica Henning

Dear Teenage Jessica, 

Look in the mirror. No, really look. Now, say “I love you.” You don’t necessarily have to mean it, but say it out loud. Do you see that curl in your hair? Run your hand through it. You won’t always have that funky, curly hair. Love it when people comment on how they wish their hair could be like yours. Stand straight on, facing the mirror. See those curves? One day, those curves will hold a baby on your hip, and you’ll be glad and proud.  Place your hand on your stomach. This is the hardest part but do it. One day, your stomach will have stretch marks on it from growing a human being, and that’s amazing and beautiful. But right now, your skin is smooth and there’s what you call “baby fat.” Don’t lie in bed at night sucking in your stomach thinking it will make a difference. Embrace it. 

This idea of perfect—the perfect weight, the perfect wardrobe, the perfect hair—it doesn’t exist. The best and most important thing right now is to accept and love yourself. Embrace your quirky personality, and don’t try to please people by being something or someone you’re not. Those people that love you for someone you’re pretending to be don’t last. And if they don’t love you for who you truly are, then they’re not worth it. Who you really are is up to you, and it can change. In fact, it will change which is important. Let that change happen because you want it, not because of any external influences. 

You will encounter people who also don’t have confidence or feel any type of self-worth, and they may project their insecurities on you. Stay strong. Those things are not about you. Use your positivity as a deflection against their self-doubt. 

Teenage Jessica, I want you to know this. You are enough. And every day, I want you to get out of bed, look in the mirror, and say, “I love you.” One day, you will mean it. Knowing you are enough will change everything. You won’t need validation from a teenage boy’s admiration, a popular girl’s friendship, or the next fad diet. Your fulfilment will come from within and everything external will be an added bonus. 

This takes time, so until it happens, I want you to feel. Feel the pain of having a fight with your best friend, feel the nerves of introducing yourself to someone new, feel the excitement of an A on a project, and feel the sadness of loss. Your feelings are completely valid and, more importantly, they’re necessary. Embrace those feelings. And finally, live in the moment because once this time passes, you will never get it back. There’s nothing in the past to obsess over, and there’s only so much you need to worry about in the future. Live in the now and enjoy every second. 

Love always,

Adult Jessica

Jessica Henning currently resides in central Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter, and three dogs. When she's not spending time with her family, she enjoys reading, writing, and yoga.