Knock, knock. Real talk.
I chatted with a sweet teenager today who came to me for advice.
Whenever this happens, I am:
1.) Shocked anyone would want my advice, and then I start to sweat.
2.) Terrified of steering someone else’s child in the wrong direction.
3.) Always end up learning something about myself.
Maybe that’s part of the grand plan. The Big Guy knows I need to hear what comes out of my mouth as much as a 16-year-old girl does, so He’s really sending her to teach me.
Maybe we’re all 16-year-old girls inside.
I wholeheartedly believe no one is above learning and growing, even if you are someone a teenager thinks is pretty together.
Newsflash: I am not pretty together. Hardly. More like “ugly together.” I’m stitched together with premium mascara and adequate spellcheck.
I’m good at navigating the rough spots and good at smiling and good at letting things roll off my back. In other words, I have the uncomfortable pageant wave down when people are watching.
But I’m a mess like the rest.
I get nervous. I’m an extrovert who is intensely private. I second-guess myself. I agonize over my body. I have trust issues. I worry. I have irrational fears.
Quite the catch, eh?
Enter my sweet teenage friend.
“Brandi, I don’t understand boys. I need advice.”
“Sweetie, don’t feel bad because I don’t understand boys and I’m 20 years older than you. And I don’t think they understand us either, so it’s actually a level playing field.”
After deciding that dissecting matters of the heart would require a year-long retreat in the woods, complete with professors, flow charts and a works cited page, she decided to abandon that for a related topic.
“I wish I was more like [name omitted]. She’s always perfect. I’m nothing like her and won’t ever be.”
“Well, that’s good. Because I like her the way she is and I like you the way you are. If there were two of you the same, how would you stand out? You’d be robots. Robots are creepy.”
“[Sigh] I wish I was like you, Brandi.”
Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.
“An awkward worry wart who only trusts like four living beings and trips on her own feet and dribbles ketchup on herself every time she eats french fries?” I asked.
She was taken aback to find that I had issues as well.
“Whatever. You’re funny and always laughing and pretty and everyone likes you and you have an awesome job and you do lots of things for the community. You’re so confident.”
Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.
✔️Lame jokes. And 99 percent of the time I’m laughing at something dumb I did because life’s too short to take yourself seriously. [Plus, it’s a better workout than crunches]
✔️Makeup. All the makeup. All the kinds.
✔️Get paid peanuts for intense, stressful work.
✔️Anyone can volunteer in the community. [Do it!]
✔️The confidence honestly is a mirage with more shoreline than the Pacific.
“So, you see, I’m nothing special,” I said.
“Except, you know what? I am special, and so are you.”
We went into a deeper discussion about how we see ourselves, what our worth is and how we can project the good parts from the inside so people see them on the outside as well.
But here’s the gist of what I told her, and in turn, need tattooed on my own arm. It’s an everyday lesson with which I also struggle.
Whether we are 16 or 38, it is human to have insecurities. We all have them. We all fight them. No one is exempt — not by gender or class or education level.
The difference in being insecure and being secure despite our insecurities is all in the approach. I simply
have learned am learning to be empowered by my insecurities instead of letting them imprison me.
Everyone is a work in progress.
We all have moments when we feel “less than” another, which basically is nonsense because we are meant to be an exclusive version of a person. Even if you are a twin, your heart and soul are exclusive editions.
The sooner we realize this, the sooner we understand that comparison is not even possible between people. You can’t rightly compare two or more things if they have different components making them tick.
It’s a false test.
You are meant to be you. You are an exclusive.
So when you feel “less than,” remember that you are “more than” in the eyes of others who are on the outside looking toward you.
Sometimes you are a 38-year-old paradox who is surprised others see past her oddities and focus instead on her positives. Sometimes that 38-year-old has trouble accepting compliments — whether out of modesty or embarrassment or disbelief.
“You look really great today.”
“Oh, hi. [Me, looking away] Do you like sandwiches? Sandwiches are good.”
Accept that others see you for who you are — not for who you think you aren’t.
The scars and blemishes prove you show up for life. The tears leave stains like train tracks to your heart so the right person can find their way to it. The failures are not anchors to hold you down, but they are weights you can hoist to increase your own strength.
Your life is not supposed to be like anyone else’s life.
Your face is not supposed to look like anyone else’s face.
Your body is not supposed to curve like anyone else’s body.
Your mind is not supposed to function like anyone else’s mind.
You are you.
Be messy. Be silly. Be forgetful. Be weird. Be unorganized. Be full of faults. But constantly be working to overcome your faults, and have the grace to recognize some things you consider to be faults aren’t faults at all.
They are your fingerprint.
Be proud of your mind. Be beautiful with your deeds. Be merciful with your words. Be a mix of all the things that make up your soul.
Just be you.
When something is considered to be valuable, it isn’t because there are a million replicas. It’s because it is rare and unique and full of character.
Be authentic. Be a collector’s item. Be an enigma.
Just be you, and watch your relationships with other people and yourself grow.
Then watch your world change like the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy goes from seeing black and white in her otherwise monochromatic life — to bright and vivid wonder.
Only you can color the scenes of your life.
Only you can outmuscle your thoughts and put your insecurities to sleep.
Don’t concentrate on what others have and what you have not. Don’t stay stuck in a daydream about being someone else’s understudy and miss the opening to morph into your own starring role full of color.
Sweet 16 or closing in on 40 — it’s never too late to start embracing yourself.
It’s a great, big place out there. We’re all specks on specks of tiny matter that make up an entire universe on a ball suspended in the atmosphere. That universe, believe it or not, depends on every skill and every quirk of the people inhabiting it.
And it is breathtaking.
So be a beautiful mess. Write your name all over the insecurities and triumphs, click those heels and truly believe that there’s no skin like your own.
Be who you need to be, but be honest about who that is.
Never forget there is a 16-year-old girl out there watching you. And be the someone she needs to take the lead.