What I'd Tell My 14-Year-Old Self
Shady Rach interviewed me for a talk I gave for our hometown friends about Faith, Love, and Leadership. She asked me this simple, yet profound, question: What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?
Here is my revolutionary answer:
Friend, have grace for yourself.
Give yourself the gift of grace.
Over a decade past fourteen, and I’m still telling myself this today. Society’s expectation for women is extremely exhausting work that requires major intentionality, a heaping mess of caffeine, and double that in grace.
I am a ball of sarcasm, sweetness, and sass that never takes no for an answer all wrapped up in a very passionate 5 foot, five inch-female body. Now, if you put me in a room filled with people with differences that is where I’m comfortable. That is where I shine. But it’s all because I found grace for myself and for others.
As a 14-year-old biracial girl with thick curly hair that went to a predominantly white school in Lexington, Kentucky, I wish someone had told me about this grace thing sooner. “Fitting in” was on every middle and high school kid's agenda, and my differences made it all the more difficult to give myself grace.
I do BIG, SCARY, HARD things. I can lead rooms of rich, white men and make them pay attention. I can sit on a dirt floor in the home of a mother who is somehow feeding her six children, and make her feel seen and known and loved. I can run a business and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars without having that “necessary” college degree. I can manage my own life, my husband’s career, pack up and move our lives across the country several times a year on a moment’s notice. I can manage Mission 108 and make big decisions that affect not only our team but our partners across the world. I can secretly adopt a child and keep it quiet for months. I can take care of three dogs that all have big issues.
But it took me YEARS to figure out the seemingly small, simple things. Like grace.
Grace is so simple, but I just can't completely figure it out. It’s not so much that I can’t understand it, it’s that grace doesn’t make total sense to the human mind, and it’s often the opposite of what we’re taught in society. Grace says those ugly parts of yourself are actually beautiful. Those messy parts of your life are your message to the world. The pain that’s swallowing you is where all will be revealed to you. Those shortcomings and failures do not define you. Those sins you’re hiding are covered. Forgiven.
GRACE is your masterpiece. And if you’re like me, you’ll keep coming back to it in good times and in bad because as much as you think you can live without it... you can’t. As much as you don’t understand it, it’s yours. We are not called to be martyrs. Or to give up our lives to be superficial heroes that are “doing it all”, but lacking grace. It wasn’t until I looked into my daughter's eyes that I realized that grace is not to be figured out. Grace is just to be accepted. Grace will never make total sense to a girl like me. I tried shoving myself into a box of what other people said I should look and act like for the first 20 years of my life. It wasn’t until I met grace that I started to believe I could just be myself.
Not having grace for myself made me believe that if I sit down, shut up, and stay small I will be GOOD, or at least good enough. And so what I would tell my young self, and what I tell every young woman that’s silently asking the world the same questions over and over again--Am I enough? Am I loved? Am I worthy? Am I pretty even though I’m smart? Am I smart even though I’m pretty? Am I good even though I’m not a size four or a cheerleader?--is HAVE GRACE FOR YOURSELF.
You are never going to be all the things society tells you to be. At first, this is terrifying, and then it is completely FREEING.
Because you, girl, are exactly who you’re meant to be. Right here in this moment, your feet are there on purpose. You are so brave. So beautiful. So kind. So creative. So powerful. You have every single thing you need to thrive in this life RIGHT INSIDE OF YOU. Nothing about you is lacking, but you could always use a little more grace.
You’ve got a pimple? So does every other woman. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But we’ve all been there.
You’re not happy with the number on the scale? Well, stop stepping on it. Stop letting a number dictate your happiness, and go outside for a walk simply for the peace and fresh air.
You don’t make the kind of money you want to make? Well, get a part-time job or start your own side hustle and make more money. Not because you hate yourself, but because grace tells you that you are worth that vacation you’ve been dreaming about. You are worth the extra spending money that would make life a little more fun.
You, sister, are in control of your own life. If you take all the energy that you waste telling yourself that you’re too fat, too ugly, too insert-whatever-lies-you’re-feeding-yourself and you use that energy to do something good and great and bold and beautiful--you not only change the world for yourself, you change the world for every sister in your life that needs permission to give herself grace, too.
Why do you think the diet industry is thriving? Because it isn't selling you grace. It’s selling you fad diets and fear-based teachings that don’t work so that you keep coming back to buy more crap that won’t help you lose any weight. But what if you started your day without a diet? What if you started your day drinking water and a green juice simply because it makes you feel good. It helps your body function. What if you ended your day with a herbal tea not because it promises to help you lose ten pounds in one week but because it is soothing, relaxing, and helps you sleep better?
Why do you think the beauty industry has grown by billions in the last ten years? Because it promises you that if you buy this cream or that serum then you’ll look ten years young. And that, sister, is not grace. Look. WE age. WE stretch. WE get banged up. OUR bodies are going to have bruises, stretch marks, lumps, saggy skin, wrinkles, blemishes, and more because those things are our proof of a well-lived life. All that you do by constantly covering them up is tell yourself that you’re not enough without the industry. That you need the industry to survive. And that your mothers, sisters, daughters, and girlfriends should do the same.
And you don't. You need grace to survive.
Some of my readers are very literal so let's break this down. I’m not suggesting that you eat a tub of ice cream for dinner or that you never shower or wear makeup. I’m suggesting the opposite. That when you start your life, your week, your day with grace something magical happens. You create space to want better for yourself because you believe in yourself.
That internal dialogue that sounds like this: I should probably step on that scale and see how much I’ve gained since I ate like crap all weekend...and now that I’ve seen that number and I hate myself a little, I am going to eat more crap because we all know that eating your emotions is a real, big thing.
Grace turns that dialogue into this: It’s a brand new day. My body feels good because it woke me up this morning. I am grateful that I have lived X years on this beautiful earth. I want to serve my body with nutritious, delicious, wholesome foods today, drink plenty of water, and get a lot of rest because I’m excited about my life. I will move my body with ease and care because it has carried me all this way.
And before you know it, grace has turned your life around. Forgive yourself. Let it go. Move on.
It doesn’t have to be about food or beauty. But this is where most of us can agree we need a little more grace. Grace is an invitation back to life. It is needed in every aspect of life. The more we give grace, the more we receive grace. It is one of the things in life that increases the more we give it away.
When I was working out my faith in very complicated ways, my therapist told me the most profound thing I’ve ever learned. And I’m going to share it with you for free because I’m nice like that.
It’s okay to be wrong.
That simple truth set me free to live my entire life in peace. For years I spent extra time and energy trying to get ALL THE THINGS right, thinking I was inching myself closer to Heaven by being RIGHT. But, hello! We weren’t sent here to get it all right. That’s why God created us HUMAN. Flawed. Meaning no matter how hard we try, we suck sometimes.
Again. At first, this is terrifying. And then it’s so beautifully freeing.
Sister, hear me when I say this: you are free. You don’t need to get it all right. What you need is grace. For yourself, for your family, for your puppy who keeps peeing three inches to the left of the puppy pad, for your aging mom, for your very rotten children that don’t listen and you only punish because you feel like a failure, for your husband who is still leaving the seat up after 23 years of marriage (if it’s been 23 years, sister, give up), for YOURSELF, have some freaking grace. Because grace for yourself means grace for others. Everyone benefits here.
Grace is laughing about leaving your phone on the top of your car and watching it fly off into the distance out of your rearview mirror. Grace is turning up the music and having a family dance party when the kids won’t shut up. Grace is putting your phone down and snuggling up into your husband's arms even though you’ve never felt further away from him. Grace is saying yes to a girlfriend for dinner that you’ve blown off for weeks. Grace is a hot bubble bath, a cup of tea, a walk in nature, getting carry-out for dinner. Grace is saying “I don’t know what I believe about God right now.” Grace is giving yourself a pep talk in the mirror, or ramping yourself up with music in the car before you walk into the party alone. It is taking a day or a week to be alone and quiet, and binge watch trash TV. There is no room for shame where grace is alive.
The opposite of grace must be shame. Where ever shame exists in your life, offer it some grace. Because, sister, I promise you one thing: shame and fear will rob you of existence. Your identity and your purpose depend on the grace you give yourself.
If you are struggling with something or someone, chances are the missing ingredient is grace. Offer it to yourself first because often times that feels the most foreign. And from the abundance of grace we have for ourselves, we can begin to offer it to everyone else.
Grace is free, sisters, and it’s what you’ve been looking for. Stop the fighting with yourself. Stop the putting yourself last. The beating yourself up.
It’s time we do this radical thing called grace. I’m in. Are you?