“I don’t have a bathing suit body,” the sweet one says as she takes off her shirt on fast forward and jumps in the pool.
At the table later, she explains she has lost seven pounds by cutting carbs.
The girls are thirteen.
Standing behind the kitchen sink, I lean in.
We talk fruits, vegetables and strength training, but inside my mind battles. I really wish she didn’t need to do this, that it was okay for her to be plump, because she is the most exuberant girl in the bunch — and that’s how I define beauty.
“What are complex carbohydrates?” one of the girls asks, the one who has been bouncing in here bubbly since fifth grade. I explain the difference between broccoli and white bread.
The girl in question eats fruit for breakfast, and I wonder how long this will last. In my mind I ask why we are supposed to be proud of her dieting. Is this good or not? I wonder. Is it her genes or her jean size that we can really change? Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but that’s not what the magazines say.
As I wash dishes sudsy, I think and say quietly, “Bella, you are beautiful.” In truth, she is more beautiful than she knows.
I want to jump out of my skin and help her see what beauty is — and it’s not comparing her thighs to the girl sitting next to her (which they all do, by the way).
I want her to redefine beauty by her generosity; by her laughter that fills the sky; by her eyes, pools of humility. I want to redefine beauty for her … by how she looks in her Father’s eyes.
The one named Beauty who thinks she’s not: I wrote this book for her, and all the teen girls out there who need a new definition of the mirror. Who need to know their value, their identity in Christ, their purpose beyond the measuring tapes and pant sizes and screen likes and shares.
At 21, I was measured by a line of judges, and the other girl’s bathing suit body beat mine. That was the last time I felt good enough in a bikini.
While the girls with “bathing suit bodies” guzzle sweet tea and crunch potato chips, I want to make a big banner of my book’s cover and hang it over the pool for this girl. (That would be kind of cool.)
It would say, “YOU ARE MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN YOU KNOW.”
That’s why I run in the mornings and eat veggies. I do it because I decided I’m worth that, not because I’m in search for worth. And that’s all I want for our girls.
Find a teen girl, and teach her value. When we know our value — when we know who we are and whose we are, everything we do flows from that, and the imperfections melt away in the light of He who loves us perfectly.
Click on the image above to grab a summer read for a girl who might need it.
Or keep one handy at home.
You never know when you’ll look up from your kitchen counter and see her sitting at your table, about to jump in the pool and fill the sky with laughter.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
At the age of 18, I was recovering from an eating disorder, cutting, and suicide when I read Jennifer Strickland’s book Girl Perfect and it changed my life. At the age of 33, as I travel the world reaching youth for the gospel, this is the only book I recommend to girls who are struggling. The Lord has truly anointed Jennifer’s words through her story, not only to address the struggles of today’s generation of girls, but also to walk them through the healing necessary for victory.
Jennifer is a captivating speaker. She keeps the listener hanging in wonder of what’s coming next! Her presentation is not only absorbing, it reveals the truth of God’s power to heal a wounded spirit.
Barbara Brown, Former Stonecroft Ministries Regional Representative, San Diego, CA
“The ‘P’ word [perfection] may be the heaviest burden women bear. All the misguided things we do to attain it can keep us away from what we need most – the unconditional love of God the Father. The Girl Perfect Study Guide gives you a map to the wholeness you were created for.”
Nancy Ortberg, author and former teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church
“The Girl Perfect Study Guide shatters the lies girls and women believe and points to the ultimate truth, which really does set us free. I am confident that this study will help thousands discover a beauty, purpose, and worth that truly lasts. Thank you Jen for exposing the ‘perfect life’ and inviting girls to experience God’s ‘perfect love.'”
Allie Marie Smith
Allie Marie Smith, Founder of Wonderfully Made
One of the best testaments to what Jennifer is doing for the young girls and women of today is a comment from my eleven-year-old granddaughter: “Grammy, I want to read this book and hear her again. She’s good and I learned a lot.” This is exactly what I experienced from a grown-up perspective when I was introduced to Jennifer Strickland’s amazing story. Read it and see if you don’t get the real story from an icon model and a powerful speaker of truth.”