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Parenting Teens - Christian Family Resources

Dear Teen, Don't Give Away Pieces of Yourself

young man with backpack standing in dark fog on college campus

"There are things you can do in 60 seconds that will haunt you for the rest of your life..."

I heard this phrase from my dad more than once in my teenage years. It may be the best piece of advice he ever gave me because there will always be pressure to fit in; I promise you it never goes away. There will always be people who tell you that, just like babies, teenagers need to reach certain "milestones." There will always be people who tell you that teenagers need to make inevitable mistakes and learn from them on their own as though these mistakes are right of passage: If you and I were sitting on my couch right now chatting as I often do with my husband and three young children, I would tell you this:

These people do not have your best interests at heart. Period. They will never tell you they lay awake at night with regrets; they will never tell you that they experienced times of such deep sadness and loneliness after certain events when they were your age that they didn't think they could make it through another day. They will tell you "everyone does it" so that you feel as though you are not normal...unless you do it too. The pressure to do things that make you feel yucky inside never goes away. Even as an adult. You don't outgrow it. You learn to resist it. You learn to make choices that are honoring and healthy for your body:

"Don't you know that your body is a Temple..." - 1 Corinthians 6:19

If you don't take care of your own body, heart, and mind, sweet teenager, no one else will. I would also tell you that misery loves company. I would remind you that those weights (others not having your best interests at heart) will try to tie around your ankles and drown you, but those weights never have to be there in the first place. I would tell you to learn to run from people and situations that make you feel pressured, just like Joseph did with Potiphar's wife: "She caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me." But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house..." -Genesis 39:12 (ESV)

Dear Teen, just like Joseph in the verse above, sometimes you need to flee and get out of the house that is called: "Peer Pressure." It could be pressure from one person, or it could be from an entire crowd. It doesn't matter. I know of teenagers who died trying to fit in, and I wish I were exaggerating, but I'm not. The more you learn to resist that pressure now, the more you learn to live your own life. The more you learn to say "no" now, the easier it becomes. The beauty of it is that you will be able to live your life the way you truly want to, not the way others think you should.

"If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you?" Another one of my father's favorite phrases in my teenage years, but again it stuck: would I? If everyone else was bullying someone, would I? If everyone else was drinking underage, would I? If everyone else was skipping school, would I? If everyone else was harassing a teacher, would I?

So when those teens are bullying that guy in the bathroom, don't try and fit in. Don't go along with it. Go against the pressure and be the one person who sticks up for him. He could be your boss someday; he could be your child's teacher someday. You never know. Don't give away a piece of yourself trying to fit in. Here's the thing: you might feel good, powerful, or even respected by your peers for a moment while putting someone else down, but I promise you: you will regret it. The guy who's being bullied will remember it forever, and so will you. If you have your own kids and send them to school someday, it will haunt you.

Remember those things my dad said you could do in 60 seconds that will haunt you? Bullying is one of them. So when those teens are pressuring you to go into the bedroom with that person at a party, but something doesn't feel right to you: don't try and fit in even if everyone else is doing it. Even if everyone else is running off into bedrooms, don't go along with it. Go against the pressure. Your body is yours alone, and you only get one. Don't give away a piece of yourself trying to gain acceptance and approval. Always trust your gut. When something doesn't feel right to you, it isn't right for you. Full stop.

Sure, it might feel good for a moment; it might even make you popular. It might change the way others see you all together, but heartache is a real thing, and it lasts forever. People claim that they can do something "just for fun," but they won't tell you about the regrets they have buried deep inside their hearts. If you have your own kids and they ask you to go to a party someday, the things that you said "yes" to at that party will haunt you as well.

I bet no one told you that the person who learns to run from pressure instead of falling into it like everyone else becomes the stronger person. I bet no one told you that the person who learns to stick up for the other guy becomes the bigger person. I bet no one told you that the person who learns to say "no" to things that don't feel right becomes the person who says "yes" to the dreams that matter to them in this life. They aren't weighed down by the debilitating pressure and opinions of others.

The person who learns to run from peer pressure becomes faster than the crowd. The person who learns to run from peer pressure builds up endurance, becomes a blessing to others, and becomes the whole person that God created them to be. While others desire to take from you and make you fit into the same mold of everyone else at the expense of giving away pieces of who you are: God desires that you live your life to the absolute fullest, that you become the best version of yourself, that you lack nothing:

"But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing..." -James 1:4

I will leave you with this short prayer today:

"I will not trust in the voices around me; I will trust in the voice of the One who made me and wants what's best for me. I will not give away pieces of myself trying to fit in. I will also help others pick up pieces of themselves they've lost along the way. I will be the person who helps put others back together instead of pressuring them and tearing them apart. I will give instead of taking. I will run from pressure instead of falling into it. I will remember that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that I deserve absolutely nothing less than the best that God has for me."

Amen.

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." – Psalm 139:13-14

Photo credit: © Unsplash/Alex Jones

Kali Dawson graduated from St. Thomas University with a B.A. in English and a Minor in Journalism and Communications. She is a School Teacher, Pilates Instructor, and Mama of two young children and a beautiful 2020 baby. She is married to her real-life Superhero. When she's not holding small hands or looking for raised hands you will find her writing fervently about faith and family. To read more, you can find her on Facebook at Faith, Family, Freelance.




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