About a year and a half ago, I had the awesome experience of being a counselor at Retreat for Girls. The counselors are all 18-23ish, single girls, and each of us were paired with 12 girls, aged 11-15. My group were all 13-15. Retreat was and is one of my favorite memories. I grew so much, and still love each one of the girls in my group!

During my two weeks at Retreat, I got really close with each of the girls. I thought that because I was only a few years older than all of them, I remembered what it was like to be their age. I had lived it, I survived. I could be a big help to them! I was pretty surprised to find out how much I had forgotten in the years since I escaped High School.
Primarily, how much Beauty matters back then.
So this is to each of those girls, and to any other girl, in the hopes that your experience will be better than mine.
Now, I won't be so bold as to say it doesn't matter now. Of course it matters. I worry every day about how I look, otherwise I would never bother to do my hair or put on makeup. But at that age, it's an obsession. It's on your mind almost constantly, especially while you are in school. It's all you think about, you worry yourself sick about your bony knees or your ghostly white skin or your zits even though everyone has them or how your hair is too poofy or your clothes aren't what's "in". You worry so much, that you fail to see yourself as you really are.

One of the girls in my group said during a devotional one night that she loved to come to Retreat because she always felt beautiful there. Why was that? Well, partly because Retreat is all girls, and the only boys you see for the entire week were the director's families, and the boys we passed from EFY. (Which they were forbidden to talk to, or I would shout things like, "How is that rash of yours clearing up?" I am going to be such an embarrassing mom.) But I think the biggest reason she, and the other girls (myself included) felt beautiful at Retreat was because we all felt loved. We started every morning with a devotional and scripture study, said prayers at every meal, and spent all afternoon listening to gospel-centered talks. It was hard not to be on a spiritual high 24/7, even as exhausted as we were. I learned that when the Spirit is with you that strong, the things of the world really do fall away. Because we know that Heavenly Father doesn't care what we look like. He would never send us away or forbid us blessings because our mascara is clumped or our teeth are crooked. 
It broke my heart to send my girls back out into the real world. In the year and a half since then, I have watched them grow, turn 16 and start dating. I have watched some of the things they post online. Some of them make me beam with pride (seriously, SUCH an embarrassing mom) and some make me cringe. But I know how they feel. We are all living in a world that demands that we be beautiful. We can never be completely satisfied with the way we look, because someone will always look just a little bit better than us. 
And beyond that, I can promise you that you do not see yourself the way others see you. All those self conscious girls in my groups, and I would have killed to look like any of them. Look at the people around you. Why do they all seem just a little bit more perfect than you? Do you really think none of them look at themselves and wish they looked like you? I promise you, they do.
To top it off, the more we worry about ourselves, the more self conscious we make others. I see girls who are much more tan than I am obsessing about their pale skin, and all I can think is how white I must look in their eyes. I see girls post super-photoshopped pictures in their newest, cutest, most expensive outfits, and my heart sinks. Why don't I have as much money as her? Why won't my hair do what hers does? And I can tell you, I would much rather be jealous of someone because of the fun trip they took, or the lifetime dream they achieved, than because of the outfit they're wearing.
I'm talking to you, everyday-selfie-takers.
To my girls and any girls going through the rough Middle and High School years... it gets better. But don't let it get you down now. I promise you the day will come when you will see a picture of yourself today and think, "Wow, I looked really good!" You may not see it now. You may be so blinded by your little imperfections that you can't see yourself the way God sees you, or even the way others see you. But if you just try to forget about those things, take a step back and decide that you are happy with yourself the way you are, I can tell you from experience THAT is where you will find true happiness. Not at the end of a 5 mile run on a treadmill. Not at the bottom of a crazy hair cut. Not after a long shopping spree. But right where you are, right now, perfect as can be.

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