Dear young girl on Instagram,
I know you think you’ve grown up so much. I know the photos of you from last year seem barely recognizable to the 5 inch taller, more mature person you are today. And it’s true. But, sweetie, there’s still growing to do. You don’t need to be all grown up yet. You don’t need to be like the teenagers on TV – you will never need to be like the teenagers on TV. You don’t need to be anything but a person who tries to be brave and kind and love herself and others. That’s really enough of a burden, don’t you think? And dear God, you don’t need to tweet that or add it as a quote under your selfie. Please, no.
When I see your posts, I worry. I scroll through drinks being had and kisses being shared, but yours makes me stop. You’re barely out of elementary school, lamenting the single life. Beautiful, you don’t need a guy. You will never need a guy. You might want a boyfriend, and that’s okay, but you’re still learning so much about yourself and who you are and what you value – put that first. Your body and heart are both changing, I think, and you need to let them grow. Get comfortable doing cartwheels and handstands with your longer legs first, and maybe then you can send your heart tumbling.
And another thing. The makeup. No one expects you to wear makeup yet. Your classmates are all self-conscious and paying very little attention to your bare skin anyway. For the most part, they just don’t care. (That includes the guys. They probably don’t know what mascara is anyway.) I get it if you want a little foundation in high school, but wait for now. Women spend thousands in the cosmetic industry, please don’t start it yet. You need to be happy with the eyelashes and rosy cheeks that you have before you go and try to make them better. They’re fine and young and they make you you. Let them be.
And remember when I said to focus on being brave and kind and loving? That includes online. You don’t need to say Jill is “the best friend ever and the only friend I need in my life” after your fight with Jane. You don’t need to post about stellar pool parties that other girls weren’t invited to. You just don’t. Hearts are so fragile and you guys are still young. I know you don’t want to hear it, but I’m right. Keep in mind that you never know how someone will read something. They can make it sound jealous or angry or mean, and it will be your words that will be blamed. Don’t give them anything to be hurt by. Be kind.
Finally, sweetie, don’t apologize for what makes you smile. If you choose to share a picture, there’s a reason it’s important enough to you to put up there. Don’t apologize for posting twice in a day or qualifying it with #nofilter. Let it speak for itself. Add your caption, free of apologies or self-deprecation and let it be. I worry when little ones apologize for taking up space on a news feed, because women are always apologizing for taking up space in the world and trying to be small and inconspicuous. They try not to get in the way or interrupt a man or bother him with their problems, and I don’t want that story to be yours. I hope you want something better for yourself, too.
Good luck out there. Be kind, make good choices and ask for help when you need it. There’s still more growing and learning to do for all of us.