A little girl stares at me from across the café. She has long, curly hair that’s been tousled by the winter winds and sparkling eyes that the darkness of the world hasn’t had a chance to dim yet. Her clear laugh carries throughout the building, her smile brightens the room, and her insuppressible joy shines as she skips in circles around her mother. They prepare to leave, and she quickly pulls her “Goal Getter” sweatshirt tighter.

Society has a definition for beautiful. What it is specifically, no one can really say. Sometimes it’s dependent on weight, face shape, eyebrows, thigh gaps, or hair color, and sometimes it’s dependent on how flawless your contouring is, the shoes you own, the size of your waist, the shape of your nose, or the length of your legs. No matter the specific standard of perfection is at that moment, the world always has an expectation. What’s fascinating about these expectations, however, is the fact that these standards are not always physical. In the attempt to grasp perfection, there are other “things” a girl must have.

Over the last few moths especially, I’ve noticed a pattern. There seems to be a sense of desperation in the hunt for completion and self-satisfaction. Some girls try to fill this gap with material items and monetary worth, but far too many girls seek this fulfillment in the realm of dating. there's a sense of security and self-assurance that comes After all, if he doesn’t like you, who will, right?

Believe me, I’m no stranger to the temptation to seek worth through the affirmation of a man. But as far as fulfillment goes, there’s no value to a temporary fix when it comes to self-worth.

On that note, here’s a little something I wrote for the other girls out there who struggle with this, just like myself:

Please break the rules of beautiful. Right now, those rules are binding and constricting and defining and so utterly pointless. So boys think you're pretty? SO WHAT. So you are able to take good selfies? SO WHAT. What's the point? I mean, when it really comes down to it, WHAT IS THE POINT? Is that what we're striving to be to society? A pretty face? A holder of a list of names of guys we’ve won over – our trophies? The most desirable body in a room full of other women? If that’s what you strive for, then I hope you find fulfillment in the shallow aspirations you so fiercely seek. Best of luck.

But, sweet girl, here’s the thing. You’re more than that and so am I. My one desire for you is that you seek beauty in all that you do, see, speak, and aspire to be. Why be the prettiest when you can be the kindest? Why be the most desired when you can strive to the strongest? Why be the fiercest when you can try to be the classiest?

My darling, you have the world and beyond ahead of you. Never limit yourself to shallow waters when you have the ability to plunge into the seas ad explore depths that are far beyond even the wildest imagination dares to adventure.

Build other women up. Don’t let other people be mean to you. Keep a kind heart and speak even kinder words. Aspire for authenticity and compassion. Find your identity in beautiful and divine truth. Seek honesty and kindness and dedication in relationships.

At one of the camps I worked at this summer, I worked with far too many girls who had experienced terrible abuse and neglect. What was shocking, however, was the joy and perseverance they displayed. They took their shattered hearts and bones and pieced their lives back together so that light was able to shine through the cracks and illuminate the silver linings in their lives. Watching the little girl at the café reminded me of these strong souls that grew so dear to my heart.

If I had a chance to give one bit of advice to that little girl, it would be this: there is nothing you cannot do, but only if you are willing to stand up and stand out and do hard things and conquer your fears and tell the world “ no” when it tries to pull you into the clutches of victimhood. There’s an art to living life, and I can guarantee that that art has nothing to do with the shallow fulfillment of superficial pleasures. Take risks and love well, fight for truth and speak nothing but kindness, soar to your dreams and grab hold of them with all that you have, and aspire to inspire. Life is too short to not make a difference, and it’s too painful to drag out worrying over your appearance and level of perfection. Take the expectations that are set now and absolutely set them on fire. Shatter every shallow standard. Destroy the anticipations of perfection, and please, with shameless audacity and fearless words, break the rules of beautiful.