Go ahead and look at the picture below this paragraph. Go ahead. Stare at the picture for a long while. These words will still be here when you scroll back up. OK. What do you think when you look at that girl? We cannot even imagine what it’s like to live her life. Here in the West we constantly talk about looks and beauty, whether we think we do or not. It’s not a new message, especially to girls as everyone knows, that we are expected to look a certain way. I want to offer some encouragement to girls who struggle with how they look.

1. You were designed in the image of God.

This doesn’t give you license to say: “Well, I’m fat so I guess that’s how God created me.” No! Your body is a temple of the Lord, so honor God by taking care of yourself. Just don’t get so concerned with your appearance that it becomes your #1 priority.

2. Please stop comparing yourself to others.

Seriously, this needs to stop. Be thankful for the gifts and talents God has blessed you with. Always look for ways to help and serve others and, trust me, you will be much more joyful.

3. Realize that you’re a sinner and need Jesus to truly be fulfilled.

You’re not okay completely on your own. None of us are. God created us for fellowship so reach out to others.

4. Smile!

Do you know how good it feels to let your face wrinkle up and let out a good laugh? Do it often and don’t worry if others think your laugh sounds like a pig or over-giggly child (I sound like an over-giggly child who then gets raspy in case you were wondering).

5. Take some time to be thankful for all you have.

It could be worse – it could always be worse. Know that God has a plan and in the grand scheme of things you are just a small piece of the puzzle, playing your part. For example, be thankful for summer. A time to reflect, travel, explore, work, learn, grow, and love.

6. Notice how so far I really haven’t talked about looks and appearances that much.

That’s because I’ve discovered that when you change what’s in your heart, you come to accept yourself and stop focusing on your looks. Yes, your appearance is important and I’m not saying to just stop taking care of yourself. What I’m saying is to take care of yourself because you want people to see Christ in you, not just all the time you spent putting on makeup.

7. Point out the beauty in God’s creation.

When taking the focus off yourself, you realize that there is so much to appreciate about this world that God so intricately designed.

8. Make eye contact with people.

Put your phone away and stare into the eyes of the person who is speaking to you. Don’t be creepy, just respect the person by giving him/her your full and undivided attention. I’ve heard it said that you can read a person just by looking into his/her eyes. Try it out and see what you discover about that person.

9. This has been said before, but live in the moment!

Plan for the future, learn from the past, but never forget to enjoy the simple, little moments of everyday. The picture below was taken just after some friends and I finished shopping in the souq (market) in Zarqa, Jordan last summer. It’s a snapshot of friends having fun and enjoying each other’s company.

10. Be vulnerable sometimes.

As imperfect humans we like to make up for our shortcomings by displaying how tough we are. It’s okay to cry (I know because I’m an emotional basket case) and just vent about something that’s bothering you or constantly on your mind. Obviously, you’re not going to do this in front of just anybody. Find a good, solid, close friend that will listen to your hopes, dreams, and fears and be a source of encouragement. We are not meant to carry heavy burdens alone.

11. Pray.

Why? Because God listens. He doesn’t always answer in the way we want Him to, but that’s a good thing because He is the only one who truly knows what we need and what is best for us. Wait on the Lord, know that He loves you, and that you’re not ugly.