Letters to My Younger Self is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger ourselves.

Dear 16-Year-Old-Me,

I know you are scared. Your parents just moved you and your brother cross-country in the middle of high school. You will forgive them later for this. They were only doing what they thought was best. (In time, you might think it is for the best too.) The tears will last for awhile, but in time, they will make you stronger.

Detroit is a place you have always known, a place where most of the people look like you. Brown skin, kinky, curly, coily hair. Full lips, full figures, wide eyes and bright smiles.

You have never felt the weight of the color of your skin—of your blackness. Where you come from, it has been celebrated, encouraged, accepted.

You have never felt the weight of the color of your skin—of your blackness.

You have always heard the word “minority.” You have read about racial bias and prejudice in textbooks from a historical context. In your mind, this is all history—but soon you will be greeted with the fact that this is present day too.

You are about to step into a new chapter, a new city and state, a place that for awhile will make you feel like an outsider. In your new high school in Tulsa, you will be surrounded by people who do not look like you. For the first time, you will feel different.

You will question your skin, and even avoid the sun for fear of tanning. You will hate your hair, but this is only temporary. You will learn to embrace it in its most natural, God-given state. You will try to break and bend in order to fit the standard of beauty you see around you.

You will watch the boys at school choose girls—girls who don’t look like you. It will feel like a totem pole of beauty, one where black girls like you are chosen last. Even the black boys at your school won’t choose you. They will say things like, “I don’t date black girls.”

This will sting, a lot, but take heart. It does not determine your value.

There will be an incidence in high school that hurts you deeply. A boy in class will say thoughtless and silly words that “you are pretty for a black girl.” This will add to the lies already in your head—that somehow you don’t measure up.

Sweet girl, I am sorry the world can be so cruel, but there is nothing wrong with you. You are beautiful. The texture of your hair is glorious. Your curvy figure is a gift. Your honey, cocoa skin glistens.

You are not beautiful despite the color of your skin. You are beautiful in light of it. You come from generations of men and women who experienced centuries of trauma—of being made to feel less than. Society has not done much to remedy that.

You are not beautiful despite the color of your skin. You are beautiful in light of it.

But I want you to take this thought—that you are less than—by the neck and stare it right in it’s face. Unearth it. Dig it up. Expose that thought for what it truly is, a lie. Because in fact, it is a lie. A lie that you will not live victim to anymore.

And one day, one day a guy will choose you for the fullness of all you are—not despite it. You will first learn to love yourself, wholly and completely, making way for someone else to do the same. First, you must learn to love who God made you to be.

It’s time to break the spell of less-than. See yourself clearly. You are brilliant.

Don’t change a single thing. Allow your skin to soak up the sun. Let your curly hair fly. Laugh so big that your stomach hurts. Your outer appearance is beautiful—but your soul, your soul, sweet girl, is breathtaking.

Have you ever felt less than for any reason? What would you say to your younger self who felt unseen or not beautiful?

Images via Sarah Eliza Roberts, Darling Issue No. 24

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