Growing up is a jungle. Having four daughters, I’m passionate about how young girls today navigate that jungle.

We’re all familiar with stories of mean girls, cliques, backstabbing, and social media nightmares started by one impulsive picture or post. We’ve heard of how depression and anxiety may get triggered by a single online incident. Peers cause damage quickly by spreading a rumor or picture through social media, and because kids don’t have the skills to cope with it yet, it can lead to a downward spiral.

It’s all scary, and as parents we want to bulletproof our kids. We want to prepare them for every situation, which is impossible, of course.

There’s no magic armor to carry through the jungle, but we can arm our children with truth. We can assure them they don’t have to compromise their integrity and future to find the love, acceptance, and security they’re searching for. For girls, that is what it’s all about. Even when they act in shocking ways, it’s because of some deeply held desire.

Below are 10 Truths I’ve come up with for my daughters and others. If nothing else, I hope they reassure young girls that good choices pay off. Maybe not now, but in the long run, and isn’t the long run what counts? You can’t go wrong doing what’s right. If you want to thrive in the jungle, you must first question the culture.

*Truth #10: KINDNESS is more important than POPULARITY. In some grades, the kind girls are the popular girls. Kindness is expected because it’s the bar set at the top. But in other grades, it’s mean girls who rule the roost. Their protocol makes it hard to challenge the system.

Girls who act mean always get what they have coming. Eventually they lose power, friends, and influence because their friendships weren’t real to begin with. All of us have some mean girl in us, and certainly mean moments, but I believe most girls want to do right. Most girls are looking for a safe place where they can let their guard down and act on their better impulses.

Mean girls are a minority that feel like a majority. Without a posse, they become powerless. Want to put the mean girls out of business? Then band as much kindness as you can together and show the power of real friendships and good intentions. Stand up for anyone being bullied, even if they aren’t your friend. Mean girls may run the show short-term, but long-term it’s the kind girls who earn respect and admiration.

*Truth #9: Today’s choices set the stage for your reputation. No one becomes a purported “bad girl” overnight. It starts with baby steps and the choices you make today. So when you experiment with that first beer…that first cigarette…that first boy, you open a gate that’s hard to close. Experimentation can snowball over time and land you in the wrong crowd. This crowd may be loads of fun, but they aren’t friends with your best interest in mind.

While it’s never too late to turn it around, you can’t make people forget your mistakes. Whatever choices you make, be able to live with them. One bad decision can follow you the rest of your life.

*Truth #8: Chasing boys doesn’t make you cool. It makes you a nuisance. What I hear repeatedly from moms with boys is how forward and aggressive girls today are. They text and call constantly, and the boys don’t like it. Boys enjoy and need a challenge and lose interest a when girl takes the lead. More importantly, God created you to protect your heart, not give it away freely to every boy who comes and goes. girl4 copy 2

*Truth #7: Boys are visual creatures. The clothing choices you make affect the way they see you. The fashion trends for girls today are ridiculous. Showing skin is in, and if you’ve ever worn a short skirt that shows off your legs or a skimpy top that accentuates your tan, chances are it’s because they make you feel pretty.

But here’s something to consider: Boys don’t admire you the way you admire yourself. Their stares and double-takes over revealing clothes aren’t due to them being overwhelmed by your elegance or beauty. While you may think you look pretty or even hot, their mind takes it a step further. They’re having thoughts that would make your cheeks burn and fantasies you don’t want to imagine.

You can learn all about the wiring of the male brain by reading Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice’s “For Young Women Only.” This eye-opening book provides valuable insight that I believe every girl could benefit from knowing.

*Truth #6: You weren’t made to worship yourself. We live in a culture of girl power. I love strong, brave, confident women, but please recognize the difference between self-love and self-worship.

Self-love is recognizing yourself as a child of God. It is understanding how you have inherent worth, beauty, and purpose. No amount of success or failure changes your value. You’re important because God made you.

Self-worship takes an egotistical approach. It is looking out for #1 and making yourself, not God, the center of the universe. It is thinking that you’re above other people and putting yourself on a pedestal.

It’s impossible to be selfish and happy. When you worship a false god – yourself – you separate yourself from the real God. Since God is light, living without God throws you into the dark.

*Truth #5: You were born to fly. You may be content with flying under the radar. Blending in is safe and won’t draw negative attention. But when your goal is to fly under the radar, you’re going to conform. You’ll follow the crowd to avoid the attention that being different can bring.

But you were made to be authentic, because what makes you different is what makes you great. God entrusted you with gifts that only you can share. To tap into these gifts, you must listen to your inner voice. Your inner voice is the instruction manual that will help you learn to soar.

*Truth #4: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Otherwise, you’ll never stick to your guns. People will push you as far as you let them. Unless you establish parameters now, you’ll be talked into things against your better judgment.

It’s okay to be the only person not drinking at a party. It’s okay to be the only one not skinny-dipping in the lake. Being the lone ranger is awkward at first, but people get over it. They’ll quit hounding you once they know your stance. Honestly, you’d be surprised by how much more people respect you for not following the crowd. There are a lot of people who wish to be that brave.

Think ahead of time about how to handle hard scenarios. Don’t count on your best friends to always stand with you either, because sometimes they won’t.

*Truth #3: People peak at different times of life. Trust God’s plan for you. You know the phrase “Hindsight is 20/20”? This phrase means that only when you look back on your life can see your life clearly. Every experience you’re having now, even the negative ones, is preparing you for bigger events down the road. Since there’s no crystal ball to reveal the future, all you can do is trust.

It’s frustrating to see others hit a sweet spot when you’re in a slump. You may wonder why the same girls always win, or why your hard work isn’t paying off. Keep in mind the dynamics of junior high and high school will not be the themes of your life, howevever, because things change, people change, everyone grows and learns. The nerd in junior high may be named Most Likely to Succeed by the time you graduate.

So find your passion, pour yourself into it, and be ready when opportunity knocks. If you work hard and apply your God-given talents, your day in the sun will come.

*Truth #2: Pretty girls are a dime a dozen. Outer beauty attracts attention, but inner beauty is what keeps it. Everything I needed to know about beauty I learned in college. Surrounded by knock-outs, I was initially intimidated by how I’d ever stand out. But what I learned in those four years is that pretty is as pretty does, and how a girl acts affects the way people see her.

A girl who looks like a 10 on the beauty scale can fall to a 6 by acting catty, vindictive, or promiscuous. Likewise, a girl who starts at a 7 can rise to a 10 because of her inner light. If you want others to think you’re beautiful, spend as much time improving your heart as you do improving your appearance.light

*Truth #1: Everything you need to find peace and happiness is inside you. Listen to the quiet whisper of God over the megaphone of public opinion. You can’t rely on this world to tell you what’s important, because what the world tells you to chase – fame, popularity, boys, fashion – distracts you from the truth. Inside you is a God-sized hole that only God can fill. While stuffing other things into that hole, even blessings like friends or a hobby, may provide a temporary fix, eventually the hole will open back up.

Think about where you hope to be in 10 years and work backward to today. What are your dreams? How will your choices today impact the opportunities you have tomorrow? If your goal is medical school, remember that when you’re offered drugs. If you hope to get in a sorority, watch your reputation. This is your life. Don’t put your future on the line for fleeting thrills.

You’re going to make mistakes, and so will your friends. Learn to forgive yourself and others, and don’t judge anyone for their choices. At the same time, don’t fool yourself into believing that you can hang around a wilder crowd without their influence rubbing off. Bad company ruins good morals, and if you think that you will lift the wild crowd to higher standards, you’re mistaken. What will happen is that you’ll be dragged down to theirs.

Above all, love yourself. Find your security in God and remember that no person and no mistake can take away your identity in Him. Even when you don’t feel loved or worthy, you are. Even when you feel yourself wandering, God has a plan for you. Keep the faith and put your trust in Him, and you will do just fine.

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below.

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Also, I’ve written two books for teen & tween girls that empower girls through faith. My newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For?, is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comand everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, expands on this blog post and has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!