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Hey, Teen Me! I’m Grateful for You. Teen Week 2012
Hey, Teen Me! I’m Grateful for You. Teen Week 2012

By Melanie Klein

Dear Sweet 16,
It’s me, the 39-year-old you with a little advice, lots of love, and tons of gratitude.

I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but I’m writing to let you know that I’m thinking about you. In fact, I think of you often and you need to know it. I think you’re a remarkable, crafty and capable young woman and I’m grateful to you for giving me this life; a beautiful son, a deep love and appreciation of art and nature, a rewarding career, and some kick-ass friends. Yeah, really. That’s what’s going on now and you’re the one to thank. You don’t give yourself enough credit, grrl. You’re fierce.

I wish I could remind you of these admirable traits more often, especially in those nagging moments of doubt and uncertainty that seem to be becoming more frequent. I’d love to regularly celebrate your accomplishments and triumphs with you. So I’m here now, offering you support and words of encouragement because I know you need it. I know you feel inadequate far too often. You think you’re not cool enough, pretty enough or smart enough. I know that you feel alone, especially since your greatest champion, Opa, passed away earlier this year. I know it sucks that you lost him so early. But be glad you had such a rich relationship with your grandfather while you did. His gifts to you last a lifetime. His memory never leaves you.

It’s Not You
But the guy you’re with now, the guy you’ve been dating for almost two years is another story. He’s a problem. He’s a huge reason your self-esteem has tanked. May I remind you of your joyful spirit? Your sense of wonder? He’s made you feel inadequate and you’ve lost yourself along the way.

I know you blame yourself for his abusive behavior. Too often he makes you feel crazy and erratic- he causes you to question your worth. You think you’re the reason he changed. You keep waiting for him to come around- to treat you the way he did when you met. He was so kind, attentive and loving. Maybe he’d change if you changed—if you were better.

I know it may be hard to believe now, but it’s not your fault and there’s nothing about you that needs to be fixed (and you certainly shouldn’t be wasting your time trying to fix him). You’re smart, you’re talented and capable. Really, it’s not you. Besides, I’ve seen him recently and, honey, it ain’t pretty. If you keep waiting on him to change, you’ll be waiting forever and your life will pass you by. He’s well over 40 now and not much different than you know him now.

And why do you have a boyfriend anyway? You’re much too young for a serious (and seriously dysfunctional) relationship. I know it seems like anyone who is anyone is dating, but don’t cave into the pressure. There’s plenty of time for dating. Your relationship status isn’t a sign of your worth. Yeah, I know- he’s hot, he surfs, he plays guitar. Well, even those charms fade, believe me. You’ll meet other guys, better ones. Don’t let him treat you badly. It isn’t you.

You’re resourceful. You’re a survivor. It’s because of you that I’ve been able to accomplish all that I have. In fact, whenever you run into old friends, the friends you’re hanging out with now, they’re amazed, absolutely amazed, at how you turned out. You truly defied the odds and I am eternally grateful for your fierce commitment to improve your life.

Don’t Waste Time
You deserve better. No high school sophomore should have a bruise on her face in her yearbook picture. Once you come to recognize, believe in, and appreciate your own worth, you’ll lose interest him and demand better. I promise. Don’t waste your time seeking external validation from anyone, especially him. When you do that, you’re vulnerable and at the mercy of his fickle moods and desires. He is not the most important relationship in your life. He does not determine your value.

Love Yourself Fiercely and Unconditionally
You determine your own value. Nurture yourself, respect yourself, and cultivate self-love.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Don’t second-guess yourself.

Don’t judge yourself.

Don’t self-sabotage your own success.

Don’t make yourself small.

Use your voice.

Focus on your art, your poetry and what’s in the truth of your heart. You’re not going to do everything perfectly, nor should you expect to. You do end up making mistakes both small and large (along with some epic ones). It’s OK. It all works out. Don’t beat yourself up. Make amends and move on. Yes, people get hurt along the way, including you. It’s all part of the process. Learn your lessons and don’t repeat your mistakes (not too many times anyway).

Be open to the nice guys. You know, the ones that like you the way you are. The guys who treat you well, laugh at your jokes, share in conversations and don’t tell you that nobody else will ever love you. Nice guys aren’t boring--I swear, and they’re not full of it. When you believe you’re valuable, you’ll believe others. Like I said, work on that self-love thing before you dive into anything with anyone else. In fact, ditch the boyfriend you’re with now. Don’t wait another six years. Trust me on this one.

One day, you’ll thank me in the same way I thank you for all you’ve given me. I’m proud of you and I love you completely.


This post is part of Teen Week 2012: Words that Heal.


About this blogger: Melanie Klein is an Associate Faculty member at Santa Monica College, teaching Sociology and Women’s Studies. She attributes feminism and yoga as the two primary influences in her work. She is committed to communal collaboration, raising consciousness, media literacy, facilitating the healing of distorted body images and promoting healthy body relationships. She has worked with the new citizen journalists of the LA Academy of Global Girl Media and the peer-educators of J.A.D.E (Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating) on ways to tap into the power of their own voice. She is the adviser of the Santa Monica College Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and founder and co-coordinator of WAM! LA.Her work may also be found at Feminist FataleAdios Barbie, Elephant Journal, Ms. Magazine's blog and WIMN's Voices. She is featured in the forthcoming book, Conversations with Modern Yogis and the documentary, The American Housewife.

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Thu, 02/13/2014 - 15:02.
Lovelyme says:
I am so glad that I am a part of this website! I have so much lesson that I learned and I can even Thank you for more. - Sandra Dyche
Thu, 12/05/2013 - 01:38.
DianeD says:
This article makes me think of the cycle of abuse model we just learned in Women's Studies 10, where - as the relationship lasts longer and longer - the abuse occurs more frequently and for longer periods of time between each honeymoon period. A huge component of the cycle of abuse is the abuser gaining power and control while the victim loses self-esteem. It's a little bit shocking to read that Professor Klein was one of those victims, especially because of how strong and powerful a woman she seems to be now. I suppose that's some measure of proof that getting yourself out of an abusive relationship can make all the difference in terms of your happiness. The article repeatedly mentions how much she blamed herself for her boyfriend's emotional abuse and how ardently she wanted to "fix him," which is so indicative of patriarchy in our culture as well. Typically, young girls are socialized to be more loving, nurturing, open, and communicative, while men are taught that the best way to "do" their gender and portray masculinity is to cut themselves off from emotion. This system forces women to feel shame and guilt for not being able to fix their failing relationships, because they're taught that it's up to them and not their heterosexual partners to do so. I think it's really inspiring that Professor Klein went through all that she did and was able to not only learn from her mistakes but to try and influence her students to learn from them as well.
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 04:14.
LeslieS says:
This article hit extremely close to home because I got into a committed relationship at the age of fourteen. I was mentally abused, but I always defended the guy I was with because I only chose to see his good side. After almost seven years I finally made the decision to walk away from the relationship and I must say I am much more happy now. As women many times we fail to see our true worth and we only think we're worth as much as the people around us think we're worth. As long as we don't realize how much we are worth the cycle of abuse will continue. This article helped me to realize that I am truly worth more than what I have been taught to believe I am and that I need to love myself enough to know when to walk away from negative situations.
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 10:06.
Olga m says:
At first, I did not want to read this article because it seems to be one of those dry articles of how a teenager should be when 16 or older. But the form it was written caught my attention and kept me reading. Instead, it turned out to be a story that is full of vivid personal experiences and adventures. It was well presented in a form of a letter, which caught my attention. Every parent dreams the best for their child. Moreover, parents want their children to avoid their mistakes and therefore moms and dads create all type of restrictions like they know it all. But how your child is supposed to learn what first achievements, first love, first disappointments, mistakes and depression feel like and to grow to a type of a person who he or she is now. And in my opinion, the support presented in the letter would help to navigate them through the darkness into the right direction. I definitely can relate to this letter and wish I had an access to it when I was around that age so I could find some answers and understanding that I did not have. And learn that I am not the first. I would definitely avoid some situations that went wrong at that time. Like Professor Klein, I ve experienced similar situations but never shared them. This is a brave statement and I want my future child to read and keep it in mind when times are not easy and I am not around.
Thu, 11/28/2013 - 23:34.
Sephak says:
Wow. I never would've thought that someone who is as strong as Professor Klein would have gone through these harrowing experiences as a teenager. It just goes to shows that anyone could be in a situation where you'd never think they're in. Furthermore, this is a great article for any teenager to read as they invariably get stuck in situations which they don't have the experience to get out of. This kind of article is perfect for them because it shows that life goes on and no matter how bad the situations seems now, things will get better.
Sat, 11/09/2013 - 02:26.
MichaelAsl says:
Out of the all of the articles I've read and replied to, I must say this has got to be the only one I've genuinely enjoyed reading. I am a very analytic person; thus, many times friends of mine come to me seeking advice. During most situations I have great words of wisdom to share based on mistakes and experiences that I have had myself. This article, stanza to stanza, does exactly the same thing to anyone who reads it - boy or girl - and (I personally believe) should be shared to many others. So many young boys and girls are going through adolescence and at times it feels as if they will never get through some of the hardships they face. I've felt that, Professor Klein has felt that. It is important to let other adolescents know that what they're feeling - we've felt, and some of us are still feeling it. It may seem like a small thing, but can have huge effects on youths. I've always yearned for reassurance about many things in life - which I failed to receive due to being raised by a single mother of 3 boys. We had to grow up quick & make many mistakes to learn from them. This article has the potential to save many boys and girls the trouble of making those same mistakes! Great read. Great share!
Wed, 07/24/2013 - 23:13.
Skye J. says:
I created an account just to be able to comment on this post. This is by far my favorite post I have read. This is so sweet, and very motivating. I wish I had written a letter to myself! I take that back, I still can! I think of my teenage self all the time. All the crazy situations, all the things I did "wrong," all the things I did "right." All the mistakes I learned from. It's a beautiful thing to be able to look back and remember, that's a gift. I use my memories everyday to remind myself of where I came from, where I am, and where I want to be. Sometimes I worry a lot about other people, I put them before myself... and this reminded me it's important to think about yourself too. Put yourself first and do all the things you want to do. Don't be too hard on yourself.
Tue, 07/23/2013 - 03:32.
Ashley a says:
This is GREAT!!!! It makes me what to write a letter to myself of all my accomplishments and failues and it definitely brings back a lot of memories. This article proves that you should love yourself and take time out your day to praise yourself every now and then from where you have came from. All you mistakes are what you learn from and it later pays off while you are growing up. And I totally agree with you Melanie, we shouldnt be tied down or in a serious relationship at the age of 16, I know I wasn't. That's an age when we are still trying to find ourselves and what our purpose is. This article really touched my heart and made me think of how far I came along in the last 4 years (I'm 20 now). These words can definitely make a 16 year old girl feel a lot better about herself and what she has been through or going through. We should love ourselves unconditionally and NEVER let anyone take that away from us.
Wed, 05/22/2013 - 05:18.
Zury C. says:
I think this is awesome. Melanie, you're living proof that we can overcome some of the worst situations in our lives and still accomplish so much after. This is really inspiring and moving. It made me think about my life in high school and middle school as well and the choices I made then and how a lot of them were really no good for me. Although it hasn't been too long since I lived my life that way, I feel like I've come a long way and still have even more to go but I truly believe that in the end, things will be better. I've also struggled (and continue to struggle) with determining my self- worth and basing it off of what others think of me as well as doubting myself and second guessing myself. I think this goes to show how so many of us have these struggles and that it is all connected to the way we are being socialized to be doubtful of ourselves and unhappy with who we are. Thank you for sharing this. I'm sure it made many of us realize that things can be better after the storm.
Sat, 05/18/2013 - 03:34.
JacklynnM says:
Writing a letter to one's teen self seems like a great idea in moving on from the past, yet still allowing to reflect and send words of encouragement to a former, less self-actualized part of oneself. Many of these phrases are said to most of us at these younger ages, however, they seem to go in one ear and out the other. We cannot seem to imagine that these wonderful positive sentences are true about ourselves. Learning how to self-love can be such a difficult aspect to accomplish, especially if one has a direct negative influence in one's life, such as a relationship. Nobody deserves to be treated badly by anybody else, especially somebody who has led one to believe they are trustworthy and loving. Being able to find peace within and learning how to love oneself is probably the most important thing one can learn how to do, and it is such a shame that it can, and usually, takes a long amount of time to be able to do this.
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