When you are feeling bad about yourself and struggling, you usually feel even worse because you feel alone with your pain. You might feel that if only someone understood your suffering it would make you feel better. But you also know that this would involve sharing the part or parts of yourself that you are trying to hide. If you feel inadequate, deficient, defective, flawed, or failing in some way, we want you to know that you are not alone. All of us struggle with some aspect of ourselves. This feeling is reinforced and likely made worse by social media and the constant and ever-changing messages you receive about what you need to do, to look like, and to act like in order to be accepted. It can leave you feeling like you need to hide parts of yourself that aren’t perfect and/or don’t fit within the current societal norm. This by itself feels like a setup for failure.
First, we want to explain a word that we use throughout the book— defective. This word represents a core belief that, we believe, everyone feels to some degree. It’s a feeling that something is wrong with you. This feeling is on a spectrum—you may feel this a little bit, a decent amount, or a lot. You may feel it in some areas of your life and not others or all areas of your life. It may be something that is very specific to you or it might be related to your family or background or community. It might be something that you feel is obvious to everyone who sees you or it might be something that is not visually obvious to others. Ultimately, the feeling is the same—there is something about yourself that causes you to feel shame.
When you feel like parts of yourself are unacceptable, then it’s likely you feel shame. And, the presence of shame is preventing you from being your authentic self and developing relationships that allow for a deep connection. It can feel impossible to share the parts of yourself that you have learned to hide, because you imagine or experience consequences if or when you share them. Everyone feels this way about some part of himself or herself. It may just be something that was passed down by your family—a type of survival mechanism—or it may be something you learned from peer interaction or societal expectations. Whatever the source, the result is the same: you are not fully living or enjoying your life.
Lifelong struggles with feelings of unworthiness and inferiority begin with beliefs formed in childhood and adolescence. This book empowers teens to identify and eliminate these beliefs now, before they take root and cause problems like depression, addiction, and failed relationships in adulthood. Just as You Are gives you a way to understand your feelings and change your perception of yourself as well as the influence of others.
First, you will look at the beliefs about yourself and others that are getting in the way of living the life you want and deserve. Understanding what started this cycle of negativity is the first step in eliminating it. You will learn how to liberate yourself from these feelings of defectiveness and distorted thoughts by accepting your imperfections and accepting your whole self. You will accomplish this by identifying your values—that is, deciding what’s truly important to you. When you are solid in your values, you are less likely to feel overpowered by the opinions and criticisms of others.
You will then learn about compassion; most importantly, cultivating self-compassion, along with extending compassion to others, and being receptive to compassion from other people. Next, you will learn mindfulness as a tool for self-acceptance. When your self-defeating thoughts and beliefs are triggered, mindfulness can help you stay present with your current experience rather than reacting based on past failures.
With these skills, you will be prepared to understand your emotions, tolerate the discomfort they may bring, and take actions that will move you toward what’s important to you. And you will learn effective communication skills so you can connect with other people in a meaningful way.
All of this will allow you to be authentic and accept yourself—just as you are—and create and maintain deep connections with others.