Being Kind to My 14-Year-Old Self


leah abraham - being kind to my fourteen year old self-3

“Oh, please. We don’t need to see that. Next picture,” I said, looking away from the computer.

My friend and I were on Facebook looking through old photos when we stumbled upon a picture from my awkward teenage years.

I was 14 years old in the photo. My hair was a frizzy mess, I was wearing jeans two sizes too big and my scarf did not compliment my blouse. Nothing about that picture was flattering.

I was ashamed of the 14-year-old Leah. I averted my gaze from her.

The other day, when my parents and I looked through old photo albums, my mother had a similar reaction to a photo of hers.

“Oh gosh. Put that away,” she said.

This took me by surprise. We both had similar reactions to seeing photos of our past selves. We both felt shame and we both averted our gazes from ourselves.

When did we learn to become so unkind to our past selves? Why do we judge ourselves so harshly?

I’ve observed the women in my life repeating this pattern. When old photos resurface, they simply want to move on, not linger and remember. They avert their gaze from themselves.

When I saw that photo of the 14-year-old version me, I was a girl who was clumsy, judgemental, quick to speak, and had a terrible fashion sense. That photo reminded me of my mistakes, all my failures and all my inadequacies.

For the past few weeks, I’ve taken the time to look through old photos and practice radical self-kindness. When I see that photo now, I see a young girl who was bright and full of curiosity, who loved deeply and didn’t mind making a fool of herself occasionally. She was adventurous, full of joy and determined to march to the beat of her own drum. Yes, she was quite clumsy and did speak before thinking, but those were lessons she would learn at ages 15, 16, 17 and beyond.

Fourteen-year-old Leah was trying her best. She wasn’t perfect, but she did what she could.

When I take the time to listen to a past version of myself, I find wisdom waiting to burst forth. Fourteen-year-old Leah shows me the courage to follow my curiosity and tells me its OK to fail. She teaches me to constantly be curious about the world and encourages me to wear whatever I want, as long as it makes me smile.

I can’t expect other women to love themselves fully and wholly if I can’t practice the same with my past and present self. I can’t ask my sisters to speak kindly to themselves if I don’t do the same.

May we practice speaking kindly to ourselves. It is a habit that can only be mastered if we continue to practice it daily.

May we be slow to judge ourselves and quick to show ourselves grace. May we no longer let shame dictate how we treat ourselves.

May we remember to honor the journey we are on. It is a privilege to have this life, so may we remember to be thankful for each breath and each step we get to take.

Leah Abraham
Leah is a storyteller + writer + journalist + creative + empathizing romantic + pessimistic realist + ISFP + Enneagram type 2 + much more. She lives in the Seattle area where she works as an education reporter and features writer. Bonus facts: She loves the great indoors, hates to floss, and is obsessed with Korean food and her dorky, immigrant family.
Leah Abraham
Leah Abraham

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  1. xoxo Love! I struggle more with my present self – and I don’t want my daughter to see this. A work in progress.

    • Leah Abraham Leah Abraham says:

      Your daughter will see a mama who tried whole-heartedly to love her scars. This will change her in the best of ways, I know it.

  2. Justine Hwang says:

    Learning to reprogram the voice of the harsh inner critic is such a process that involves much patience and grace with ourselves. It’s so true that we would never speak in such a way with friends when we hear them struggling with their inner critics. Thanks for the encouragement to keep striving to learn a different voice of affirmation and grace to ourselves, speaking of the love of God’s delight over us as his daughters.

    • Leah Abraham Leah Abraham says:

      You’re so right. I try to pay attention to how I treat those around me, to see if I’m extending the same courtesy to myself. How I treat others reveal how I want to be treated, but it starts with me.

  3. This is so beautiful.

  4. Robyn Rapske says:

    I suppose I’ve never thought about the good within my awkward-years-self. I humourosly talk about the way I looked or the lack of social skills I had, which I thought was being kind to that self, because I wasn’t being obviously cruel or insulting. However, I didn’t realize that, in that response, I was writing it off as contributing very little good to my life. But it did have worth, it was full of reading novels about female heroines, or enjoying the life of an unhindered creative imagination, which has all contributed to who I am today. Thanks for your post, I was inspired to see more in that young self of mine that I previously saw as a pitiable, laughable piece of my life.

    • Leah Abraham Leah Abraham says:

      Your awkward teenage self is as beautiful and full of promise as the present-day version of you. Giving thanks to it all with you.

  5. “I can’t expect other women to love themselves fully and wholly if I can’t practice the same with my past and present self.” Great words that apply to me as well. God has been teaching me to let go of perfection and shame, and helping me embrace and love who I really am. It’s liberating! Thanks for sharing!

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