Dear Twelve-Year-Old Me,

Over the next few years, many people will come speak to you and your classmates about modesty.

Don’t listen to any of them.

Don’t listen to the speakers who tell you that your body needs to be hidden like a valuable object that will be degraded if it’s seen by the wrong eyes. Don’t listen to teachers who tell you to avoid negative attention by covering up. Don’t listen to the men who beg you to make their lives easier by hiding temptation from their eyes. Don’t even listen to the lady who says she’s talking to you like an adult as she explains how men’s minds work when they see beautiful women.

The teenage years are tough, and your struggle for modesty will only be more confusing if you let their words sink in. So don’t listen.

But don’t either listen to the billboards that display women’s bodies as their total value. Don’t listen to the advertisements that tell you you’ll only be happy if you’re beautiful. Don’t listen to the magazines that tout your curves as the ultimate prize. Definitely don’t listen while the tabloids rate women’s bodies on a 1-10 and base our entire worth off outer appearance.

It won’t be easy. Near impossible really. It’ll be forced in your face at every corner you turn, but please, don’t listen.

You’ll still struggle with modesty and frustratedly tear through the shops on a hunt for beautiful outfits that actually match your standards. You might cry in the dressing room when the fifth shirt you try on is still not good enough, not even the one with the great price tag and cute design. You’ll battle between your passion for God and the dress that makes you feel like a goddess. You’ll grasp for a reason strong enough to put the otherwise perfect skirt back on the rack.

That’s when you’ll stop and listen.

Listen to your mother when she told you that you can do anything. Listen to your father when he encouraged you to challenge the world. Listen to the elderly woman who blessed you for being so kind. Listen to the teacher who confidently pushed you to find your mission and let nothing stop it. Listen to the strong women around you who show by example everyday that we can accomplish so much more if we focus on our real worth.

Their opinions will be uncommon. You might only hear them once in a blue moon – but when you do, listen. Strain your ears past all the noise about your body; and listen. Listen well.

Eventually you’ll learn the tricks of the trade, you’ll learn to put together classy outfits that are both modest and pretty. You’ll find stores that better suit your needs. It’ll never become easy, but the learning curve will somewhat relax, and really, it won’t be too stressful anymore; you’ll have bigger things to worry about, like chasing your dreams. Creating solutions. Achieving those goals. Becoming the person you know you can be.

Then, one day, you’ll listen to yourself as you let out a long sigh of relief, grateful that you don’t need to join in the body competition, and instead you can focus your efforts where your true value lies.

So go ahead little-me, strain your ears and prepare to conquer the world.