Being a mentor for at-risk elementary and middle school children for the last three years, I've noticed that they tend to have the same difficulties I had growing up.

I was chubby during my entire childhood and weighed 140 pounds in the fourth grade.

I was picked on and bullied not only because I was fat, but because my family was fat too. I also had a weird name, my family lived in poverty, my dad was an alcoholic, and I was a slow learner in school. There was always something to make fun of. As an adult, I recognize now that children will always find a reason to pick on other kids.

But, if I could go back and talk to the chunky little fourth grade girl I used to be, I would tell her these five important things:

1. You'll never be like everyone else, and that's actually a great thing.

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Spending countless hours each day wishing you could be like the popular girls in class is discounting the perfectly great girl that you already are.

When you get older, you'll realize that striving for perfection is pointless and people like you because you're different, not because you look and sound the same as everyone else. You might hate many things about yourself right now, but those will be some of the things people appreciate most about you later.

2. There will always be people who will judge and try to bully you.

Right now, you're shy and reserved because the other kids like to call you Miss Piggy and pick fights on the playground. As you get older, people will still make fun of you, but they will just be less immature about it. These people are referred to as "haters."

They criticize and put others down because they are suffering, too. It's not because you need to be better or somehow change who you are. You're going to do amazing things and there will still be people that hate that. It's just a reflection of who they are, not who you are. Don't stop shining because it hurts someone else's eyes.

3. Not every boy that shows you attention is worthy of your affection.

Not many boys will look your way for a long time (unless they are teasing you). When they finally do, you will fall for the ones that show you the little bit of attention you've been eagerly awaiting for so long. Eventually, you're going to find out that they aren't worth your time.

You deserve to be in a relationship with someone who values you and shares more interests with you than just watching movies together. Don't feel like you need to find the right man as quickly as possible. When the time is right, he arrives.

4. You'll discover more of what makes you happy when you do things that give you butterflies.

I know you've always dreaded this feeling in your stomach. You used to get it every day when you walked into gym class at school and wondered what kind of torture they would put you through today. Every time you face that uneasy feeling of resistance and overcome it, you'll have an amazing story to tell your friends about.

You'll feel more and more proud of your accomplishments and the person you're becoming. The butterflies are only there because you are afraid of the unknown. Let them be a reminder that what you are about to do is going to rock your world, if you let it. Everything you go through grows you.

5. You are totally lovable and deserving.

No one has ever told you this before. You will never hear it from your mom or dad. It's because they don't understand how to show you love when they are caught up in their addictions and their own self-loathing. It doesn't mean there is something wrong with you.

It's a generational thing that you're going to put a stop to one day. You deserve to be happy and nurtured no matter what you do. You don't have to prove yourself worthy to anyone! One day, you'll even love yourself, too.


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