Stop comparing yourself to others—you’re special just as you are! In this fun, practical guide, you’ll learn how to silence your nit-picky inner critic, cultivate self-compassion, and discover what really matters to you.
If you’re like many teens, you probably feel pressured to live up to the impossible standards set by our culture, the media, and even by your peers. After all, everyone wants perfect hair, a perfect body, cool friends, and good grades. But while it’s okay to strive to be your best, it’s also easy to get caught up in a never-ending comparison game that can feed your inner critic and rob you of your happiness. So, how can you break free from negative self-criticism and learn to appreciate your strengths?
In Just As You Are, psychologist Michelle Skeen and her daughter, Kelly Skeen, offer simple tips to help you overcome feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness, stop comparing yourself to others, and be more open and accepting of all aspects of who you are. You’ll also learn how to be more aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment using powerful mindfulness tools, and build a plan of action for the future based on your values.
Sometimes it’s hard to see yourself with clarity and kindness. With this important guide, you’ll learn to move past your faults, celebrate your true strengths, and discover what really matters in your life. What are you waiting for?
“This book provides effective tools for combating feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, and low self-esteem that are so common among teens. Readers will learn strategies for self-acceptance, changing negative thinking patterns, and communicating effectively. The book is clear, easy to read, and filled with practical exercises. Highly recommended!”
“Just As You Are helps young people examine their negative self-stories from a place of compassion and value. The personal stories and exercises will resonate with a broad range of readers. Such a helpful book.”
“We all struggle with parts of ourselves and feel at some level not okay. But this common need to appear like you have it all together is not only exhausting and disconfirming, it’s lonely as well. As you read others’ stories of this same struggle, work through exercises, and challenge your inner critic, you learn to accept yourself Just As You Are with the same care and warmth that you would your best friend.”
“So many young people struggle with feeling ‘not good enough,’ or believing that something is fundamentally wrong with them. Just As You Are is a step-by-step guide to undo those negative core beliefs. Michelle and Kelly Skeen offer tools for understanding yourself, identifying strengths, and changing unhealthy habits. They teach mindfulness and self-compassion in down-to-earth language that will appeal to everyone, even those who are skeptical of self-help books.”
“Michelle Skeen has written yet another elegant, reassuring, and, most importantly, useful book. As with her other books, her hand reaches out from the pages with a powerful yet gentle message of guidance and encouragement. At a time when young people are feeling estranged, isolated, and not heard, Michelle offers her unique and reassuring voice; a lifeline from that dark place of self-aversion and unrelenting self-criticism to which many young people wake up each morning.
An addition to Michelle’s wise counsel is the voice from her daughter Kelly. Too often young folks feel talked to and left not knowing where to begin in their journey of healing. Kelly, from her youthful wisdom, beautifully offers a ‘Hey! Here’s how this all works! See, it’s not so hard!’ What powerful encouragement!”
“Michelle and Kelly Skeen have written a powerful tool to help teens navigate the tricky world of self-acceptance. Their words are thought-provoking, genuine, and kind. Teens will relate to the heartfelt stories and learn to embrace and appreciate their authentic self.”
“Just As You Are speaks in a caring and thoughtful voice to the many teens who feel uncomfortable in their own skins. It’s filled with carefully crafted exercises that rest on a foundation of self-acceptance and self-compassion. Teens will experience the power that comes with truly being themselves.”
Chapter 1: What’s Up with the Way I Feel about Myself?
Chapter 2: Why Do I Do the Things That I Do?
Chapter 3: Figuring Out What Matters to You
Chapter 4: Connect to Yourself and Others
Chapter 5: Mindfulness and the Monkey Mind
Chapter 6: Emotions and the “I” of the Storm
Chapter 7: Helpful Behaviors and Communication
Chapter 8: How Do I Keep Myself on Track?
This book would not have been possible without the support of Matt McKay, Catharine Meyers, and Elizabeth Hollis Hansen. They supported our book from the beginning, understanding the importance of getting at the seedlings of negative beliefs before they take root as deeply held core beliefs. We also want to thank the entire New Harbinger family for supporting this project. There are so many individuals who nurtured this book from beginning to end. It is quite remarkable what they accomplish while making it such a pleasant experience for us. Thank you!
I want to thank my daughter, Kelly, for agreeing to write this book with me. When we wrote our first book, Communication Skills for Teens, we started it while she was in high school and finished it during her freshman year of college. As I write these words, she is almost halfway through her senior year in college. This writing project was a significant commitment given her demanding schedule at school (including writing a senior thesis that is the equivalent of a book). It is a uniquely wonder-ful experience to write a book together, and we have had the privilege of doing it twice. I have learned so much through this process, and I am forever grateful.
Big heart hugs to all of our friends who support us in big and little ways, and most importantly they accept us just as we are. C. S. Lewis said it best: “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” It’s nice to be reminded that we are never alone.
And, last but not least, to the three most important men in our lives— Jake, Eric (along with a big shout-out for your feed-back on the manuscript), and Kelly’s Daddio— you are simply the best!
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.
Michelle Skeen, PsyD, has a doctorate in clinical psychology. She is author of seven books, all designed to enhance relation-ships by emphasizing the importance of identifying core values and valued intentions, limited thinking, mindfulness, self-compassion, empathy, and effective communication and conflict resolution skills. Her passion is coaching individuals in creating and maintaining healthy relationships by bringing awareness to obstacles (fears and beliefs), which often work unconsciously to limit connections with others. Michelle believes that an early introduction and education in core values and healthy communication are essential life skills for success. To that end, Michelle and her daughter, Kelly, coauthored Communication Skills for Teens and Just As You Are.
Skeen completed her postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco. She codeveloped an empirically validated protocol for the treatment of interpersonal problems that resulted in two books: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Interpersonal Problems and The Interpersonal Problems Workbook. Michelle’s work has appeared in more than thirty publications around the world. She hosts a weekly radio show called Relationships 2.0 with Dr. Michelle Skeen that airs nationally. To find out more, visit her website at www.michelleskeen.com.
Kelly Skeen is a recent graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, DC. As an American studies major, she concentrated in art and museum studies, and plans to pursue a career expand-ing access to the visual arts. She is also coauthor of Communication Skills for Teens with her mother, Michelle Skeen. Skeen strives every day for greater self-acceptance and to embrace who she really is!
Just as You Are is available from the following online retailers: