On March 15, 2012 at 9:02 PM, Zoe wrote:

Dear Lauren,

I feel like the whole world expects more from me than I actually am. My parents compare me to my siblings and my teachers say I don’t try. I know they all think I’m lazy, but it’s really because I don’t want people to see I’m just not smart enough. So I put on an "I don’t care" attitude and mess around in class. I want to tell people I honestly can’t do what they want from me, but that will make me look like an idiot. How can I change? (Sorry, this was way too long.)

On Mar 16, 2012 at 10:32 AM, Lauren wrote:

Hi Zoe!

I really liked your question, and I feel for you. I think I'm going to address it in my next article, which will come out 3 weeks from now. Until then, just be yourself. Be honestly you. Your real friends will love the real you, and you will feel so much better, because you'll be being true to yourself. I admire your conflict over this issue--it means you are smart and thinking—I like you!

On Mar 18, 2012 at 11:37 AM, Zoe wrote:

Hi. You can just ignore this email: send it to trash or whatever. I’m sorry to drive you nuts about this (because I probably am, right?) but no one likes me being myself. My teachers don’t like it when I mess around because it "disturbs other students from learning" but my parents don’t like the bad grades I get even if I do try and I have no excuse for them if I’ve been behaving other than, "Sorry: I’m just too dumb to learn." So what should I do??

Like I said-you can totally ignore this, though...because I feel like I’m annoying you and wasting your time...

On Mar 18, 2012 at 7:59 PM, Lauren wrote:

No way! I'm not going to ignore your question!!

I'm sorry your parents compare you to your siblings. That's number one. Because you are who you are, and God created you with all your strengths and weaknesses and interests and talents, and if he had wanted you to be your siblings, he wouldn't have created you.

I don't like the fact that you think you're bothering me, or that I should throw away your emails, or that you think your emails are too long—if you have a question, then it's a good question. If you want to talk to me, then it's your right to ask me questions. Yes, of course, we shouldn't bother people excessively. But in your case, I feel sad about the way YOU are treating YOU. If you were treating someone else like that ("your question is too long," "you're probably bothering her,"), I would tell you that's not a nice way to talk to someone. I want to see you give yourself the same kindness you give others.

What is it about yourself that you like? Make a list of the things about yourself that you like, and study it every day. You have to learn to love yourself the way you are. I know it's hard to love and accept yourself when your parents don't love and accept you just the way you are. But keep trying to be yourself and love YOU.

On Mar 20, 2012 at 2:04 PM, Zoe wrote: But my parents won’t accept me that way. They're not interested in me being me if I’m not the me they want who gets amazing grades on every test. So how do I make them see me as me?

So how's this: I’m NOT bothering you and you don’t mind my emails...! Is that a better attitude? But it’s much easier to put myself down…

I will try to accept myself...but if I don’t like the person I am is there any way I can change myself?

On Mar 20, 2012 at 8:44 PM, Lauren wrote: Your parents may have taught you that you need to change yourself, but they're not necessarily correct!! (Parents can definitely be wrong—we’re only human, sadly.) Your parents might have good ideas about what you might want to change, BUT they should, as parents, start with the basis of accepting you as you are. And if they're not going to do that for you, you'll have to do that for yourself. You should be as you are, and find parts about yourself that you like (however small they may be) and celebrate those parts. I'll give you a couple of examples: you're not shy! You emailed me, and I'm impressed! Also, you're insightful about yourself and the people around you. Also, you're friendly—I seriously feel I would want to meet you. I already thought of 3 positive things about you. Oh, and one more—you’re eager to learn. Just look at how you didn't put yourself down in this last email, after I mentioned it. Your willingness to learn is extremely positive.

I want you to write a list of all the positive things about yourself and study it every day. And add a new positive aspect about yourself to the list every week.

What do you think?

On Mar 21, 2012 at 2:53 PM, Zoe wrote:

So I should be happy with the way I am and focus on my good points not my bad points?

I have written my list and I came up with... 7 points. Which I’m thinking is quite good…?

Say other people are focusing on my bad points? Then do I try extra hard to remember my good points? Like today I was fed up with being kicked out of class for making stupid jokes so I made it Smiley Day and sent around a text telling people to smile and be extra happy and it worked and tons of people told me they like it.... So is that a good thing? I guess I can either make stupid jokes in class and disrupt or I can make people laugh and smile at the right times?

What if I run out of good points about myself for my list, though...?

On Mar 21, 2012 at 8:19 PM, Lauren wrote:

I love your ideas! They're really really good. I also love that you got so much positive feedback for the Smiley Day. You’re asking lots of good questions, and thinking a ton. I believe you are a smart person, Zoe!

On Mar 24, 2012 at 6:05 PM, Zoe wrote:

So I decided to do a Smile Campaign! This is what I do (and I’m trying to get others to do it, too): every time someone smiles at you, you have to pass on the smile to at least 2 other people.... Would you like to join? It’s easier than it sounds, and I think it sounds pretty easy. You can say no if you want, because it’s just an idea....

On Mar 25, 2012 at 9:05 AM, Lauren wrote:

I'm soooo totally in! I love that idea. YOU can change the world, dear!

By the way, you know I did NOT like the last line of your email--do you want to guess why????

On Mar 25, 2012 at 12:23 PM, Zoe wrote:

Yay, I’m so happy you’re joining!

Umm. The last line? I know: because I said "You can say no if you want because it’s just an idea....” And I’m not going to say that anymore? Sorry...

On Mar 26, 2012 at 1:23 AM, Lauren wrote: Yea! You got it!! It's YOUR idea, so I LIKE IT. I happen to like the idea just because it's a great idea, too, but I really like it because it's YOURS. The last line (yup, you got it!) was putting your own idea down. I don't want you to put yourself down anymore, because you are great the way you are.

On Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 1:00 PM, Zoe wrote:

Okay, so I said I wouldn’t put myself down anymore but I slipped up once! So what?? I’m allowed to make mistakes, no?? I can’t change something all in one go! How does God expect me to do that??

On Mar 27, 2012 at 12:12 AM, Lauren wrote: You are absolutely right.

Just last night I was working with a couple. He made a mistake—again. I was trying to help the wife understand that it's okay—people make mistakes. We're only human. It's part of the package and part of the deal. Lord knows, I make mistakes all the time—we all do. I try to recognize my mistakes (by the people who care about me pointing them out to me) and learn from them. You seem sincere—sounds like a nice way to live, no? Not being perfect, making mistakes, realizing our mistakes, and saying, "Hmm...I'm going to try to be better." And still loving ourselves. Sounds good, yes?

On Mar 27, 2012 at 4:22 PM, Zoe wrote:

But if we make mistakes does God give up on us? If I do something wrong will He just give up on me???

I get what you're saying and I have a friend who points them out to me but she’s switching schools soon and I know no one else is interested in what I do, wrong or right. So it’s like God is saying "There, no one is gonna help you now, see what you can do!" How is that fair and how is He fair? Because I don’t think He is!! I do try recognize my mistakes but it looks like God doesn't recognize that I try!!!

On Mar 29, 2012 at 8:36 PM, Lauren wrote:

Just remember this, no matter what happens: GOD LOVES YOU. Otherwise, you wouldn't be alive. Simple!

So, every time you breathe, remember: God loves me. Breath. God loves me. Breath. God loves me. Breath.... It could go on and on—oh, wait—it does go on and on—for 80, 90, 100 YEARS!!!

Do you have 10 toes? Well then, God loves you.

Do you have a nose? Well then, God loves you.

Are you able to smell with your nose? Guess what? God loves you.

Do you have constant, debilitating pain? No? Oh. So, God loves you.

Do you have two eyes? Yes? Great! Why? Because God loves you.

Can you see with those eyes? Hmmm...am I detecting a pattern here???

By the way, I'm sorry your friend is moving. But don't worry—God isn't!

To be continued, Zoe….

(And thanks for agreeing to let me share this with the world!)