Rachel Macy Stafford is one of the most heart-forward people I know, and she is passionate about equipping people to live a heart-forward life. Today’s young people are facing issues no previous generation has ever faced. But Rachel has shown me how our homes can be a safe haven even when the world has gone crazy and feels disconnected and divided. The new realities of parenting are challenging, but if we are willing to live a life anchored by truth, presence and connection there is great hope. Rachel models living a life like this which is what we most need now. It’s a grace to welcome Rachel to the farm’s front porch today.
I remember the day I came face-to-face with a painful truth.
I’d been getting ready to attend a social gathering in our community.
On the floor of my bathroom lay an array of discarded outfits. I hated the way I looked in all of them.
Rage and insecurity bubbled up inside me as I finally settled on something dark and baggy. With my mouth set in a thin, hard line, I opened my daughter’s bedroom door to see if she looked acceptable.
I found six-year-old Avery standing in front of the mirror. My eyes immediately zeroed in on the too-snug waistband of her favorite shorts. I lifted my eyes to the mismatched headband and messy knot of hair sprouting in more directions than weeds in a garden.
As I opened my mouth to remind Avery we needed to make our best impression, I caught a glimpse of her face in the mirror.
The expression reflecting back at her was quite different than mine; it was one of pure joy. Pure contentment. Pure peace—all at the sight of her six-year-old self.
Then she twirled in front of the mirror—actually twirled. Upon her second rotation, she saw me at the door, wiping tears from my eyes. She gave me a glorious smile—a smile that said, I feel beautiful, Mama.
And that’s when I heard the protective, healing voice of my dreamer girl whisper, “Let her be.”
Let her be.
With painful awareness, I realized I had the power to destroy my daughter’s joy and peace in a single critique—a critique that was rooted in my insecurity and fear.
All at once, I recognized my “helpful” critiques for what they were: rejection.
And in them, I heard the damaging message I was imprinting on my child’s soul: You are not enough. You will be rejected if you come as you are.
I’d always justified my behavior by telling myself I was helping her fit in. In reality, I was planting seeds of self-doubt that would only cause her to believe she didn’t belong.
If I kept up my messages of judgment, they would eventually become Avery’s inner voice, causing her to hold back her God-given gifts from the world.
Is this the life you want for your child? I asked myself.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that I was trying to mold my daughter in my image.
I’d already passed on my blue eyes and freckles, but by constantly critiquing and evaluating her, I was risking also passing on my fear of rejection. Right then and there, I recognized what my inner dreamer girl already knew.
Listening to the advice to Let Her Be, gave me the power to decide what not to pass on to my daughter—my insecurities.
Why would I want her to stand in front of the mirror for the rest of her life seeing too much and not enough when she could see just right?
Why would I want her to believe happiness could only be found in college acceptance letters and social media Likes when she could find happiness from within?
Why would I want her to navigate life hoping to be accepted by the “in” group when she could feel completely and lovingly supported by those who know and love her best?
Why would I want her to waste precious time wondering and worrying what other people think of her when she could be lovingly at peace with who she is?
When I took this epiphany to heart and held it there for a moment, it felt like a healing reckoning.
In that moment, I knew I needed to release myself from being judge and jury.
This means I do not decide I’m bad or good, worthy or unworthy, enough or not enough. This means I do not judge my feelings.
Instead, I acknowledge them, sit with them, or voice them.
My job is to show up as I am—bravely, boldly, flawed, and full of hope—to share my gifts with the world so that I can provide an example that will encourage my child to connect with others as her most authentic self.
I got out a spiral notebook, just as my eight-year-old dreamer girl would have done, and I wrote:
Yes, I am scared, but I am still showing up.
Yes, I feel less-than, but I am not letting it stop me.
Yes, I’m anxious, but the unknowing is always the hardest part.
Yes, I fear they won’t like me, but we don’t click with everyone, and that is okay.
Shifting from the role of Task-Master to Truth-Teller took considerable time, patience, and grace.
I was able to find the motivation I needed to let my children “be” by envisioning the emotional well-being of their future selves.
I did not want them to develop an identity of rejection that would make their lives harder.
I did not want them to make life choices based on approval rather than on staying true to their values, strengths, and dreams.
Above all, I did not want my kids to live in fear of rejection, but instead feel empowered to connect with others on a foundation of truth, courage, and love.
Although I lived most of my adult life feeling rejected due to my own self-judgment, it was not too late to decide I would not pass that pressure on to my children.
Perhaps making that shift sounds appealing to you, but you don’t know where to start.
I believe it starts when we decide to stop worrying about how our children’s appearance, actions, and achievements reflect on us and start focusing on how our unconditional love and support reflects on them.
Whether they are twirling with joy, melting down in frustration, or aching with pain, accepting them as they are reinforces the inherent belief that they are worthy of belonging, which is stronger than any rejection they will face in the days and years ahead.
Rachel Macy Stafford is a New York Times bestselling author with one goal: to help people choose love as much as humanly possible. Her newest book, Live Love Now comes from her background as a certified special education teacher with a Master’s Degree in education and also from her own drive to live out her message as she raises her own daughters. Rachel is a beloved blogger who offers lifelines of hope in her weekly blog posts at handsfreemama.com and through her supportive Facebook community, The Hands Free Revolution.
In Live Love Now: Relieve the Pressure and Find Real Connection with Our Kids, Rachel tackles the biggest challenges facing kids today and equips adults to engage them with humanness and heart, compassion and honesty to discover the deep, life-giving connection everyone is longing for. With illuminating, straightforward strategies, this book reveals the importance of practicing acceptance, pursuing peace, and exploring wellness and purpose for yourself so you can be the kind of real, relevant, and lifelong role model young people are searching for.
Whether you’re a parent, educator, older sibling, coach, or anyone in a role of leading young people, this book will help you meet the goal of raising and guiding young people to become resilient, compassionate, and capable adults.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]