When I was a little girl, I was a princess, a warrior, a doctor, a fashion designer, a rock star, and a supermodel; often all in one day. I believed I could be anything. I believed in myself the same way I believed in fairytales; except I was the author of my own story.

Then I grew up, and despite my parents' best efforts, I struggled immensely with self love. I didn't like what I saw when I looked in the mirror, and the scale was quick to support that insecurity. Out came the skincare products, the whitening strips, the weight loss regimens, and the multiple jobs to support my ever-changing wardrobe. I was bound by the thought that If I can change this one thing to make myself just a little prettier, I'll be just a little happier. 

I was doing it all wrong.

One day I was babysitting a 5-year-old girl for a little extra cash (likely to support an expensive dress I had my eye on, or perhaps a new pair of designer shoes). I was grabbing my purse before we left to get ice cream, when I noticed she grabbed her purse, too. I slipped into my shoes and brushed my hair back into place. She put on her shoes, and dabbed at her hair, too. And when I pulled out the fob to unlock the door, she reached right into her little purse, grabbed a fake pair of keys, and did the exact same thing.

I felt like I might throw up. Though I couldn't even begin to imagine why, this little girl wanted to be just like me. She saw independence. She saw beauty. And that's what I wanted her to have, but my independence and "beauty" was paired with insecurity, self doubt, and anxiety beyond compare. And I never wanted her to have any part in that.

Crayons to Confidence was launched in November of 2016 as a way to tackle insecurity and inadquacy in the most crucial time of our lives; the early childhood years. As an early childhood educator, I observe the undeniable beauty in skill, talent, and quiet confidence every single day, but nothing disturbs me more than knowing that a handful of my little princes and princesses would grow to hate themsleves before they ever recognized all they had to offer. Originally, I thought it was my job as a teacher to instruct them on reading and writing. But after completing twenty years of education without a single educator reminding me how important it was for me to love myself, I discovered my primary place in this world:

To promote self love and creativity, one crayon at a time. 

"I like wearing crowns," a 3-year-old girl told me one evening before bed. I smiled down at her, noticing a preschool version of myself, who would still wear crowns to this day if it were socially acceptable.

"Why's that?" I felt obligated to ask, even though I was fighting desperately to get her in her pajamas.

"Because they make me feel pretty, but they make me feel powerful. Like I could really do something."

That little girl is entering high school now, but I have yet to forget that conversation. I can still picture her little face like it was yesterday; her striped pajamas an inch too short, her curly hair already ratty again after hours of brushing. She had not meant the statement to inspire; it was just a simple statement to her... Something to carry on the conversation. Something to stall me from putting her to bed.

But she's right. I have yet to observe a single little girl where she is not, at some point, pretending she is a princess. She likes feeling pretty, sure. But more than that, she enjoys feeling powerful. She might wear a gown and a crown, but I've never once seen a girl pretend she's in a tower waiting for her prince. She's always sailing on a ship, flying around on a magic carpet, leading her noble knights in war, or defending her kingdom with honor.

There's one thing she never defends, though... She never defends herself.

As she grows up, she will learn to change her clothes when someone doesn't like her outfit. She'll learn to lose weight when she doesn't look like the girls in magazines. She'll learn to wear makeup because her complexion is not clear enough, she'll go to bed with strips on her teeth because her smile is not white enough, and she'll change her dreams because someone also operating out of insecurity and fear will tell her she's not good enough.

If someone forgets to teach her that she is worthy, the world will teach her she is not.

My feminine readers are warrior princesses, too. Fighting for self love. Crusading for creativity. Restlessly pursuing an endless mission to prove society wrong so that these little princesses may flourish. Because they won't be little princesses forever, and it's our job to ensure they mature to be the confident queens they are meant to be.

"This is my sword," the 5-year-old boy told me, "And this is yours."

I tucked the broken broomstick handle into my belt loop and prepared for battle.

"Don't forget your shield!" he frantically ran toward me, "So they can't hurt you."

Designed to protect. Born to lead. This little boy was fighting imaginary villains with brooms and dustpans in his front yard, but he wasn't concerned with using his weapons to kill. He was concerned with using his strength to protect.

Just as beauty distortion infects the heart of a young woman, misconstrued ideas of strength prohibit boys from becoming men. It's not about muscle. It's not even really about strength. It's about intuition, about adventure, and ultimately, about love.

Our world is tempting for the men of our future. It is toxic to their soul. They will not know how to grow into the men they are designed to be if we do not teach them how to be those men. Compliments trump cat-calls. Work ethic is more attractive than a careless attitude. Emotions are not wrong, tears are not weak, and humility is not uncool. In fact, it is preferred.

Insecurity limits the heart of our little princesses, but our princes are bound by inadequacy.

Do they have what it takes to be bold? Daring? Strong? Confident? Intelligent? Talented? Do they really have what it takes to mature into a good man?

Yes. And it is our job to make sure they know it.

Though we've already covered confidence in little boys and little girls, there is one aspect of this movement left to include. These little princes and princesses didn't pop up out of thin air; they were born from kings and queens who doubt their parenting, love, finances, security, adequacy, intelligence, talent, and worth every single day.

So for all you mommas and daddies... For all the teachers, social workers, counselors, nannies, and anyone else who works with little kiddos, you are the prince or princess of your own story; one who has grown into a king or a queen with the power to equip younger royalty to succeed in their own story.

We must teach these princes and princesses to love themselves, otherwise the world will teach them not to. And the most effective way to accomplish this is our refusal to buy into the lies of insecurity and inadequacy ourselves.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living a holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12: 1-2) 

Beauty distortion. Altered strength. False femininity. Mistaken masculinity. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world. And that's what I'm here to help you with.

You were created for a very specific purpose. And while it doesn't always seem like much, I can't think of anything more important than shaping the future by building confidence in the tiniest of humans, because they will grow into the most powerful of creatures.

There are days you will feel ugly. There are days you will feel stupid, useless, weak, faulty, blamed, targeted, and inadequate. You will feel completely unworthy of love; that much I can be certain.

But only villains send thoughts like that... And every warrior princess and adventure hero knows better than to let it hold them down.

So cry out your tears. Vent out your anger. But don't forget to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and #StraightenYourCrown.

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