About the Author
Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger Duggar appear with the rest of their family on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, which airs five times a week and is now in its tenth season. The Duggars have appeared on such national TV shows as the Today show, Good Morning America, The View, Inside Edition, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and more.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Growing Up Duggar 1
YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF
Getting to know and love the girl in the mirror
I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
WHEN OUR PARENTS WERE planning to build our current house in northwest Arkansas, they asked us kids how many bedrooms we thought the house should have. It was an easy question for us to answer: we wanted to be together. So, upstairs in our house today, there’s one big room for all the girls, one big room for all the boys, and our parents’ bedroom with an adjoining nursery.
Jana and I (Jill) sleep in double beds with our youngest sisters, Jordyn and Josie, and the other girls sleep in twin- or youth-sized beds. It’s always an exciting time when the littlest sister gets to move from the nursery to the “big girls’ room” with us, although they’re always free to toddle back to Mom and Dad’s room if they need to. We love the late-night conversations and falling asleep each night surrounded by our sisters.
One night a few years ago as I was putting my retainer in my mouth at bedtime, my sister Johannah, then probably five or six, asked what it was. I told her it was something I slept with to help keep my teeth aligned now that I didn’t have to wear braces anymore.
“Can I wear it?” Johannah asked.
We Duggars do love to share a lot of things but, thankfully, dental appliances aren’t among them. I smiled and told her no, it was made just for me and it wouldn’t fit her mouth at all.
Thinking about that conversation later reminded me that we can’t conform ourselves to other people’s molds. But we try sometimes, don’t we? It’s inevitable that human beings, particularly teenagers and especially teenage girls, go through times when they may try to remake themselves into something, or someone, they’re not. Every girl has a tendency to compare herself to other girls, noticing how they dress or style their hair, how much they weigh, how they talk, the words and phrases they use, and how guys respond to them.
You may think that kids like the Duggars, who are homeschooled and don’t watch TV or read secular magazines, are immune from feelings like that, but we’re not! We’ve experienced some of those same negative feelings about the girl in the mirror that you may be feeling right now or have felt in the past.
Jinger didn’t seem to mind when we visited a dude ranch and deputies Jessa, left, and Jill took her into custody.
All of us have gone through times when we’ve felt we needed to lose weight. And we’ve all looked at the girl in the mirror and sometimes found things that just didn’t seem to measure up.
Are you going through a time in your life when you’re being critical of the girl in your mirror?
ACCEPTING THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR
THAT’S HARD, ISN’T IT? You’ve looked at that girl in the mirror all your life and had made friends with her, and then one day you look at her and notice the blemish on her forehead or the nose that isn’t as cute as your friend’s nose. Maybe the girl who seemed just fine yesterday now seems too short or too tall, too thin or too heavy. Maybe her clothes, the ones that were your favorites yesterday, seem completely wrong today. And that hair. It’s ridiculous!
Suddenly the girl who looked just fine yesterday seems like a total loser today compared to those cute girls at the mall . . . or your school . . . or your homeschool group . . . or even your church.
So then what happens? You reject that girl in the mirror, and in your heart you worry that she’ll be rejected by others, too, including those you admire. Fear of rejection is one of the major problems facing teenagers and young adults today. It affects almost all of us, including the Duggar kids, at one time or another.
For example, I (Jill) can remember a Sunday morning when we were getting ready for church and I went through multiple outfit changes because I was trying to measure up. The night before, I had stood in our closet for at least ten minutes trying to decide what I would wear the next day. (Ever been there?)
Finally I chose an outfit I thought was suitable. I took it upstairs and laid it out so it would be ready the next morning. But when I walked out of the bathroom Sunday morning, dressed and ready to go, I noticed how great Jessa looked wearing an adorable outfit she had recently found at a thrift store. Plus, she had the cutest aviator sunglasses perched on her head and a stylish leather bag slung over her shoulder. Suddenly the outfit I had chosen for myself the night before seemed totally wrong. I wanted to look as cute as Jessa did.
So I hurried back downstairs to the closet and stood there for what seemed like another ten minutes, trying to find something to wear. Then I heard Dad’s voice over the intercom saying, “Everyone hurry up! It’s nine forty, and the first vanload is leaving for church.”
I grabbed a skirt off the rack and tried it on, but then I remembered that the shirt I usually wear with it was dirty. I hurriedly put that choice back on the hanger and found a cute denim skirt—only to realize the zipper was broken. I was growing more frustrated and about to settle for the original outfit I had put on that morning when my eye landed on a brown-striped skirt. Perfect, I thought. Why didn’t I think of this in the first place?
While we sometimes do the shopping for our family at warehouse stores, our favorite place to shop for clothes is thrift stores.
But then I had to change my shoes to go with the skirt, and—or where were those sandals that looked so great with this skirt? I finally rushed out of the clothes closet and around the corner to the bathroom mirror. Oops! With all the changing, my hair had gotten messed up. I hurriedly worked to restore order to it and then discovered we had run out of hair spray in that bathroom. Running to another bathroom to grab some, I could hear the car horn honking as the second load of churchgoers waited for me.
It was nearly ten o’clock—church time—as I rushed out the door. Not exactly the way one would want to prepare for a morning of worshipping our Creator! And it all started because I compared myself to one of my sisters and felt that my appearance fell short.
It seems like such a trivial matter now, looking back on that morning, but it’s so typical of teenagers, especially young ladies. It’s easy for us to compare ourselves to others and think we have to be like them to measure up or to be accepted. But too often it’s impossible to meet the goals of perfection we set for ourselves, and as a result, we end up dealing with all sorts of destructive feelings: poor self-worth, lack of confidence, jealousy, discontentment, and so much more. Before we know it, momentary concerns about our outward appearance turn into lies about ourselves that swirl constantly through our minds, telling us, “I’m not good enough.” “I’m a failure.” “Nobody loves me.”
Ultimately, we lose sight of what’s most important: our inward character.
GIVING POWER TO OTHERS
FOR MANY YEARS, I (Jessa) couldn’t care less about what I wore and how I looked. I was the typical happy little Duggar kid, filling my day with homeschool work and playing with my siblings and friends.
But life changed for me when I was about twelve or thirteen. Whenever I was around friends outside our family, I became very quiet and self-conscious—really insecure about the way I looked, dressed, and acted.
I had friends who were really beautiful, and whenever we were together I compared myself to them and always came up lacking something. These critical feelings caused me to have a mistaken view of my friends and myself—thinking they were perfect and I wasn’t. I felt so ashamed and awkward that I couldn’t even talk to anyone about my feelings. I felt overwhelmed and stuck in that negative mind-set.
I remember during that stage of my life having mixed feelings when I was invited to a friend’s birthday party. I was eager to go to the party but overly concerned that I had to look and act just right. What a dilemma, worrying about what clothes I would wear, what I would say, what gift I would bring!
I can still feel those butterflies fluttering in my stomach as we drove up to the birthday girl’s big yellow house. I was excited but nervous at the same time. I was thinking about all the conversations I’d had with the girl and our friends that focused on outward appearance—who had cute clothes and who didn’t, whose hairstyle we wanted to copy and whose hair was always a wreck. The butterflies continued to churn as I arrived at the front door with another guest.
Our younger sister Joy is beautiful inside and out.
“Oh, I love your outfit!” the birthday girl said to the friend beside me.
She didn’t say anything about what I was wearing, so I immediately assumed she didn’t think my outfit was as perfect as the other girl’s.
Soon the party was under way, and I enjoyed all the games, but after we’d sung “Happy Birthday” and settled around the living room for cake and ice cream, the topic of movies came up. I hadn’t seen the popular movie the other girls were talking about, and I felt out of place. The critical thoughts came bubbling back up: Jessa, you don’t fit in. It’s obvious you’re not as cool as the other girls.
Looking back, I can see how my inward struggles grew worse because I craved the birthday girl’s approval—as did several others in this group of friends. I wanted her to like me. Receiving her approval made me feel good about myself. But when she let me know, or when I assumed, that she didn’t quite approve of my appearance or something I said or did (or didn’t do), I felt worse about myself. I felt as though I had failed—and I carried those feelings with me for days after we’d been together.
My friend seemed to be the perfect picture of the girl I was not. She was tall with beautiful hair and big, brown eyes. She was slender and attractive. After being with this girl, I would look in the mirror and see frizzy hair, ordinary eyes, and a body that wasn’t as slender or as beautiful as hers. Constantly comparing myself to her was the perfect recipe for jealousy and discontentment.
ACCEPTING THE UNCHANGEABLES
WHAT POWER I WAS giving my friend by allowing her to make me feel that way about the girl in the mirror! The same girl who all my life had smiled back at me each day and been an accepted and essential part of me now became someone I looked at with a constantly critical eye.
Thankfully, about that time, I heard a Bible teacher share an inspiring message about how God has perfectly designed each one of us with ten aspects of life that, without extraordinary action, we cannot change and that He wants us to accept:
1. Who our parents are
2. Who our siblings are
3. The order in which we are born into our family (oldest or youngest, etc.)
4. Our nationality
5. Whether we’re a girl or boy
6. Our mental capacity
7. The time we were born in history
8. Our physical features
9. The natural aging process
10. The date we will die
This teacher said that if we reject our physical features, we reject our self-image and often assume that others will reject us, too. This assumption can cause us to make poor decisions based on our own misperception of ourselves.
That’s right where I was in my relationship with my “powerful” friend. I realized I had been ungrateful to God for the wonderful way He had made me. I had pushed aside what the Bible tells us—that God looks on each one of us as His uniquely beautiful creation—and instead I let an immature teenage girl make me feel bad about myself.
When my parents realized what was happening, they wisely helped me rethink the priority I had put on this friendship, and they encouraged me to ask God to forgive me for not appreciating the way He had created me. Looking back, I feel sad to think what it must have been like for God to see me, His unique and carefully designed Jessa, looking in the mirror and disliking the girl He’d created with such love.
Have you been there? Standing in front of a mirror with a negative attitude about the girl you’re seeing? You’re not alone! All of us, including the Duggar girls, have had times when we compare ourselves with the way other girls dress, do their hair, how much they weigh, how they carry themselves, and how guys respond to them.
But if we’re upset with that girl in the mirror, it means we’re upset with God for how He designed us. We may start to think He messed up when He designed us or even that He doesn’t love us. And that leads us to put our confidence and trust in someone else—such as a teenage peer who somehow gains a more powerful influence on our lives than God.
Jill, left, and Jessa followed the traditional custom of taking a “mud bath” while visiting the Dead Sea in Israel.
If that’s where you are right now, we’re here to help you see yourself through new eyes—God’s powerful, love-filled, encouraging, and forgiving eyes. We hope to convince you that God loves you more than anyone else in the world loves you and that He has a unique plan for your life. We’ve learned through firsthand experience that when we make Him the priority in our lives and seek His way and His approval, He will fill us with a humble confidence that gives us inward strength and makes us immune to the sometimes-harsh judgment of others who don’t have our best interests at heart.
Our parents worked hard to instill that idea within us as we were growing up.
HONORING HOW GOD MADE YOU
ULTIMATELY, HOW WE CARE for ourselves (hair, makeup, clothes) tells others what we think about the way God made us. So our primary goal is to honor the Lord with our appearance. A friend of ours said it this way: “A girl’s outward appearance should send a message that says, ‘This is who I am,’ not ‘This is what I do.’ ” We want to maintain this perspective and keep our focus on pointing others to God.
Accepting the way God has uniquely made us helps us not to be so concerned with how others view us. Many people have demonstrated that truth to us. One of them was a sweet, Christian woman I (Jill) met last year when we were on a trip out west. She invited us to her home for dinner one evening, and while we were there, she and her husband showed us around their place and told us a little about themselves.
She shared that she came from an Italian family, and then she joked that a lot of Italians have long noses. She said when she was about to graduate from high school her mom came to her with a check that was a gift for her to be able to get surgery done to make her nose smaller.
The woman told us she was taken by surprise—and so was her mom when the daughter told her she wouldn’t be carrying on the family’s “nose job” tradition. “I’m content with the way God made me,” she said.
That conversation really made an impact on all of us girls, reminding us that none of us can choose the design God selected for us when He created us, but we can choose how we respond to His design. Contentment is realizing that God has provided everythin...
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