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When I was ten-years-old, all I wanted to do was grow up and become a Broadway actress. I was an awkward, lonely child, and I guess it took away a little bit of my adolescent pain to think about my name up in lights, prominently displayed for all to see. All I ever wanted was for people to like me. I craved what every other preteen does–to be popular.

That was six years ago. And gosh, it surprises me how little changes in a seemingly long amount of time. When I was fifteen, my first novel was published. It was literally life-altering. For the first time ever, people were noticing and talking about me. People that I didn’t know were reading my book and forming opinions about it. About me.

It shook me to my bones.

All I wanted in those first few weeks after my book was released was to run up to the doorstep of every person in the world who had bought a copy and beg them to like it, to like me. I was a teenager looking for approval and self-worth in the opinions of strangers.

I’m sixteen now, and I honestly believe that the last two years have brought more change for me than all the years prior. I was forced to grow up in so many ways. I had to handle both criticisms and praises like an adult. In the frenzy of varying opinions and comments and remarks, I was faced with the most important question of all: What do I think about me?

Self-contentment doesn’t come overnight. You don’t wake up one morning and realize that you’re one hundred percent thrilled with how you’ve turned out. It doesn’t happen that way.

But then one day, you do realize that you’re okay with yourself. I realized that I’ll never be perfect, but I’m fine with that. I don’t need to pretend to be something that I’m not, and I don’t need to rely on the opinions of others to form my own opinion of myself.

There are always going to be people who criticize me, whether they mean to or not. And there will probably be just as many people offering me words of encouragement. But, in the end, neither group really matters. I never want to grow to be proud or vain or depressed because of what someone else thinks of me.

I’ll never be perfect, but hopefully I’ll always be happy. Because I realize that God made me just the way I am, and He doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about me. So why should I? In the end, it doesn’t matter what I accomplish in life. It’s just not important!

What really matters is that I do what I do, because it makes me happy. And as long as I’m content with myself, what can anyone do to hurt me?

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Rachel Coker resides in Lanexa, Virginia with her parents, who’ve homeschooled her since she was a child, and two sisters. She has a passion for great books, and has been surrounded by them all her life. Her gift for writing became apparent at the age of eleven, at which time her parents, who owned a Christian bookstore, signed her up for a year of lessons with a professional writing coach. Rachel also has a deep love for classical music and old black-and-white movies. When she is not writing or playing the piano, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends and serving God.

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