I don't know. I've never really hurt myself, but every year, I meet young women who do, whether through cutting or extreme exercise or purposeful starvation. Some of them can't explain why they do it, but others will tell me flat out the emotions they feel and the things they believe about themselves that trigger the destructive behaviors.
I asked her to take time alone to write a list of all the things she believes about herself that probably aren't true. And I asked her to write the truths that counter each of those thoughts; "Even if you don't believe the truths, I want you to write them down because identifying them is the first step to believing."
She wrote the first part, the destructive thoughts, but she said that she couldn't think of the words to fight against them. So I took that list, that awful painful list, full of things like, "I'm not good enough", "Time spent with me is time wasted", "I deserve pain", and "Everyone's life would be better if I'd never been born" and I started to write my answers and God's answers to those lies. I wrote for five hours.
The night before she left, I sat her down and I read out loud to her all seven pages that I'd prepared. Seven pages full of my affection for this beautiful young woman and full of God's deep love for her. Seven pages of heartfelt hope that truth will win over lies. Seven pages to try to express one amazing truth: God's love defines us, nothing else.
The letter was written for her, but it was meant for all of them. All the girls I've ever mentored at camp, at youth group, at the orphanage, in the ghetto. Perhaps it's meant for all of us too, adults or children, experienced or inexperienced, in America or far away. Where do we choose to find our value and our joy? I've looked lots of places, but I always come back to this: God's love defines us, nothing else.