An open letter to my girls and girls everywhere
Hey, you. Yeah, you. You're pretty. Really, you are. Could you be even prettier? Of course. I'll tell you why later, but for now, just know that you're beautiful.
When I was growing up, I liked to think of all the adjectives that could describe me. "Beautiful" and "pretty" never made the cut, but I was o.k. with "cute." I was never "skinny," although I was never really "fat" either, by society's standards. But parts of me were fat. My thighs were too big. My hips too large. My sister delighted in calling me "horse hips" and "thunder thighs." Although, at the time, who knew they would get even bigger?
I never had that awesome, long, flowy hair all my friends seemed to have. Remember "feathering?" That Farrah Fawcett, awesome flip of the hair that resulted in feathered layers that lay just so on gleaming blonde hair? Yeah, not so much. I was born a brunette, had a brief foray into blonde as a small child, and then was subjected to the ill-fated Dorothy Hamill haircut around age seven that never lay flat and only got bumpier and curlier as I aged. By seventh grade, I had frizzy, curly hair that I hated, and which made me cry on an almost daily basis because I could never get it to lay flat. I didn't know then that there would be products one day that could help with the frizz and the curls and the unruliness, and so I spent my days loathing my hair, and, in turn, myself.
In junior high school my sister's boyfriend (ironically, now her husband after a very long "life gets in the way" hiatus) sported a head full of curls. He told me I should make peace with my curly hair, but I would not take his advice for a very, very long time. I also lamented my clothes, because I was not able to shop at 5-7-9, the shop for young girls that only sold clothes in those sizes. 5 and 7 and 9. I was an 11. Bastards. And just like that, I was on the outs because of my size, that while not overweight by anyone's standards, was not miniscule enough to fit into a very slim margin of three sizes.
I spent one whole year of high school wearing a "uniform" - Levi's jeans, a Levi's jeans jackets (denim-on-denim, I know, the horrors!), and whatever t-shirt I had clean. I felt comfortable in this outfit, so I wore it day after day, wondering why no one else seemed to notice how adorable I was. I have exactly ONE school picture that I liked, and that's because my hair had cooperated with the help of a very hot curling iron, was shiny and sleek (at least in the front), and I was wearing my most favorite soft pink polo shirt under my aqua sweatshirt with big white polka-dots. Oh, and my pink fortune cookies earrings, a most-coveted item at the time. Goodness, I was like a confection of sweetness all wrapped up in a smirky smile that I though quite adorable.
Too bad no boys shared my admiration of myself. I had a few boyfriends, but never went to a dance that required a real date. I've never worn a floor-length formal dress, never had a corsage pinned on me. In college, I attracted the attention of a red-headed suitor who brought me roses on Valentine's day which embarrassed me so much I shoved them in my backpack so quickly they crushed. Just like the look on his face when I so blatantly rejected him. What was I thinking?
I mused about the chances of me getting married when I had so few boyfriends and even fewer actual dates. And look at me now, I snagged not one, but TWO husbands. Overachiever!
The point is, it never mattered what I looked like. Well, it DID, but not in the way you think. I spent so much time comparing myself to others, shrinking back so as not to draw attention to myself, feeling inadequate, not pretty enough, not pretty enough, not pretty enough.
I berated myself daily for being too fat, having weird hair, not having bigger eyes, lamenting my crooked teeth. All that time I spent beating myself up, I continued to shrink. No, not "two-sizes smaller" kind of shrinking. Although, how I WISHED. I was shrinking into myself, and away from the rest of the world, hiding and avoiding what were sure to be wonderful experiences and relationships. I was too afraid. Because I wasn't pretty enough.
And then I got married. Someone liked me! Enough to marry me! Boy, was I excited. I could spend hours talking about the reasons why it didn't work out, but I'll spare you the details. The point is, I felt validated, in a way I never had, but ended up feeling less validated and worthy than I'd ever felt. And it wasn't about how pretty I was. Or wasn't.
Who was I, anyway? What did I want? What did I deserve?
For one thing, I realized I was still cute. I was even pretty. And beautiful in ways that no makeup or fashion could enhance. I was who I'd always been - a loving, caring, warm, inviting, genuine, fun person. And the funny thing? I was all the things I didn't have to work at to accomplish. The "me" who was stripped down, makeup-free, wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt, fifty pounds overweight, with a kid on my hip and a few more scattered around me. I practically shot confidence out my pores. I was awesome! Look what I accomplished - college, marriage, kids, being a mommy, working. I was exhausted, but I was fulfilled.
Being ok with who you are, with your God-given beauty, body and brains is the most pretty you'll ever be.
Stop obsessing over how your thighs spread when you sit. They're supposed to do that. People are squishy. Stop worrying about your imperfect skin - there are treatments to make it smoother and all that acne WILL go away someday, till it's just a memory. Stop spending HOURS on your hair - it's gorgeous just hanging down your back, or up in a ponytail. Do you know how many times I get stopped in public for someone telling me how beautiful my hair is and how jealous they are? It's ridiculous! That frizzy, unmanageable hair I cried over is now my crowning glory. Go figure.
Stop squeezing into a smaller size just because you "want" to be that size. One, you look ridiculous when there are perfectly cute clothes in YOUR size. Two, "wanting" to be smaller never made anyone smaller. Should you go on a diet? Hell to the no. But if you care about yourself and how you feel, you will eat healthy foods and get outside and move on a regular basis. Nothing beats fresh food and fresh air for making a person look and feel good.
Stop crying over how you have no money to go to the mall to buy the clothes that all the kids are wearing. Awesome clothes in the same brands can be found a secondhand shops for a lot less. Who cares where you buy your clothes? Plus, thrifting is "in" and you'd be amazed at what you can find for a few dollars. But what makes you feel good, but buy it on sale. Everything goes on sale. Everything.
Stop caking on the makeup. Less is more. Literally. When you put a mask of makeup on your face, you literally put a mask on YOU - your true self. On the weekends, or when you're just hanging around, try not wearing makeup at all. Or just pare down to mascara and lip gloss. You'll be surprised at how fresh and beautiful you look. Makeup is fun, but unless you are on stage every day, keep it simple.
Most importantly, stop trying to attract a mate. You'll be surprised what happens when you stop trying so hard. When you relax and let yourself be you, you radiate confidence and happiness. Nothing is more attractive. A genuine smile beats a smokey eye any day. Also, having a boyfriend/girlfriend isn't the be-all, end-all in life. It won't solve your problems, or make you happier. If, by chance, someone walks into your life who makes you laugh, who supports you even when the chips are down, and who spends less time hiding their own flaws than having fun, then how lucky you are. It's a blessing to have someone by your side till the end of time, but I will paint no illusions for you. Relationships are hard. They end. They hurt. Make sure you have something left of YOU before you are alone.
Also, being alone is a good thing. Cherish your own company. Learn to like yourself. Crack yourself up. Learn to look forward to a whole day of just being with you. You won't BELIEVE how fun that person is. You'll want to be her best friend.
Know that you are good enough. You are pretty enough. You are not defined by adjectives - beautiful, hot, a heart-breaker. Who ever wanted to be a heart breaker? I cringe every time I hear that when someone looks at the sweet face of a baby and says "Oh, that one is going to be a real heart breaker some day!" Really? I hope not. I hope you break no hearts, at least not intentionally. I hope you always take care with others' feelings and treat people with kindness. Being a heart breaker is no feather in your cap.
Most of all, believe. Believe that you WILL be happy, whether it's with a partner, or without. Whether you change anything about your appearance or not. Every day, get up and show up. Keep busy, doing good for yourself and others. Never rest on your laurels. Know that no job is beneath you. Work hard, and play hard. Take care of yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.
You are beautiful. You are enough. You are so much. And the best things about your life are still around the corner. You won't believe how beautiful it is!