an open letter to my daughter about being “beautiful”

About a week ago, the idea behind this letter came to me at about 11:30 at night, when my brain wouldn’t shut off so I could just go to sleep. So I wrote this letter for future-Madi. I post it here because I think it rings true for lots of moms and daughters.

Dear Madilyn,

Stretch marks on my inner thighs. Love handles. Stretch marks on my love handles. Beginnings of varicose veins. Curly toes. Calluses. Knock knees. Cellulite. Flabby tummy. Flabby upper arms. Moles. Teeth. Thin hair. Pale skin. Freckles.

These are things about my body that others might say are “imperfections”. They are things that, at some point in my 28 years of life, I have felt self-conscious about. They are things you may or may not have sometime in your life. And I want you to know, whether you have them or not, you are beautiful. You are perfect.

per·fect
adjective      /ˈpərfikt/
1. having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.

You have two arms, two legs, ten fingers, and ten toes. You have eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth. Your body functions and you are able to live. It’s not possible to get much more “good” than that. Just know that someone may be missing one of these things and still be beautiful, too.

I didn’t realize until you were born that my body is perfect. While “perfect” is a relative term, I discovered my body was as perfect as I could ever hope for. Not only does my body keep me alive, it kept you alive until you could fend for yourself in this cold world outside the womb. My body continues even now to help keep you alive, though you’re getting to the age when you need me less and less to survive. Having children is not necessarily the sole purpose of a woman’s body, though it is an amazing thing many of us are able to do. Only you can decide what your purpose is.

As you grow up, you’ll constantly hear me tell you that you are beautiful and you’re perfect the way you are. You will think it’s just a cheesy, cliché thing that all moms say. But we all mean it. Just know that only you can decide what “perfect” is as far as your body is concerned. Don’t let anyone else–even me or Daddy–make you feel anything other than happy about yourself. Treat your body well, it really is the only one you get.

Be proud of what your body can do rather than focus on how it looks. The stretch marks, curly toes, varicose veins, knock knees, and cellulite on my legs didn’t keep me from running a half-marathon, twice. My thin hair still keeps my head warm on a chilly day. My flabby tummy housed you for nine months while you grew. My flabby arms lift you when you’re sad or just need to snuggle. The teeth in my mouth allow me to eat and talk and laugh. My pale skin makes me more aware of the sun, its beauty and its ability to damage.

You might notice I haven’t mentioned anything about weight, inches, or being “fat” or “thin”. That is because these have nothing to do with beauty and being “perfect”. I truly hope by the time you read this, when you reach the age at which you might start feeling self-conscious, that society has given up using these words in conversations about beauty. It is a high hope, I know. But I don’t want you to focus on “imperfections” and only realize they mean nothing when you are already well into adulthood.

So, for the first of many times, you are beautiful. You are perfect. Don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise. Just be happy. As the wise Audrey Hepburn once said, “Happy girls are the prettiest.”

I love you, baby girl. To the moon and back. 💜

Love, Mommy

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