It’s not a secret that girls are judged for their appearance while boys are complimented on their strength. Growing up as a slim petite girl, I have trouble remembering ever being complimented on much more than how cute and tiny I was by most people even though there was much more to me. I am a mom to daughters – a preschooler and a second grader – and I am sure they will be described exactly the same. Everyday I make a conscious effort to use a plethora of words to describe my daughters so they will know that their physical appearance is just one part of them and that they doesn’t need to change who they are to go along with what everyone else thinks.
Dear Madi and Ali,
I have some frustrating news for you. People are going to tell you that you are not good enough and that you will need to modify yourself to be someone else. I also have some excellent news though. You can and will change this. I want you to show them that you are perfect just the way you are. When people meet you, I want them to see what I see: strong, brave, smart, kind leaders.
You are strong.
When we are at a playground, I’ve noticed that other parents compliment you on how cute you are while you are running around, climbing, and using your body to take on new challenges. If a boy is doing the same thing, they are complimented on how strong they are. Actually this idea that girls are pretty and boys are strong is not limited to this one incident. It happens all the time. I want you to know that you are strong. You have a strong body and a strong will. A strong will is a great thing! Although I want to scream sometimes and I lose patience from battling against an idea you have, I know that your strong will means you will accomplish great things. You won’t give up. You believe in the choices you make. I want you to keep using your body and your determination to accomplish what you believe in.
You are brave.
You have always been a person who was sure of yourself. Often times, I have forgotten how young you are because you show little fear when attempting something new. Being brave doesn’t feel easy but if you stand up for things that you believe in, you can change the things you don’t think are right. Respond with a yes to things that excite you and you want to do. When you say no, say it will confidence and mean it. Your words matter and should always be respected. If someone doesn’t respect your no, they are not worthy of you. Trust your feelings.
You are smart.
I don’t want you to ever think that you should dumb yourself down to impress anyone. Math and science are your favorite subjects right now and I hope this continues. Anybody who wants you to be inferior is just insecure and looking for a way to be superior over someone. If you need to change yourself to fit in to a group, then it’s not the group for you. You come from two creative parents who are excited to see you have such an imaginative spirit. Using your imagination helps you to fix problems by working out the different options in your mind. As you grow, your imagination will allow you to look at something you are doing and see how to make it even better.
You are kind.
Right now, you are friends with everyone you meet. I know that later on, you might not see the kindness that you are used to right now. You can be the one who is kind even when others are not. You are responsible for what you say to others. Make sure the words you use are positive and helpful and that they are things that you would want others to say to you. If you see someone being unkind to another person, be the one who stands up for them. No one likes being hurt. You can bring joy to others with your enthusiastic, kind personality.
You are a leader.
Being a leader is a great skill and I don’t want you to lose it. As people grow, sometimes they become shy and aren’t as sure of themselves. I want you to retain your confidence. Serving as a leader is not an easy job. You need to be self-confident to inspire others. A leader does not mean that you get to make the choices for everyone. It means that you inspire others to make positive choices. A leader communicates well and that is something you’ve always been very good at. It makes me proud when I see you playing a game you made up with kids who earlier had told me you were too small to play. When you are confident, others will be confident of you too. When you are told that you are too little to do something, tell others that you can and show them what you are capable of.
You are you!
I suffered from postpartum depression/anxiety and had some body issues during your life. You have given me fresh eyes to look at how I see myself. The outfits you pick for yourself aren’t always something I would choose but you like them. I want you to wear what makes you feel good about yourself and recognize that you don’t have to dress cute to impress people. Please understand that your self worth is not tied to your physical appearance.
As you grow, you are going to hear how important being thin is and feel pressure to look like people you see in magazines. I want you to know that your body is more than what you see on the cover of magazines. Sadly, the majority of women do not like their bodies. We are bombarded by media daily, all telling us what we should look like even though it’s photo shopped and not realistic. Right now, you are proud of your body and I hope you always will be.
Everyday, you make me so proud to be your mom. The other day this conversation took place:
Madi: I love Daddy. I love Mommy. I love Ali. I love myself.
Me: I’m so glad! It’s always important to love yourself.
You: I love me so much! If someone says they don’t like something about me, I’ll just say, “well, I love it!”
I hope that you will remember these words as you grow. You are Madi. You are Ali. There is no one else like you. Show the world how amazing you are!