Monday was my birthday! Woohoo! Being alive is certainly worth celebrating, I am happy for my existence on this planet and glad other people are too. But thinking on the woman I am, and how I got here, the accolades should go, in a large part, to my parents. (Especially my mother who undertook the laborious task of carrying me for nine months twenty something years ago.) But to both my parents, for managing to raise me and send me off into the world with some semblance of individuality, confidence, morality, compassion, social responsibility, and the knowledge that I am truly loved for exactly who I am. Now THAT is an accomplishment.
This is not to say I grew up in a “cookie cutter, white picket fence” home by any means. There was certainly a hotbed of dysfunction in my house (and what family doesn’t have some of that going on??) But I continue to notice more and more things that I am so glad my parents instilled in me growing up…
…You guys, my parents didn’t buy me any Barbie dolls as a child, they didn’t even really want me playing with them at other kids houses. And I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or even nail polish until I was 16. 16!!! Do you know how much this KILLS a 14 year old girl starting high school who wants to be “cool.” A LOT. (This is not to say there weren’t times when I’d put it on anyway in complete rebellion)
At the time I thought it was because my parents wanted my life to be as miserable as possible, and they were micromanaging TYRANTS and UGH, THEY JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND! (Adolescence is hard y’all)
But here’s the thing. I was told I was beautiful. On a regular basis. By both of my parents. When I wasn’t wearing makeup or dressed up. I watched my dad tell my mom she was beautiful often. When she wasn’t dressed up or wearing makeup. My parents encouraged and supported my intellectual and artistic pursuits wholeheartedly, showing me I had more to contribute to this world than my looks. They showed me that character, integrity, compassion, & social responsibility were elements of beauty in a person. (I think patience was in there too, but I’ve never really quite figured that one out…) They celebrated what made me uniquely me.
We didn’t play with Barbies because my mom didn’t want me to get my ideas of beauty from Barbie and even beyond that, a woman’s worth in society. (Which is more than playing dress up and being beautiful for Ken) That I don’t need to be impossibly skinny and tall and tan and blonde (and everything I am not) to be pretty or “good enough”. I was instilled with a sense of self-worth, the importance of inner beauty, and confidence about my natural physical appearance from a very young age. I am SO grateful for that. And while I still falter from time to time, I’ve grown to be very comfortable with who I am and how I look and feel free to just be myself.
And in our society that can be so hard to do. We are constantly bombarded with messages from media and our culture about all the things we need to fix about ourselves. All the money and time that we put into trying to fit an ideal that frankly doesn’t even exist!
I see things like the increasing number of women wanting “Barbie” labiaplasty surgeries and I shudder. I work with sexual abuse survivors who feel their worth is equated to how they will now be seen in the eyes of men, how they are no longer pretty or worthy, and my heart cries. I see girls rip other girls appearance to shreds, judging and criticizing and comparing. It doesn’t help when Teen Vogue and Seventeen magazine aimed at youth in their most impressionable years get caught photo shopping and airbrushing faces and bodies of teenagers. (Up until some very badass young girls sough to change that!) Or the fat jokes that our media seems to tirelessly make, because a woman being unafraid and completely comfortable in her non conventional looks foils the construction of gender roles and beauty that we are supposed to believe in. Is it any surprise then that girls are constantly battling with issues on self-esteem, body image, and self-worth? We have to do something about this!!
Ladies, I want you to know that you are beautiful. You are worthy of love, of respect, of happiness just the way you are. You deserve to be at peace and comfortable with your body. I am sorry our society has told you to measure your beauty and worth in all the wrong ways. I want you to know you are already good enough. Even if you don’t lose those pounds, or get rid of the blemishes, or the wrinkles, or the cellulite, it’s ok. I see the beauty in your wonderfully unique physical appearance. And when I see your sense of humor, I see your beauty. When I see your kindness, I see your beauty. When I see your perseverance, I see your beauty. When I see your artistic, intellectual, tactile, social, organizational, and endless other abilities, I see your beauty. When I see your strength in a world that says you are weak, that you are less than, I see your beauty.
You are so beautiful. And I love you just the way you are.
…And thanks mom and dad for teaching me what beauty really looks like.