Friday, August 26, 2011

Dear Makenna: You are Beautiful

It was a conversation I had with P a couple weeks ago. It popped back up again when I was talking to a good friend of mine and her middle school-aged daughter. I see it all the time with various friends and family members who have teen or tween-aged daughters. It’s a memory I have myself. I grew up watching in with my mother and her constant diets and struggles.

How long have women had hate-hate relationships with themselves? Their self-image? The very body that does miraculous thing and proudly carries them through life?

Since…like, ever? I imagine cave-moms counting mammoth points or pinching the extra skin beneath their chins while bent over a running river and catching a glimpse of their reflections. Did cave teenagers freak out when the old sabre tooth skin didn’t fit the same as it used to? Probably.

It makes me sad. The hours I lost (and still lose, just ask my husband) hating myself. Hating the changes that came after each beautiful child was born. Lamenting a pair of size 6 jeans I can’t fit into as if those very Levi’s defined my very being.

I worry about Makenna. I was a self-loathing teenager in 1994. My friend’s daughter deals pressure in an amplified version in 2011. What will my beautiful girl contend with in 2026 when she’s 15?

I worry that when she’s 15, she won’t hear me anymore. Just like I tuned out my own mother for the most part between the years of 1993 and 2000, Makenna will flex her independence muscles and take whatever I say with a grain of salt.

So I’ll say it now. And I’ll pray she finds these words when she needs them. I pray she hears them.

August 26, 2026

Dear Makenna,

You are such a beautiful baby right now, and I know when you are reading this, you are a beautiful young woman. A light shines from you as I type this, and I have no doubt whatsoever that it is still shining, brighter than ever, now.

I wondered exactly how to put this. What was it that I wanted you to understand after you read this, fifteen years later?

More than anything, I want you to love yourself as much as we love you.

I want you to love yourself now, as you are, and not make ridiculous promises to yourself that you’ll be happy if…if you lose ten pounds…if you get yourself back into a size 6 or a size 12 or whatever ridiculous size robs you of your happiness. Love yourself as you are. Right now.

There’s a picture here of me when I was 15 years old. Like you are now. Look at me. Not too bad, right? Sure, the hair was a bit frizzy and unkempt and I was most likely rocking a uni-brow…but I was talented, bright, and had wonderful friends. I read a lot and smiled constantly. I got good grades. I had loyal friends who loved me. I was a good swimmer on the varsity team. I was on a fast track that would lead me to Texas A&M eventually. To graduate school beyond that… To your dad and brothers and you even beyond that…

And you know what? I hated myself at 15. I thought I was too chubby to be in a bathing suit. I ran from the locker room to the pool as fast as I could, lest some stupid boy catch a glimpse of me in a Speedo and gag. I cringed whenever teachers called on me in class because I thought the attention would eventually focus on how out of shape I was or how fat my thighs were. Isn’t that crazy? I hated pictures because I thought my face was too round.

(That’s a terrible habit I’m still trying to break. How many pictures of me do you really see? I have a few favorites that I keep on Facebook…but they are all highly screened and selected. There are NO random, casual shots of me. Anywhere.)

I spent so much time hating myself and worrying about what others thought of me, I let it rob me of joy. It made me uptight. It made me sad a lot, truth be told. I let stupid things, like a-hole ex-boyfriends who broke my heart, be my fault because I thought I wasn't pretty enough. Or small enough.

And I’ll be damned if you do that to yourself, my sweet girl.

You are beautiful.

I will tell you that thirty times a day for the rest of your life if that’s what it will take to break the cycle.

No size on the back of a pair of jeans will define you. No stupid boy in your algebra class will have the power to make you feel unworthy with a careless comment about “curves.” No fake, poisonous friends will ever pinch your cheeks and shatter your self-esteem by calling you Miss Piggy. You are too smart for that noise.

You are beautiful.

You will grow up and hold your head high. You'll do amazing things and make us proud, no matter who you become. You will shine your light--haters and naysayers be damned.

And the best part? You’ll have me, your dad, your brothers, and a whole army of family and friends behind you the whole way, cheering you on.

Shine on, baby girl…shine on.


1 comment:

  1. I love this... Beautiful.

    I am overweight. I was always "bigger" and trying desperately to lose it. Then when I was 24 I had an early hysterectomy. The whiplash affect of that was more weight gain and an almost impossibility to lose it. BUT I also became an adoptive mom not long after. And I remember my family and all of the "fat", "diet" and "weight" talk. I refused...

    And we've had a diet free house. We eat healthy. We value health. and up until a week ago, we homeschooled. I was so sure we were in the "clear" on this issue. Then, having lunch with friends, I overheard my daughter and her little friend (12) comparing their "fat" things (NOT EVEN CLOSE) and how they hate their bodies...

    Sad. :(