When my daughter was born I felt an even greater level of responsibility, than I did with my son, to prepare her for life in the real world. It seems little girls need a bulkier handbook to help them thrive in our world than their male counterparts. Here's a letter I wrote to my daughter to get this lifelong discussion started.
Once you are able to read this I know you’re old enough that the world has already begun to influence you. I’d love to tell you that the messages you receive are good ones or that the world is a safe place to start nurturing a positive self-image but that would be a lie. The truth is you’ll have to develop a positive self-image despite this world not because of it.
Let me explain. The influences in your life will feel almost endless. Your family and friends fill a great portion but there’s a bigger world out there. Technology has afforded you access to televisions, computers, and cell phones; which provide a constant stream of opinions, stereotypes, and transparency into other people’s lives.
It’s hard to stay humble when you can take selfies all day and share your opinion about, well anything, to your 200+ social media followers. It’s hard to stay confident with endless posts to scroll through that glorify your friends’ day-to-day lives.
Remember that posting a filtered photo on social media is a talentless act, anyone can do it. If you want to find your true passions you need to look up from your cell phone. There’s no skill required to compare yourself to others, it’s easily done. It’s also the quickest route to becoming unhappy.
Here’s the part of this letter that is only for you. Your brother does not face the same challenges as you. You will need to teach yourself things your brother won’t. For instance, your looks say nothing about your worth. Gathering up compliments about your looks will still leave you feeling empty.
Your brother will be told he’s smart (insert any other attribute unrelated to outer appearance) and you’ll be complimented on your weight. Trust me. Even after you give birth to your own child (a herculean task), people will praise you for how quickly you shed the baby weight, not for being a bad-ass that just pushed out a 8 lb human being.
These comments aren’t that person’s fault. We live in a world that objectifies women and teaches everyone that women aren’t much more than pretty faces. Look at TV shows for instance. Every reality show you watch makes women look catty, shallow, and sometimes just plain crazy.
There’s a large group of men, including our current president, that believe they have ownership and unlimited access to women’s bodies for their own gratification. As you read this, he is no longer our president, but it still hurts when I think about it. It hurts because I realized that I don’t get to raise you in the type of world I wanted for you.
We have a lot of hard work ahead of us. We need to work together to make sure you know your value. To make sure mirrors feel irrelevant and your potential doesn’t seem stifled just because of your gender.
Never go into dressing rooms to find confidence. Instead walk into a new class; start a new job that felt out of reach; or make a new discovery.
Most important, stay strong. Something might happen to you. You might get sexually harassed at work or told you’re never going to succeed in a certain industry because you’re a girl. Don’t let any experience such as these speak to your soul.
I’ll be here if you have any questions. I’ll also be here as a constant contrast to society’s tainted views toward women.
You won’t hear me call myself fat. You won’t see me seeking approval through my looks or turning down an opportunity because society thinks I’ll fail. You won't see me keeping negative influences in my life. You will notice that everyday I will treat myself with purpose.
I’m a work in progress. These things will take some reminding. When a woman is idolized simply because of her appearance, I will need to remind myself that I know better. I know that the focus on women’s physical appearance or sexual appeal is a little box that holds us captive. It keeps us distracted and less likely to seek true accomplishments.
I hope this letter isn’t disheartening because in many ways your fellow women have opened so many new doors for you. You have more opportunities than my generation, which had more than my mother’s generation. And I won’t let you squander them.
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