Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Letter to my Daughter About Beauty

Dear Sunshine,

Last week, you knocked your teeth out. You were doing your usual thing- being a daredevil, conquering the world with your balance bike on an extremely steep driveway with tons of uncoordinated gusto. 

After our visit to the dentist, I pulled out the camera and asked you to smile. You flashed me the biggest grin imaginable, so proud of yourself.


Then I broke into tears. It was a strange reaction, I know. I didn't cry because I was sad about your new smile (it is epic amounts of adorable), and not out of guilt for your injury (you are a force even the most attentive mother probably couldn't completely contain), but because of your beautiful, innocent confidence.

You see, you haven't let the world affect you yet, and it is so breathtakingly beautiful.  I wish I could bottle it up and hand out that confidence to the world. 
It can be hard being a girl in this silly world. People come in all different shapes, colors and sizes. The world is like a rainbow- so many different people to see. Beautiful people. But how would you feel if someone told you that the only good color in this rainbow was green? Wouldn't that be dumb? I like green, but a rainbow made of all green wouldn't be half as awesome as one with all the colors.

Sometimes, people tell other people that they are only beautiful or important if they look a certain way. 

In China, they use to think that small feet were pretty. I don't know why. Big feet are awesome for helping us swim fast and for balance, but somewhere along the way, someone decided little feet were the best... and everyone started believing them. 
So many people started believing, that they even began breaking their feet to make them look smaller. Isn't that Silly?!

Photo sources: top and bottom
I don't know about you, but I'm glad I have feet that I can run and jump with. My feet take me places- they aren't something I spend too much time looking at. I think I'd fall over with those silly, painful small feet.

In other parts of the world, they do all kinds of interesting things for the sake of what is considered beautiful:
They stretch their lips and put plates in them

And in other places they stretch their necks with rings.

It may seem strange to us, but we didn't grow up in those places. It's hard for us to understand.

 It  can be more difficult for us to see some of the things that we do when we are immersed in it. Here are just a few examples of what people where we live may do for the sake of beauty:

Photo source
Some people paint their faces with makeup

Others wear swimsuits that would be hard to swim in, because they think it makes them look pretty. I bet the high heels would make it hard to run and play in the sand, too.

People even make silly faces because they think it's pretty

Other people put lots of things on their body.

Isabell Caro: French model and anti-anorexia crusader, died at age 28

Some people even start to think that their body has to be a certain shape or weight, and make themselves sick trying to look that way.

Not all of these things are bad. It can be fun to be artistic and creative with our appearance. I like putting on some red lipstick when I'm feeling fancy. But, somewhere along the line, a lot of people started to believe that the best way to express themselves was through how their body looked on the outside.  But Sunshine,  true beauty is much too powerful to ever let anyone put it into a small, defined box. True beauty is deep. It is contagious. It is how a person makes you feel in their presence. It is inspiring.
Aimee Mullins, paralympian athlete
It is someone who has the strength and determination to do what some might say is impossible.

Photo source 
It is compassion.

It is seeing another person's need, and trying your best to fill it.

Stephanie Nielson- Plane crash survivor and mother, pictured with her daughter
It is love that conquers all. Love that grows deeper with trials.

Beauty is sharing laughter

Sally Ride: First American woman in space)
It's reaching for the stars. It's not ever letting anybody tell you that you can't achieve something.

It's having the courage to stand your ground

and honoring those who have paved your way with their example.

It is knowing that even the smallest among us have something to teach us, knowing that every soul is priceless.

Beauty is wearing your Superman jammies with pride because you know that being girly is so much more than just pink and princesses.

Beauty comes in so many shapes and sizes and colors

Photo source
True beauty gets better with age

Mommy when she was pregnant with you (Photo by Kim Barlow)
Beauty is creating something so much bigger than yourself... and loving yourself through all of your body's changes

Beauty is proudly smiling through broken teeth and a fat lip because you know how awesome you are, knowing you are tough, knowing that you will get back on your bike and try again.

 So, the next time someone tells you that you are beautiful, take it as a compliment, because you know what true beauty is.
Love,
Mom

68 comments:

  1. What a beautiful post. Your little girl is lucky to have such a confident -and beautiful- mother. I'm willing to bet your own mother was also similarly confident and strong like you. What a gift!

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  2. You are such, an amazing, beautiful mother and person. I had tears in my eyes because how wonderful this was. Keep being awesome- I loved every second reading this.

    And your daughter is incredible. My mom told me a story about me when I was younger that was similar to your daughters. Thanks for adding an amazing person to the world! :)

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  3. This is lovely and all, but Sally Ride was not the first woman in space... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentina_Tereshkova

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    1. first American woman in space is what it said in the caption.

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    2. ok ok OK. you are right. was being right really that important to you? this is about inner light. .not being right. think you should go back to the beginning.. start again.. "this is lovely and all".. you don't believe a word of it.. very sad.. very very sad..

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    3. I agree Jim... it is not being right, smarter, prettier, its about teaching our children the true meaning of life. Watching the little people in our lives grow up to be amazing,loving,care giving human beings.

      What a remarkable mother and daughter relationship. She is a cutie <3
      Thank you so much for bringing your world into ours...

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    4. If being right to you wasn't important why point out what was thought of as an error in the first place? Looks to me like mare was only letting us know the author had done her research after all and the facts were accurate.

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    5. Huh. Learn something new everyday. Cool.

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  4. Thanks for the info Paige- I'll make that correction.

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  5. I loved this. Thank you. :)

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  6. That's truly beautiful. While I don't have a little girl (2 yr old little boy) The same still applies, Thank you for putting this out there!!

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  7. I want this as a children's book. Thank you!

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    1. This would be a GREAT childrens's book!!!!

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    2. I agree! I would LOVE to see this as a children's book!!!

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    3. Yes! I'd love a book to share with my children. :)

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  8. I'll always hope this message reaches boys and girls everywhere. Boys are affected just as much as girls when it comes to this, I think. They grow up in America (and other countries, I'm sure) believing that the shape of beauty is airbrushed, skinny, etc. In other words, the shape of beauty is quite often an unattainable illusion. How can that be right?

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  9. Love this so much. Found this through Pamela at Ripple Effect. Wonderful to meet you.

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  10. I also found this through Pamela at Ripple Effect. SO glad I clicked over to read. Beautifully said and written.

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  11. Goodness, I'm bawling here. What a beautiful post! Found this posted on the Bump!

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  12. WOW. What a beautiful, moving post. I just shared on my facebook page. Every woman needs to read this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and your beautiful daughter.

    Kristin @ Simply Klassic Home

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  13. Thank you! That was beautiful. My two daughters and four sons will see this. I agree with mollytalksmedia - I want to see this as a children's book!

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  14. i just wrote a very similar post a few months back, about the moment i started seeing the way the world thinks about beauty. http://leanerbythelake.com/?p=14132

    lovely post.
    xx,
    eileen

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  15. Positively gorgeous. I'm not a crier typically, but that brought tears. Spot on sentiment!

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  16. I started writing to my daughter when she was born and I want to copy this straight over its so spot on! :) You inspire too.

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  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Accidentally deleted your post when I was trying to reply. Feel free to repost. And to address one of your concerns, AP photos are generally public domain.

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    2. My main concern was not the copyright, but glad to know that's what you focused on, as that shows you what's more important.
      Her harness is not on correctly. You're more worried about sending the message of being beautiful then protecting her from a deadly car crash by properly securing her in her seat.

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    3. Hey Taylor- we're attracting trolls! I guess that means our blog is getting popular.

      And FYI Princess- I was not driving while this photo was taken. I always let her buckle herself in first, and if I notice that she did it wrong, I fix it. I try to foster her independence by letting her to do things for herself.

      I probably shouldn't feed the trolls...

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    4. Haha--Let's give her the benefit of the doubt and assume someone she loved was injured in a car accident due to improper buckling.

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  18. What a beautiful post your daughter is very very lucky to have you this would make a lovely book for parents to read to there children i have two boys 4 and 23 months and i too love there innocence at this time not corrupted by peoples views i wish they could always have the confidence they have now and i will strive to make sure they keep as much of it as possible
    thanks again

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  19. This is so powerful.

    I found your blog after someone referenced your page on FB---and was so moved by your post. It is a great reminder to us mother's and women all over the place---not just your wee daughter, who is blessed to call you mommy.

    We all need to reiterate this for all little girl's everywhere---and by loving our own skin, they can see it exemplified in our lives.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    You are gifted & wise!

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  20. Pretty much a perfect blog post. :)

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  21. Beautiful message! One I will definitely share with my children.

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  22. Fantastic, an excellent and important message.

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  23. Beautiful. The most important gift we can give our children is enough confidence to withstand anything life throws at them. I try to teach my daughter that it's OK to fail -- that success comes with trying, falling down, and getting up and trying again.

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  24. This would make an excellent childrens book and you could use the same pictures you used here! Thanks for sharing and as a woman who has only daughters and granddaughters I will be sure to share with them. Keep up the great work Mom!

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  25. Brought major tears to my eyes! I wish more mothers would say this to their sons and daughters. Lovely post thank you so much for the reminder of what is truly beautiful!

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  26. I loved this, up to a point. Why do you Americans have to spoil a good point about beauty, about anything for that matter, with your patriotic bullshit. You have two images of war that have absolutely nothing to do with beauty, honor,or integrity, and everything to do with violence and greed?

    I'm sorry for the 8-year-old boy, Christian Golczynski, in the above image, who lost his father in Iraq. But that image only reminds me of the lies and deceptions told by a militant government to sell its country on a war and subsequent invasion of a country-for less than noble reasons-that has costs the lives of an untold number of innocent Iraqi children who (unlike your child) will never get a chance to read an open letter such as this. And just how did the wars in Iraq pave a way anywhere? Who has it paved a way for? America? Iraqis? If so, how? Your caption under that pic just doesn't make sense.

    There is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, NOBLE or JUST about WAR!

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    1. Agreed- there is nothing noble about war... but a lot of military service has nothing to do with war- it is helping in disaster relief and other causes that I consider noble.

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    2. And I don't think showing respect for troops and disagreeing with wars/politicians has to be mutually exclusive.

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    3. ..."I don't think showing respect for troops and disagreeing with wars/politicians has to be mutually exclusive..."

      I agree whole hardheartedly with that Rory. I just think the images of war in such a great open letter about "beauty" and its meaning, is a complete non sequitur.

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    4. I love that you added pictures of our American Soldiers/Marines. As American's, I think it's in our blood to be patriotic. Maybe war isn't "JUST" or "NOBLE", but the people who fight in it are. If it weren't for our soldiers willing to fight in war {just or unjust}, there probably wouldn't be an America. And where would you be OZZIE? Not writing hateful comments on a blog post, that's for damn sure.

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    5. To Emily

      Here some nobility for you.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEXVCLjxLkg

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    6. Ozzie--I deleted your other post. First off, I don't think the "Hitler Bomb" is ever warranted. and second off, we don't put up with name calling on our blog.

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    7. @Ozzie, I know you will probably never read this as this post is a year old and I usually don't reply to ignorant hateful posts like this however you are an idiot if you claim that there is never anything just or noble about war. Not every war is just or noble and while they are not always helpful, they are always devestating. However, sometimes they are unavoidable. The people who fought to end slavery, were honorable. The people who fought to end a holocaust (I'm sure you're thinking Hitler, but take your pick of which one), were honorable. It would be great if every conflict could end without resorting to war. This is not always the case. But it is always honorable to risk your life for someone else. Military service is every bit as honorable as fire fighting and police service. (Please tell me you find those civic services honorable) That being said, i am well aware the people who fill those positions are not always honorable. That is an argument about humanity that is completely different and I apologize for rambling.

      As to your opinion that those photos had nothing to do with beauty, you obviously missed the point. The photo of the soldier comforting a child his very presence had hurt, shows compassion which is beautiful. This photo shows that he considers people different from him worthy of compassion which is a welcome change from previous years where people thought of any one different as less than. This shows understanding, which is beautiful. The photo of the boy who lost his father shows sacrifice, which is beautiful. You may feel that sacrifice is unwarranted, but he clearly did not. That photo shows respect for someone's loss, which you clearly don't have, which is beautiful. Those pictures pertained to beauty of the spirit and had every right to be on this page.

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  27. Wow this is a beautiful post through and through.

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  28. You and I would get along great! I love this post from beginning to end. I have two boys and I am doing all I can to make sure they know what true beauty is.

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  30. My three-year old daughter gains injuries on a daily basis from throwing herself at life with a fearlessness which takes my breath away. Seriously, her knees are like leather now, so often have they been "conditioned" by the pavements and walls in our area. At some point, no doubt, I too will be doing the "long wait" in A and E. From across the pond, from the mother of one tough, beautiful wee girl to another, thank you for this amazing post.

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  31. Thanks for redefining "girlie" and beauty to reflect the power and light within.

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  32. This is such a beautiful post and a lovely reminder of what beauty really is!! I wish much happiness for your daughter and hope the confidence that she shows in the above photos is with her as she grows up and allows her to always give her biggest smile regardless of her situation. Prue. PS -Stumbled across your post in my Facebook feed :)

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  33. One of the most beautiful, straightforward, and dead-on-nail-on-the-head letters about True Beauty I have ever read. Reading it again a second time through tears. I head up a non-profit foundation called TAKING BACK BEAUTY, and I can't wait to share this with our readers and friends! Our goals are to 1) Expose and debunk the dangerous beauty myths of the media, 2) Expand society's definition of Beauty to include ALL shapes, sizes, colors and ages, and 3) Compel the media through public pressure to become socially responsible in the way they depict women. We need more moms like you who understand what real beauty is, and are teaching it to their daughter in both word and deed. Thank you for being such a light and an inspiration!

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  34. LOVE this. I often write about the prevalence of body-shaming culture on my blog. I usually get supportive comments but there are still people who do think looking a certain way is important and have even gone so far to call it "healthy." It makes me sad. We are capable of so much more than being looked at!

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  35. I found your post on facebook. I have a feisty daughter who is now almost 10 who I am going to share this beautiful letter with.
    Thank you, Tia

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  36. I love this! Beautiful post :)

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  37. I saw this via a mutual friend we have on Facebook discussing the fact that someone has plagiarized this beautiful essay. I am so sorry someone stole from you, and I notice that the thief's blog is highly monetized with ads. I can only encourage you to nip this thing in the bud by sending her a cease and desist letter from a lawyer and threaten to sue her for the revenue your words created by generating traffic with her ads. Good luck!

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  38. Rory, reading this post again (and carefully ;-D) has made me love it even more. Profound, and beautifully written. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks Melanie. Means a lot coming from you!

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  39. Such an amazing and beautiful letter. Thank you.

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  40. Thank you for this, i needed to read this today so a lovely friend linked me :)
    My 4 year old daughter took 2 of her teeth out (one has to be surgically removed in a few days) on her bike 2 days ago.

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  41. So beautifully put. I was in tears....

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  42. I love this! My sister knocked out one of my front teeth when I was 3 and it didn't grow back until I was 9. There's a picture of me grinning with the new bud emerging and I'm giving a thumb's up withthe thumb that I just broke and required 4 stitches, lol. Still have the scar. Thank you for your post. PS, I don't know where you were in your loading/unloading process when you took the photo but I just wanted to mention that your daughter's harness straps are twisted and the clip is too low.

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