Dear little girl twirling in an Elsa-from-Frozen dress,
I saw you in the grocery store on the way home from work today. Your mother looked tired and long-suffering, but even she had to smile when you stopped in the middle of an aisle to grin, twirl, and imagine you were a queen with the magical powers of snow and ice at your fingertips. I know that in a few short years, that beauty that you know you possess will seem less and less real, just as your perceived imperfections seem more and more real. I can say that I hope you always have that sense of beauty in your life, but I’m a woman in the world, and I, too, used to twirl around in princess dresses, though maybe not in the middle of the grocery store.
So here’s what I wish for you as you grow up into a world where the media thinks that a size-6 woman is fat and a thigh gap is ideal. Here’s what I hope you can see, even on the dark days when you can’t look in a mirror, or you hear that beauty standards have changed again, or you simply regret being a girl because being a girl can be very, very hard.
Beauty really does come from within. That’s not just a trite saying. When I see a woman with luminous, hopeful, beautiful eyes, I don’t notice if she looks like a model or not. What I notice is the softness in her face, the strength in her character, the tenacity to stick to her beliefs, and the love she has for the many things in her life. I notice the heartbreak of sadness that has shaped the slope of her smile. I notice how her arm curves over her head as she adjusts her ponytail or she brushes strands out of her eyes. And I notice, especially, how she smiles. What I find beautiful is a sincere and true smile. I don’t think that trendy duckfaces or pouty lips alone make a beauty. What makes a beauty is authenticity – nothing more, nothing less.
Your kind of beauty is authentic. You have found the magic in the little things. And when you’re a teenager, standing self-consciously in front of the mirror, I hope you remember the little bits of magic that you kept hold of as a five-year-old. I also hope that you know that it’s okay to go through a duckface or pouty lip stage. I hope you know that however you find your own beauty is okay – as long as you understand that your beauty is always there.
I hope you can close your ears to the many opinions about beauty, from “fat is ugly” to “thin is disgusting”. I hope you know that you don’t have to change your body in order to feel good about yourself. I hope you know that you will have parts of your body that you will hate, and that you will love, and that is natural, as long as you don’t let the parts you hate overwhelm the parts you love.
Mostly, I hope that the voice in your life that’s the loudest is your own. I hope your loud voice rings out above all the other criticisms and complaints, all the desperate wishes and need to feel accepted, loved, and beautiful. Your loud voice is the only voice that matters – and I hope your loud voice tells you that you were as beautiful as Queen Elsa was, and that when you twirled, you only felt utter joy, which is one of those things we all should remember, especially when it’s hard to remember what joy feels like.
And though your mother met my eyes and smiled wearily, you didn’t see how I took a little bit of a lesson from you – to forget the insecure parts of myself and to focus on the strengths and beauty that I have, to remember the feeling of twirling around in your prettiest dress, and to look past aesthetics to the inner beauty inside. And for that, I thank you, because that kind of truth is fleeting and hard to catch, but when it’s caught – it’s never forgotten, no matter how deeply it can be buried in worries and cares.
Twirl on, little beauty.