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To Thine Own Self Be True

I am a woman. Someone’s daughter. Someone’s sister. I have walked many years on this Libra-buying, leg-shaving, hair-straightening, nail-painting, tear-shedding, hand-holding, love-falling, soul-jerking path, and I share this amazing place called womanhood with billions of other wonderful, complex, heartfelt double x chromosomed beings. The thing is, though, it wasn’t until I was lying in a candlelit room on February the 24th, 2012, that it hit me. “It’s a girl”, I whispered, stunned. I had been so certain we were having a boy. “It’s a girl. It’s a girl.” Every day since, it has hit me over and over again, and now more than ever, it matters to me to understand this whole being a girl thing. Not only what it means to be a woman but to model the kind of woman I hope Ella will grow to be. Since the moment I found out I had a daughter, I felt extreme gratitude. I thought about all the things the future would hold – all the hair-doing, late night talking, secret-sharing loving that is unique to female relationships. There is an untouchable kinship in mother-daughter bonds I’m so freaking glad I get to share with her. And yet, what I think about the most is how I will navigate this complicated world of womanhood with her.
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It’s an achievement to find yourself, to know yourself, and to love yourself. It takes guts and heart to dwell confidently as a woman in a world telling you to be prettier, richer, smarter, softer, stronger, better, different from any spectacular thing you already are.

But, how will I raise my girl to know this? How will I teach her to believe that she is as amazing as I know her to be?

 

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How can I show her who she is through my eyes? And how do I make that count?

 

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It is only now, as I approach my thirties, that I feel I am finally arriving at the very comfortable place of Me. Of knowing myself, accepting myself, and celebrating the intricate dualism of my assets and flaws, talents and setbacks, strengths and struggles. It is only now that I am learning to own them and revere them.
I wonder how hard it will be for me to watch my daughter walk along this path of doubt and struggle to arrive at this place, too? I wonder how I will teach her that  a woman for which to strive is one who has learned herself completely and who is unapologetically herself. That a beautiful woman is a confident one. That the important things are never about waistline sizes, or grades, or how much money she earns, or how her hair sits.
The most beautiful women I’ve known are the ones with infectious laughter. The ones whose eyes pool with tears when they hear a sad story. The ones who offer genuine compliments and accept them in return. The ones which curse every now and again, who declare when you’re over visiting, “Oh god, I don’t have to provide lunch for you as well, do I?”. Beautiful women are honest. They are alive. They walk to the beat of their own drum looking for good where good may not lie, and believe wholeheartedly in who they are. They proudly, beautifully swim against the current, lighting a path like a blaze of fire, shining brightness onto others to believe in themselves, too.
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I wish I could have known back then.
Back as a thirteen year old. As a twenty year old. As a brand new mother.
I wish I could have known.
This above all: to thine own self be true.

When I used to stuff my bra with tissues because all the other girls had boobs and I didn’t.

When I pretended I didn’t cross stitch or like Celine Dion because I wanted everyone to think I was cool.

When I kissed a boy in year 8 behind the lockers not because I liked him but because my friends told me I should.

When I tried things with my newborn baby people told me to do even when I felt it wasn’t right for me.

When I wore my hair a certain way just because the guy I was with liked it like that.

 

I wish I would have known that confidence is beautiful. I wish I could have met my grown up self and heard these words

Be yourself. You will stand out. You will be beautiful. You will be worthy. I promise. Just be you.

 

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As my girl grows and as those first signs of self-consciousness and armor appear, I don’t know what I’ll do. What can a mama do but love on her baby with ferociousness? Even if it’s met by eye rolls and whatever mum‘s. That’s all I know to do. That, and to be the kind of woman I hope she’ll grow to be. The kind of woman who screams this message:

To thine own self be true.

This above all:

To thine own self be true.

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4 Responses to “To Thine Own Self Be True”

  1. Mother Down Under

    Beautiful post…as always.
    What you expressed is actually one of the main reasons why I am glad to have a boy…and sad to have a boy.
    I am glad that I never have to watch him learn those hard lessons…although I know boys have hard lessons of their own.
    But I mourn the fact that we will never have late nights bonding over hair styles for formals…or maybe we will.

    Reply
    • Rachel Wiley

      People say there is a different but equally special mother-son bond which they wouldn’t trade for anything. Hopefully we can experience the raising of both boys and girls. (That’s if you want more babies besides Toddler C!)

      Reply
  2. NatandDan

    Such a heartfelt post… It brings tears to my eyes as I ponder the same about my two girls when they grow older. As identical twins though, I wonder how it will be… Will they cringe at themselves but see the beauty in each other? Will they point out the flaws in themselves but compliment the assets of their sister? Will be interesting to see. I just hope they will be confident and happy girls, who will be the best of friends… And who will perhaps occasionally listen to their mother. 🙂

    Reply
    • Rachel Wiley

      Ha. That’s all you can ask for! On one hand I think I’d hate to have twins (the work!), but on the other hand, to watch their bond unfolding and the relationship between the two of them develop – as their mother – I think it would be incredible. I don’t have sisters so I don’t know if this would help the whole navigation of womanhood easier? Hopefully it does for your girls. x

      Reply

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