There’s a folder I’ve started on my computer called “Ella”, and in it are things I come across and file away for the years ahead of us. Things like books to read, documentaries to watch with her, little one-liners I want to memorise: You owe no one your prettiness. I copy links to articles on politeness. On playing small. On apologising. On how we as girls must cut that shit out immediately. I find easy ways to explain that being quiet and thin and apologetic and interrupted should not be accepted as part of being female. That eating and being loud and asking for what we want and taking up the space we occupy is our God given right. I write the names of inspirational women who are breaking glass ceilings and fighting out loud against the double standards women face in almost every aspect of their lives so I can show my daughter a different kind of ‘normal’. I copy paragraphs from articles on the beauty industry, highlighting sentences like: In a world which profits from your self-doubt, loving yourself is an act of rebellion. All teenagers want to be rebellious, after all. I like a little rebellion. But I want my girl to be rebellious for all the right reasons.
The message in the folder I keep, always, is this: Stand up, little girl. Stand up and speak. Stand up and eat. God, stand up and get angry if you want to. Lord knows, I get angry too. Let the anger fuel you to change this world, honey. Break the ceilings above you. The world wants you to be small and insecure because the world makes a hell of a profit out of it. There’s power to be held when you doubt and fluster and learn to dismiss the act of thinking for yourself. And the people who hold that power sure as hell don’t want to lose it. But honey, you need to befriend those big hearted, honest, bold women. Quit that competitive comparison shit right this instance. You need to sit up straight. You need to want what it is you want and you need to ask for it, you need to work for it, you need to defend it. And don’t, my love, for one hot second let any asshole tell you what is beautiful. Don’t even let your husband tell you what is beautiful, honey. Because you know what? You know what the truth is sweet girl? You get to decide. You get to decide what is beautiful honey, and you get to go fill yourself up with that beauty. Art, books, music, poetry, nail polish, shoes, animals, ocean, spiky hair, curly hair, black hair, blue hair, red dresses, children, oak trees — wherever and in whatever you find beauty, follow that beauty with your great big open heart and let it make you beauty-full.
I know you want to be loved by a partner, honey, and I know you want to appear attractive. It gets tricky. I know this. I know you can get confused about how you have to be in order to attract a mate, in order to be loved. Maybe if you’re too feisty, too loud, too strong you won’t be attractive? Maybe if you’re too frumpy or too tall or too opinionated you’ll be too much? Maybe you have to censor and shrink a bit to be loveable? Just a little? I understand. I do.
But Here is the Truth: The only thing you have to be in order to be loved is yourself. It is honey. Trust me on this one. Because you know what the alternative is? Pretending. And when we pretend, we get sicker than we were in the first place. We will never feel loved if we pretend because the person loving us isn’t being shown who we really are. It is no journey to take, honey, to be loved for someone you are not. What IS brave is showing someone your whole self and feeling so worthy that it does not matter their response. Love yourself first, always, and the rest will follow. The entire world changes when you love yourself first. THIS IS ONE OF THE FEW THINGS I KNOW TO BE TRUE.