This summer, both Jennifer Aniston and Renée Zellweger have published editorials about damaging tabloid practices, the objectification of women, and how younger generations are absorbing toxic messages about being female. This open letter to my daughter is my attempt to encourage more conversation around what we really want for our daughters.
Even though the world has changed dramatically since I was a girl, many things about being a woman haven't changed much at all. So, I hope you remember the following truths as you find your way through the maze of social pressures you'll encounter every day.
1. You have an amazing body.
Please don't measure yourself against the distorted standards of beauty you see in the media. There has never been a human being exactly like you in the world, and there never will be again. You must love your whole body, your face, your skin color, and your hair just the way they are. Your unique physical appearance is part of what makes you you. Focus on keeping your body healthy and strong so you can do all the things you want to do in life. And decide for yourself what makes you beautiful.
2. You are so much more than your sexuality.
Every day we are bombarded with images sexualizing girls and women. I can't believe this is still happening in the 21st century. The message that we are only as valuable as our sexual appeal and behavior seems to be everywhere. Rather than believing these lies, develop and attend to your own healthy sexuality. And remember that it is only part of the whole package that is you.
3. You don't need to marry or have children to be whole.
Society still seems to determine a woman's worth by whether or not she is married and/or has children. The message that women can't truly be happy, whole, and successful without them is wrong. Marriage and motherhood are personal choices. You must intentionally decide for yourself if they are right for you.
Being a wife or a mother will not complete you, and you are not less than if you decide against one or both of these choices. You will know if they are right for you by taking time to understand yourself and listening to your heart instead of following the misguided messages of a fearful society.
4. Your potential is determined by how you define yourself.
Just the fact that you are alive means that you are needed, valuable, and worthy of love. But, as you go through life, you will come up against some challenges. People you thought of as friends might spread hurtful gossip about you. You might experience verbal, physical, or emotional bullying at school, at work, or on the internet. You might be pressured by your peers to do things you don't want to do.
You must get to know yourself and build a strong sense of identity apart from your physical appearance. In this way, you can stand tall in your personal power, develop your natural gifts, and confidently bring value to the world from a place of high self-esteem.
5. You are a beautiful soul.
You are not just your body and your personality. Inside you, and all of us, is an awesome power filled with love and wisdom. It's an energy you can't see, but you can feel it in your heart. It's called your soul, and you must stay connected to it because it is the core of who you truly are. Your soul is the wisest, most secure part of you. It will always guide you in the right direction and calm you during times of uncertainty.
6. Your female brain is powerful.
We all have both feminine and masculine traits within us. But, because you were born with a female brain, you have special powers. You are blessed with a high capacity for intuition, empathy, generosity, inclusivity, collaboration, and good judgment. You can make the most of these qualities to live your best life and become a positive influence on the people around you. Our feminine powers are needed more than ever in this fragile world.
7. Your ideas are valuable. You must express them.
Repression of the feminine principle over thousands of years has left many of us with a fear of conflict. We often don't speak up because of self-doubt or anxiety about displeasing others. Please know that your point of view is just as valid as anyone else's. Authentic power comes from listening to your soul and standing up for what you believe in.
Your perspective is valuable, and the world needs your brilliant ideas. Don't let self-doubt and fear of criticism or failure hold you back from expressing yourself. Just remember to be kind when sharing your opinions and ideas because we are all beautiful souls worthy of respect.
A few final thoughts:
When things go wrong, as they often will, remember that you still have the power of choice. No matter what, you can always choose your own next steps and use your energy in a positive way.
When you make mistakes, as we all do, choose not to get stuck in regret or shame. Mourn your mistakes fully, and learn from them. Then forgive yourself, let go of the past, and move forward knowing you've done your best.
When you feel lost, as you sometimes will, trust yourself and the process of life. Remember that you belong to a larger universe that supports you and is a steadfast source of unconditional love and wisdom.
My highest wish for you, beloved daughter, is that you grow into the best version of yourself, stand strong in your femininity, and find your true path of service in the world.