I wish I’d seen myself as clearly then as I do now.
Dear Little Me,
I know something about you that no-one else knows. I know you spend 10 minutes every morning standing in front of the mirror before school, turning to the side and sucking in your belly, measuring how wide the hips you hate are and pointlessly trying to squeeze them smaller. I know you stare at your beautiful face, the one you think is too round and too covered in freckles to ever be considered pretty. You touch your hair and try to will it smoother and straighter.
I know you do the same each night you get out of the shower, staring at your small, 13 year-old body in the bathroom mirror wishing you were prettier, smaller, more developed, and less ugly. It breaks my heart to think about all of the hundreds of negative thoughts you have about your body and your appearance every day, and how much these obsessions with wanting to look different will consume you for the rest of your teenage years.
I know you wish with all of your heart you looked more like your older sister, and you believe she’s the most gorgeous and amazing woman you’ve ever seen, while you somehow got the ugly gene. I know you hate that you don’t look like her but I have to remind you that she’s in her twenties and you’re barely a teen. You’re also different people. You’ll grow up and you’ll become more yourself, blossoming into someone no-one else is, which is truly the most beautiful thing. You don’t have to look like your sister to achieve ‘beauty’. But, little me, if it helps you get through the tough years ahead of you, the older you get, the more people will tell you “you look just like your sister.” You’ll get there. But you should also be excited for those times you’ll get to be yourself and no-one else.
I wish I could give you the biggest hug, take you away from that mirror and tell you about all of the things you’re going to achieve, and all of the wonderful things that will happen to you which have nothing to do with your looks.
You might not want to believe it and you might think it’s just a cliche phrase uttered by mothers to make their children feel better about themselves, but I need you to believe me here; beauty really is on the inside.
Society is going to make you feel like your worth comes down to whether you have clear skin and a perfect tan, what size jeans you fit in to and, later, how many ‘likes’ photos of yourself will amass on the internet. And you’re going to believe these things dictate how important you are to others until you’re much older.
Your teen years are hard and you’ll feel like the world will end if you don’t keep up with the popular kids and the latest trends. You’ll go through phases where you stare at malnourished girls’ pictures on the internet and wish you could achieve their impossibly small frames. You’ll hide plates of dinner underneath your bed until your mother goes to sleep so you can put the food in the trash without raising any alarms. You’ll lose weight drastically because you’re not eating and then put it back on once you can’t keep up the ruse anymore. You’ll engage in these unhealthy habits because you’ll believe it will make you less ugly, as if your importance is dependant on having a small waistline. And it breaks my heart.
You’ll dye your hair and experiment with makeup and wear clothes which are made for girls much older than yourself in an attempt to be one of the beautiful ones instead of the ugly duckling you think you are. You’ll sacrifice too much of your young life, which you should spend relishing in still being a kid, But trust me – you’re perfect, just the way you are.
You’re not alone, either. Even the girls you go to school with who you think are perfect probably nitpick their appearance before class each morning, just like you.
I wish I could tell you the world is different now; that appearances don’t matter and no one cares what is on the outside. But then I’d be telling you a lie. But one day, you’ll reach a place where the only person whose opinion of you matters will be your own. And to be honest, even once you’ve realized that you’re more than what you see in the mirror, you’ll still have days when you’re consumed with self-conscious thoughts about how you look. You’ll still have days where you think you’re ugly. You’ll still be your own worse critic, but with one major difference. You’ll know it’s all just superficial and who you are is so much more than how you look on the outside.
So, I beg you. Give yourself a break from the constant self-criticism once in a while. You’re absolutely beautiful, just the way you are, and I promise you’ll be okay. Just keep on smiling and try to embrace who you are; the funny, quirky, wonderful young girl you are.
And one day, sweet thing, I swear to you, you’ll think you’re beautiful. And not because of what you look like.
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Comment: What would you tell your 13 year-old self?