One of the very first things that popped into my head when I learned my husband and I were expecting a girl was, how would I be able to make sure she knew how beautiful she is, no matter what?
Let me explain. It’s not that I think beauty is the ultimate measure of a woman, or even that I want my daughter to be the kind of beautiful that turns heads on the street. My reason for wanting her to know how beautiful she is, is a simple one, no one ever told me that growing up. No one that mattered anyway.
My parents, my mother, father, and stepmother, were not the most expressive people when it came to complimenting us children. They were free with criticism; but when it came to building us up, well, that was not one of their strongest abilities. In fact, as a pre-teen and teenager, I heard much of the opposite. My figure blossomed early in my middle school days and I had always had a larger frame than most other girls. By the time I was in the 7th grade, I had the height, weight, and figure of a full grown woman. My father was understandably terrified. His greatest fear I think was that I would learn how easily boys can be distracted by a woman’s shape, and thus cease to be his innocent daughter. He didn’t realize that I had already had to learn the hard way that boys will objectify young girls, and take whatever they want without asking if that girl doesn’t know any better.
The reasoning behind the way he treated me, while understandable, does not excuse his words and actions. There were times when I would cry myself to sleep because all day long I had heard that I was eating too much, I wasn’t exercising enough, I was fat, I should take care of myself better, I was nothing more than a body, a piece of meat, I was lucky I was pretty and had a nice figure to make up for my lack of intelligence, and on and on and on. These words cut to the core of my fragile sense of self until by the time my senior year of high school rolled around, I was one of the most insecure people you would ever meet.
To top all those years of belittling off, my senior year of high school I lost 25 pounds due to extreme stress and an un-diagnosed illness. My father berated me for that as well; calling me a skeleton, asking me if I had an eating disorder, threatening to drag me to a doctor. It was hell for my 17 year old self.
Jump ahead 3 years after failed relationships, regrettable and shameful sexual encounters, and steady but inexplicable weight gain, and I had become even more insecure and filled with self hatred. At that time I didn’t know what Hashimoto’s was, I was just beginning to realize that I had IBS, and I had no idea that my hormone levels were out of control and were to blame for my weight gain. So when my boyfriend (now my husband) would call me beautiful, or pay me any sort of compliment for that matter, I didn’t believe him at all. I simply couldn’t.
I didn’t feel beautiful, inside or out. I didn’t feel worthy, funny, intelligent, useful, or capable. I felt like I had nothing to offer myself or anyone else.
But God knew otherwise. And so did my husband. So now, after a difficult pregnancy, even more weight gain, and finally a diagnoses of Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, I have finally begun to come to terms with myself. My body is not my enemy. I am not ugly. I am not worthless. I may not be skinny, or as strong as I’d like, or able to run as far and as fast as I’d like, but when my husband, or anyone else for that matter, calls me beautiful I believe them.
God saved me from myself and from the damage my parents’ words had done to me. But I don’t want that to be my daughter’s story. I want her to know how beautiful she is. Inside and out. Without a shred of doubt. I want her to be confident, happy, secure, healthy. I want her to take care of her body without being obsessed with a number on the scale or on the tag of her jeans. I want her to enjoy makeup and styling her hair, without being consumed with dolling herself up for acceptance.
I want her to know that she has more to offer than her figure, so that she will not have to face the shame I’ve felt when boys try to use her only for what that figure has to offer them. I want her to love herself. Her body. Her mind. All of it. I want her to respect herself. To know that her body and her mind are things to be valued together, that God values her, and that anyone worth spending time with will too.
I want my words to build her up. To combine with with God’s Word to instill in her a sense of unshakable self confidence and self worth.
This is why one of my first thoughts was, “I hope she knows how beautiful she is.” Please don’t think I am saying I want her to be consumed by thoughts of herself. Or that her beauty will entitle her to an easier life somehow. I am not saying that at all. What I am saying though, is that a sense of self worth, built on the foundation of God’s love and her parent’s love for her, will equip my daughter to handle life’s challenges. If she has confidence, if she knows without a doubt that she is valued; then hopefully she will not be a self absorbed, self consumed person who worries about what other people think of her so much that she loses her ability to think of others.
If she knows she is beautiful and loved and valued then hopefully she will be able to say no if a boy tries to use her for her body. She will respect herself enough to know that she is more than what her figure has to offer, and she will believe her future husband when he tells her how beautiful she is.
So I will say it to her, over and over again, “You are beautiful my dear!”
picture credit: http://stylopics.com/beauty-quotes/