When I was a little girl, my mother always told me that I was unique. That in all of creation there had never been anyone just like me. That my life had a purpose. That I could do anything that I set my mind to. That I was beautiful – from the inside out.
And I believed her.
Until one day in third grade.
A girl that I considered to be a good friend told me that I wasn’t as special as I thought I was. That I was conceited. That I wasn’t pretty. And in that moment, she unraveled the work of beauty in me that my mother had so carefully and deliberately been forming. I would never again see the same reflection I had always seen in the mirror of myself. From that moment on, I would search in earnest to see what others saw when they looked at me rather than the unique and beautiful soul that my mother had promised was there.
I was hurt, yes. I was changed, certainly. I thought my friend was just being mean. And she was. But it took many years for me to try and see past how she made me feel and to try understand what her perspective was.
I know now that the words that forever changed my self-image came from a little girl that was wounded, too.
Those words came from a little girl whose mother was distracted by the chaos in her own life. A girl whose mother was broken and hurting. This little girl had people in her life that bought nice things for her but did not invest in who she was. They didn’t do their job as adults to nurture her so that she felt special and unique. She did not feel special and beautiful and was never told that her life had a purpose. The relationships in her life were broken and so was she.
Fast forward twenty years to the birth of my own daughter.
I knew from the moment she was placed in my arms that I had important things to teach her. I try to do just that each and every day.
I want my daughter to know that she is special. I want her to know that she is unique and that in all of creation there has never been anyone just like her. I want her to know that her life has purpose. That she can do anything that she sets her mind to. That she is beautiful – from the inside out.
My little girl is now seven and I continue to tell her every day that she is amazing. That I am so proud of how hard she works in school. I try to encourage her to try things that are challenging to her. I hope that I am doing my job.
I see how my little girl tackles new and challenging things with gusto. I have seen her overcome fears. I have seen her lead others. I have seen her with her friends and I have seen her kindness to strangers. I have seen how she looks in the mirror at herself with a radiant smile as she proclaims to me that she feels beautiful. I have seen her walk into both familiar and unfamiliar situations with pride and confidence and excitement. I see a radiant and happy child each and every time I see my daughter.
But I am waiting.
I am waiting for the day that my little girl comes home in tears because someone told her something other than what she has come to believe about herself. I am praying that I can help her pick up the pieces of the revelation that the world may not be as she has been taught by her parents.
I am hoping that it doesn’t take my little girl as many years as it took me to realize that hurtful words usually come from someone that is hurting. And that the best thing she can do is to try and be their friend anyway.
I know that these lessons are on the horizon.
I know it is just a matter of time.
But in the meantime, I am going to keep telling my little girl everything I possibly can to help her believe in her own potential. To understand what she is made of.
Because that girl is amazing.
And after all of these years I am finally learning again that I am, too.
This post originally appeared in June on the blog Girl Body Pride – a site dedicated to empowering girls young and old with a healthy self image.