This week, after talking about body image and the roots of body dissatisfaction, we thought about what we wished we could tell our childhood selves. We could choose any age to write to, but you’ll notice many of us chose similar ages. Our letters are below – what do you think? What would you tell yourself as a child? And how can we use these reflections to frame how we talk to children today?
Dear 8 year old me,
That extra scoop is okay. After you enjoy it, if you want more, do it. Everyone is tough on you yet you still smile. Don’t allow them to tell you different. To your little crush, if he liked you, he’ll like you for you. You don’t need to be a size 9 or smaller. Size 14-16 is perfectly okay. You see the smaller people around you? That’s okay, too. But just know you DON’T have to be like them. Gym class…just have fun. Take a break when you need it. Yes, I repeat, take a break. Those around you are not you! They probably haven’t had multiple surgeries on their legs since they were 1 1/2 – 2 years old. And even then you didn’t allow that to stop you. You were a preemie. You came a month early weighing only 5 lbs 8 oz and were oh so small that they thought you’d have to stay in the hospital longer but that didn’t stop you. So don’t let anything stop you. Your ass is definitely going to grow more and jeans will still be your on and off friend. There’s more to come and it’ll be okay. The road will nearly kill you and be ready to take you out but just keep pushing. Love yourself and they will love you too.
Dear 8 year old me,
Things have a way of evening out in life. You may now feel that you are something of a circus freak, relegated to the back of the procession due to your height and weighing double what some of your smaller and more athletic classmates weigh. Everyone develops at different rates. Many of those people will be taller than you and heavier than you. you will get your wish to be average and barely noticeable. You will, however, NEVER be athletic. You will develop abilities in other areas that will make you feel like you are not a failure.
Older, Adult Me
Dear 20 year old me,
Bodies are weird. They’re bags of flesh being held in place by towns. Gross stuff happens in bodies, so naturally, things won’t look perfect. Your breasts aren’t going to be a perfect shape. Your thighs and calves are huge because you’re muscular. Acne is going to occur. Your body’s purpose is to function and keep you alive. It’s not meant to conform to bullshit beauty standards. Don’t give a fuck about the shit you see or what you hear. There’s more important things to worry about.
Dear 11 year old me,
Just because your breasts are starting to grow doesn’t mean that you are fat. You do not have a big nose and you are not too short. You are pretty the way you are. Stop dieting and wearing baggy clothes. Love yourself.
30 year old me
Dear 10 year old me,
You are a gorgeous girl with beautiful features. You were never meant to be skinny and you later embrace that. Your skin is beautiful and your personality matches it perfectly. You shine like a diamond and glisten for so many others to see. Continue to love yourself and hold your head high. You are a true queen!
Dear 10 year old me,
You do know that you are beautiful, right? Your hair is beautiful. No, it may not be as curly, full, and down to your butt like your sisters, but IT IS BEAUTIFUL!!! Did you know that you should love the skin you are in no matter how skinny you think you are or how many times someone tells you you’re too skinny. LOVE THAT BODY!!! Do not let someone other than yourself determine what’s a “good look” for you because IT IS YOUR BODY!!! Love the skin that you are in!
Love, your 21 year old self
Dear 10 year old me,
Please don’t ever think that you’re not beautiful enough. You’re just as special as everyone else around you. Everyone has their own individual specialities, but we need everyone all together to make the world beautiful. We each fit into a puzzle a different way, but we’re not complete without our whole selves. Instead of focusing on all of the flaws (which are probably someone else’s, too), look deeper at your favorite things about yourself. As you grow older, your body will continue to change and you’ll start to hate new things, but the things about yourself that you love will stay the same.
Dear Me, at any age,
Your body is the physical manifestation of your spirit. You are meant to enjoy it. Smell things, touch things, see things, taste things, hear things. Above all explore and enjoy it. Your body is yours and yours alone, unless and until you choose to share it with partners. You will get hurt, you will heal. Explore every delight you can. It is your animated meat suit on a magically powered skeleton. It is not all of you but it is part of you. Love you in your own way. Draw on your skin, take bubble baths, pick your nose, fall down and get back up, be silly, dance, roll down hills, and know that your baby tummy, freckles, and wrinkles are the way your beautiful life is and will shape your body. I love you and I wish you knew you deserved this love sooner.
Dear 16 year old me,
The person in the mirror is exactly you, which means you are beautiful. No matter what you tell yourself, you are beautiful inside and out. The thoughts that haunt you are just illusions that are there to drive you from your purpose. Remember that you are you and you can’t be anyone else; so try to speak nice to yourself at least once a day in the mirror and one day you’ll be okay.
Love, Older You
PS: It’s okay to take pictures of yourself whether you’re having good days or bad. Pictures are there to document your life and one day you will see progress in how you go about this.
PPS: You will be objectified but that does not have to be your identity. Love your body and yourself.
Dear 13 year old me,
IT IS OKAY THAT YOU WANT TO WEAR LEGGINGS TO SCHOOL.
No matter what they tell you, you don’t look like you’re seeking attention. You look cute and confident because you are comfortable.
Dressing for comfort is a form of loving your body. Don’t let the opinions of others tell you how to love your body or how to express yourself. It’s okay to let yourself be.
Dear 15 year old me,
You are beautiful as you are.
You don’t need to lose weight.
You don’t need to get braces because you’ve been made fun of for having a tiny gap in between your two front teeth.
You don’t need to straighten your hair before school every day because you don’t like it curly.
You don’t have to fit in because
YOU ARE ENOUGH AND YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AS YOU ARE! <3
Love, 21 year old me
Dear 10 year old me,
So much has changed over these years. Well, so much has, yet a lot has not. That child in me is still alive somewhere. Do you remember the yellow diary, where on every New Year I would write about losing weight? Do you remember the stars at night and if there was only one start seen in the sky that wishes could come true? How all I would wish for as to lose weight? I felt all that happened to me was because of my weight.
Today, 2020, yes I promised myself again to lose weight. 18 years later and my wish remains the same. But the reasons I want to lose weight have changed. I no more want to lose weight to look pretty or for someone to love. But I have found that someone who lives for me and equally loves my body the way I am. I want to lose weight because I am facing physical problems. And I want to be able to do the things I want to do. I wish I could tell you at 10 that it didn’t matter how you looked and that you look gorgeous. I wish I could tell our parents to have never called you fat. I wish I could tell you to save your wishes. But I do not regret not telling you. You had to understand all of this, but all I wish is that it wouldn’t have been this hard.
Dear 16 year old me,
You are good enough! I hope you know that you have control in your life and you don’t need to take any mild convenience out on yourself. If you learned how to be more accepting of your body before it got to an unhealthy point, you probably would have been more confident today. This time in your life may not be the funnest, skipping lunch period, counting calories, and weighing yourself every day. But it will be better. Your gonna be happy soon, kiddo.
XOXO, 20 year old me
Dear little one,
You have the healthiest teeth, toes, legs, arms, and nose…everything else will grow and change so embrace it and learn to fall in love with yourself on a daily basis. Craft a song to sing to and shout it out so that you will learn to love these parts that deserve as much praise, worship, healthy nicknames, and attention as your hair, eyes, and expected breast size will receive.
- Learn to fall in love with sound of your own loud laugh, because it will be one of your favorite things about yourself even though others will mock you for it
- Learn to fall in love with your own smile and don’t be afraid to show your teeth in your school pictures, because your full lips and two front teeth look nothing like Bugs Bunny or yellow corn kernels, nor do your lips resemble Halloween Wack-O-Wax red vampire candy fangs
- Learn to fall in love with your pokey elbows, knobby knees, bony wrists, and second toe that is longer than your first big toe, because these body parts are just as beautiful and adorable as all the rest of your other body parts
- Learn to fall in love with your strong and muscular “fat girl” thighs, your slender “slinky” neck, your vigorous and vibrant “old lady” veins, your delicate “bony” body and “skeleton” wrists, as they will all come in handy when you travel throughout Montana, Washington, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Chicago, California, Virginia, Florida, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Kandahar, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Okinawa, Tokyo, and who knows where else
- Learn to fall in love with your skin, to genuinely fall in love with each crease, each patch rather it be smooth or rough, the of color of it as it is naturally-not the color you feel pressured to wear, and to cover it from time and weather by wearing sunscreen, hats, and clothing to preserve your bodies most precious gift to you
- Learn to fall in love with your collar bones, chest, and backside, because they will shield you and protect you when you someday need to carry almost your entire body weight during missions, to carry all of the crap you will ever buy and when you need to move it by yourself, and to carry your babies on when they are practically part sloth part koala bears
- Learn to fall in love with face, the shape of it and all the wrinkles…it is like no other and shaped in your mother’s womb and was a gift from your father and all of your ancestors combined….over time in your mind you will feel much older and rundown than you actually appear…
- Learn to love your lopsided and uneven breasts…Yes I know they did not grow as soon as or according to plan, but don’t resort to ingesting GNC boobie growing pills and water bras…these are financially expensive, toxic, and fake as &*#@! Bralette’s will be comfortable and in style so stay focused on reading about healthy road trips and recipes
- Learn to fall in love with healthy habits and healthy people…learn to love drinking water and for gosh sakes give up the candy and pop, because cavities hurt like hell and the silver in your teeth earns you the nickname of “yuk mouth” from a dental assistant…
- Learn to fall in love with the compliments that honor you and not hate on you or hurt you in anyway…
- Learn to fall in love with your whole body your whole life little one, as this is the only body that you were born with…you will only learn to fall in love with it when all the men you loved the most leave you and don’t love you back, when almost half of your life has passed you by, and when you learn that your love and self-worth is not measured by others nor is it measured by the shape of your perfectly painfully-white-straight teeth, your ocean eyes, your fake and flaking tan skin, your lopsided uneven real and fake breasts, your neatly trimmed bush, behind, underarms, legs, and miniature mustache above your lip, your hair color and hair style over the decades…no little one…learn to love thee…you are worthy, you are healthy, you are happy, you are complete and I am telling you the truth because you will have no one else that will tell it to you while you are growing up…misery needs company..but when you are a woman, you will be more in love with who you are, where you have been, what you have survived, why it is vital to teach others to fall in love with their own bodies, and when to accept your body for what it truly is…priceless
The Brains within your Beautiful Body