My Dear, Beautiful Girl-
You came into this world unapologetically, born into your mother’s loving arms, full of promise and potential. You grew into a lovely little girl, filled with hopes and dreams for your life. You were going to change the world with a song and a guitar. But life happened, as life tends to do, and now you find yourself apologizing for your very existence and asking for permission to take up space from anyone who will give it to you. Too exhausted to get out of bed most mornings, you can’t help but ask yourself what happened between then and now? Why does that strong, darling little girl who was full of such potential feel like a stranger now?
Take heart in knowing that it is unbelievably easy for it to happen without realizing it. It sneaked in like a snake, insidious like, in the moments you gathered the courage to express an opinion with a shaky voice, but instead were met with laughter and commands to be quiet because you were stupid. Your face turned red and sweat beaded up on your forehead, but you laughed at yourself too, in order to blend in. And eventually, you started to believe their words, as they became louder than your own internal voice.
It gathered its strength every time someone mocked you or told you that your feelings didn’t matter. It grew in size every time you doubted that your story wasn’t good enough to make the school paper or got bullied for laughing too loud or wearing the wrong kind of jeans. It happened every time your validation lied in the hands of another.
Remember the times you got barked at in the high school hallway? What about the time you were chosen last for kickball in gym class and heard the quiet groans of the team members who got stuck with you? They didn’t know that you went home that night, looked in the mirror, and decided to quit eating. They didn’t realize that their words caused you to live the rest of your life battling an eating disorder.
What about the time you worked for forty-eight straight hours on a surprise party for your best friend, and she never said thank you? She didn’t know that you went home that night berating yourself over thoughts of how you could have made it better.
Or the time he told you that you were so stupid for not knowing how to do things like properly load the dishwasher? All of those times he made you feel that your existence was an inconvenience because you asked a question. He didn’t know that you could never afford a dishwasher, so you never had a reason to learn.
What about the times you were told to act appropriately as a child? That time they told you that singing and playing at the dinner table wasn’t polite, even if you had a story to share so funny you couldn’t keep the bite of soup in your mouth a moment longer, exploding in a fit of laughter. “That’s not appropriate,” they said excusing you from the table, sending you to your room. They didn’t know that this taught you that your stories didn’t matter and that you were not worth the time it would take to listen to what brought your nine-year-old self so much unabridged joy!
Remember the time you were told to protect your little brother at all costs? Of course, you did because you loved your brother, but this taught you that what you needed did not matter. This taught you that your entire self-worth was contingent on keeping him safe, and when he didn’t allow this to happen and he became endangered in some way, you felt like a failure.
It happened every time you were contained. Your truth became less every time you were ridiculed. Every time they told you that you looked amazing now that you lost the weight and figured out how to straighten your stringy, frizzy hair. You thought you would be more lovable if you looked the way they did, talked like they did, believed what they did. You went your entire life as a chameleon, blending into your surroundings, all to be loved and appreciated as someone vastly removed from who you were.
You divided yourself into a million tiny pieces and versions of yourself; sometimes you were a beautiful fashionista, other times, a football enthusiast, a vegan in one breath, and a fisherman in another. Who were you really? You hadn’t a clue because you were afraid to have feelings or opinions that differed from theirs. You buried your feeling so deep that you forgot how to feel. “It’s alright. It is what it is. I’m fine. I was stupid to think that,” you told them so often that even you started to believe the video reel of these phrases that played repeatedly in your mind.
None of these people knew how their words and actions affected you, yet you gave them the one and only key to your self-worth and identity.
But just as gradually as you lost yourself, you can find yourself again. It will take a lot of time and a painful amount of hard work and you’ll have to reteach yourself how to think and process your thoughts. You’ll have to learn its acceptable to have opinions that people do not agree with. You’ll discover that you don’t have to censor your feelings to make others feel more comfortable.
Those kids in gym class, your family, that boyfriend you stayed with for one year too long- they all taught you that your self-worth was measured by their thoughts and words. You’ll learn that your self-worth is actually measured by your own feelings and thoughts. Eventually, you’ll stop talking to yourself like you are trash. Eventually, you’ll start to see yourself as worthy of that yoga class, time to journal, or after-work run. Instead of beating yourself up for going to bed at 7:30, you’ll learn that you just needed that rest. Instead of thinking of all the different ways you’ll work off the cookie you ate in the morning, you’ll tell yourself you deserve it. Period. You didn’t have to earn it. Any of it. In fact, you’ll learn that you don’t have to earn anyone’s approval. You’ll learn you are enough just the way you are. At first, setting these boundaries will make you feel like you are a tragic disappointment. Your closest friends and even your family will be angry with you. This is perfectly acceptable because setting your own internal boundaries is the first step in coming home to yourself. It will get easier in time, I promise.
I can tell you this with such vivid clarity because you see, I am you. I can guarantee it gets better. Brighter. It will take time, but please know you are strong enough to rebuild. Keep writing. Keep going to therapy, no matter how many roll their eyes at you. Keep telling your story, no matter how many people tell you that investing in yourself is selfish. You don’t know this now, but a beautiful fifteen-year-old girl who is working on rewriting her own story will hear your words and add them to her own survival guide. Keep going, one small day at a time. Your existence is not an inconvenience, my dear. You are here for a reason. And remember, beautiful girl, it is perfectly okay to take up space.
All my love,