A Note to My Younger Self: You Can't Control What Others Think or Say
By Chrystal Rambarath
The new school year is upon us, and as I carefully select uniforms and school gear for my children, I reflect on my own years in school. The memories of surviving adolescence in a school setting, drive me to do the best I can to get my daughter, especially, ready to put her best face forward. I am so relieved that she has to wear uniforms!
For most people save the god/goddess-like exceptions, we all go through an awkward phase, but for some, this phase is especially horrible.
I was a sheltered twelve-year-old, still considered and treated very much like a little girl when my family immigrated to the United States. I knew nothing of makeup or fashion and I thought my purpose in school was only to learn and excel. But, I had a rude awakening as I started the 7th grade in my American middle school. As a girl who had mostly worn uniforms until then, I had no fashion sense. And for a girl on the verge of puberty, I was unaware and ill-prepared for the expectations of middle school girls.
Without going into the painful details of those years, suffice it to say that the middle school years sucked out any confidence I had from academics, and left me feeling dry beauty-wise. Those were the years I pored over magazines like Seventeen, trying and failing, to capture the hairstyles, makeup, and fashion choices of teen celebrities. Those were the years I also refused to look in a mirror and felt great dissatisfaction and discomfort with the state of my teen body.
Now that I have my own daughter, I am eager to spare her any of the pain that I experienced. I am very particular about picking out her clothes and accessories and I try to make her look as good as possible when she heads off to school. Full disclosure - she is only six so she is mostly agreeable so far!
But as I look at her face, and it is a beautiful one, I see so much of myself in her. Our resemblance is evident and I wonder how I as a child was so quickly robbed of my self-esteem. I look at whatever old pictures there are of me, and there is so much I want to say to my pre-teen and teenaged self. Instead, I try to say the words to my daughter or plan to say them. If I could, I would say:
You are beautiful, but you are so much more. Your beauty is more than what is on the outside. Your beauty reflects who you are on the inside. You are full of sunshine and life, laughter and creativity. When you smile you light up the world.
You are magnetic for many reasons. You are intelligent, brave, strong, and athletic. In your childhood innocence, you can do anything and be anything. There is nothing to inhibit you from whatever you desire to attempt. I watched you execute a dance recital in front of hundreds of strangers. I see you run across the playground and demonstrate your gymnastics prowess with ease and confidence. You bravely make new friends wherever you go. You draw people to you with radiant beauty.
You are confident and loved. You are your family’s golden girl. You were adored and loved from the moment we knew you were on your way. You are told you are loved and shown how much every day. You can be who you are confident in the knowledge that you have unconditional love.
You cannot control what others think or say. Kids, especially in the adolescent years, can be mean. Most times they are acting out of their own insecurities. Tearing others down makes them feel better about themselves. Learn to rise above it. Be secure in who you are. Take comfort and be reminded of all that you are and all that you know of yourself.
For years I suffered the insecurities of my adolescence and they often rear their heads even into my adulthood. But I think my experiences are valuable in making me aware and sensitive to what my own daughter could face. As a parent, I take my role in building up the self-worth and esteem of my daughter, reminding her that not only is she beautiful, but that she is talented and has worth far beyond what is on her outside. If I could, I would challenge all women, to remind girls, even the ones who are not their daughters or nieces, of their value. I know that not every girl has someone in her life who will support her which is all the more reason for women to look back and try to raise new generations of girls who feel beautiful, strong, smart, fearless, and invincible.
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