Gemma Hartley tells her daughter that even though she will grow up in a world that will tell her a healthy, beautiful, able body is not enough, she is already perfect.
This is my body—and it is beautiful.
I want you to know I am proud of this body, imperfections and loose skin and stretch marks and all. It is mine and only mine, unique and wonderful in its own way. It may not be the type of body you will see adorning the glossy pages of magazines—thin and tan and tall and flawless. I am at peace with that. I am still beautiful. My body does not need to fit some ill-conceived notion of perfection. It is already perfect.
My body is strong. Amazing. It has brought life into this world. It has housed you and your brother, kept you safe and warm and healthy even before I knew you existed. These scars and marks on my stomach tell a story. A story of love. If that is not beauty, I do not know what is. My body has nourished you and comforted you. These breasts that are no longer perky and unmarred, this stomach which is not lean and flat, this face which has aged so quickly; all these things sing of my love for you. How could I not celebrate this body? How could I not think it beautiful?
I know it’s not always so easy. I understand why there are so many women who do not love their bodies. Who have learned to hate their bodies, and because of that, hate themselves. Who criticize their features every time they glance at their reflection. Who chase endlessly after the elusive beauty they see in airbrushed photographs. Who never feel good enough, even though they are.
Because it’s easy to feel ugly when a boy at summer camp tells you that you’re really pretty, except for your nose. Or when a girl in your class makes fun of your flat chest. Or when you flip through teen magazines and suddenly your clothes aren’t good enough, your hair isn’t straight enough, your skin isn’t tan enough, your legs aren’t long enough. It’s easy to feel ugly when there’s always someone whispering in your ear that you could be, should be, better than you are.
But I hope you never feel that way, my love. Even though you will grow up in a world that will tell you a healthy, beautiful, able body is not enough, I hope you always know you are more than enough. When you are bombarded by images of women who depict an impossible fantasy, I hope you never look in the mirror and hate any part of yourself. I hope you always stand tall and hold your head high, because you know that you are beautiful. I hope you know, with unwavering certainty, that no one can define beauty for you.
You only get this one body, darling. It is yours and only yours. Believe me when I tell you that there is beauty in the fact that you are entirely unique. There is beauty in the fact that your body is strong and able—that you can run and jump and swim and dance and cartwheel and kick and whatever else you choose to do. Your body is powerful and amazing. Appreciate all it does for you. Embrace it as it is. Love it. Love yourself.
I hope you will always look at this picture of me and think I am beautiful. I hope you always look at yourself and think you are beautiful too. Because it’s true, my love. It will always be true.
Photo courtesy of the author