This morning, just like every morning, you walked out of your room wearing the most gloriously mismatched outfit. You beamed with pride because you picked your clothes out all by yourself, and you loved how the colors looked on you. For you, getting dressed is pure joy, because it is a chance to express your personal style and show off your favorite colors.
Baby, I love that you love how you look. Whenever I finish braiding or brushing your hair, you admire yourself in the mirror. When a grownup compliments your outfit or hair, you accept the compliment matter-of-factly, confident that what they’re saying is true. This contrasts sharply with how adults react to compliments about their appearance. For some reason, a grown woman feels the need to make a self-deprecating comment for each compliment she receives. But not you, sweetheart. Not yet.
At your young age, you recognize a truth that we tend to forget as we get older: your body is a gift. It allows you to practice your Kung Fu Panda moves, have a dance party in the living room, try the slightly scary climbing wall at the park, or jump over the waves at the beach. It is not something to be criticized. You are strong, healthy, and alive, and that is enough for you.
Daughter, there will come a time in your life when you will look in the mirror and want to change something about your appearance. There may be seasons of life when getting dressed is frustrating instead of joyful.
When you don’t accept a compliment at face value. When you don’t appreciate your body for what it can do.
I warn you about this, because I myself have gone through these seasons of life. Those preteen years can be awkward and tough, especially when the internet, magazines, and classmates are telling you what beautiful should look like, but your body is changing in ways you can’t control. The high school years aren’t much better, when all you want is to be accepted, and popularity is based on looks. In your 20s and 30s, you may experience pregnancy and those postpartum weeks when you don’t even recognize yourself in the mirror. This side of heaven, nothing is perfect, and unfortunately as you get older, you will become more and more aware of your own imperfections.
As you go through these seasons of life, your instinct will be to want to change your appearance. You’ll want to highlight your hair, put on makeup, and exercise and eat healthier. These are all fine, and even worthy endeavors. We are to take care of the body God has given us. But know this, daughter: health, fitness, and beauty are worthwhile, but they aren’t everything.
You are so much more than what you look like.
You are funny, and kind, and smart. You notice how those around you are feeling, and you won’t rest until they are happy. You are a child of God, and you are inherently worthy because of that.
So, baby girl, if it were up to me, you would always dress yourself with joy and love your body for all it can do. But when those moments arise when aren’t feeling comfortable in your own skin, remember to choose gratitude.
Choose to be grateful for your health. Choose to be grateful for how God made you. Choose to be grateful for everything your body allows you to accomplish.
And then choose to look outside yourself. Because when you focus on the needs of others, you think about yourself less. When you’re thinking about how you can use your gifts to help and serve, you don’t have time to tear yourself down for how you look.
Finally, remember that improving your appearance can be fun and gratifying, but it is not what brings happiness. A happy, fulfilled life comes from your relationship with God, your relationships with those around you, and using your gifts and talents to the fullest.
Daughter, I pray that I can be an example to you. I pray that my own insecurities don’t rub off on you. I pray that I can practice what I preach, and respect my body as a gift from God that gets to run and jump and play with you.
I want to show you how to exercise and eat healthy foods. I want to show you how to do your hair and put on makeup. I want to paint your nails and help you pick out clothes that make you feel beautiful. But more importantly, I want to show you how to be kind to others, how to demonstrate gratitude for this life you’ve been given, and how to find and use your talents.
I love you, baby! Now let’s go have a dance party in the living room.
– Your mama
This post originally appeared on the Emily Krause blog. Emily is a high school Spanish teacher turned stay-at-home-mom to her three kids. She shares her passion for all things language with her kids by reading to them and teaching them words like “precarious,” and “adhesive.” When she’s not managing the chaos of an infant, toddler, and preschooler, Emily enjoys reading, photography, writing, and travel.