It’s International Day of the Girl, which means people are taking to the Internet to show their support of youth rights and gender justice for girls everywhere. Because the fact of the matter is this — even little girls notice gender disparities. Sexism isn’t only for adults.
I wish this was something people had told me when I was younger. I wish someone had explained to me that the majority of women grew up feeling like they were under a microscope — judged, criticized, always watched.
Sometimes I wish I could tell my 12-year-old self all the things I know now — I wish I could tell her all the things I hope to tell my daughter. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself this:
You are beautiful. I don’t care what anyone else says. Stop putting your sense of worth into the hands of people who don’t understand your value. I know you’ve never felt like the pretty girl, that you’ve never felt quite right in your skin — that people have told you that you shouldn’t. But you are beautiful, frizzy hair and acne marks and all. You don’t have to fit a certain stereotype to celebrate your body. You are beautiful, and you’ll regret not recognizing that in the future.
And you are strong. God, are you strong. You don’t notice it now, but when you look back ten years later, you’ll fully understand the weight you held on your shoulders. You held yourself so gracefully through it all. I know you felt like you were breaking inside, but you were never broken. People will spend your whole life trying to put you down, but all you can do is overcome.
Don’t listen to what people you don’t know say about you. They don’t know how kind you are, or how loving, or how funny. Find solace in good friends and loving family who know who you are. Who believe in who you are.
And guess what? If someone says you can’t do something because you’re too weak or too dumb or too insignificant, don’t listen to them. You will let too many people get in the way of pursuing your dreams. People will make you feel small, but you are so, so much bigger than them. Prove them wrong.
People will try to push you into boxes. They’ll tell you you’re not good at math because you’re a girl, that you can’t be an actress because of the way you look, that you can’t have too many friends that are boys because if you do, you’re going to grow up with all the wrong morals. Destroy those boxes. Break them down and create your own. You can be whatever the hell you want to be — excuse my language. Your greatest strengths will be the things that make you stand out from the crowd.
So don’t let people tell you who you are. You know who you are, and it’s okay to feel okay about that. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to feel weird. It’s okay to be silly or crazy or ridiculous. It’s okay to feel sad sometimes, even when there’s no reason. It’s okay if you don’t know how to fit in. The people who matter will love you anyway.
Because you deserve to be happy. Don’t let people make you feel like you don’t. Be kind to others, but just as importantly, be kind to yourself. Love yourself, even when it’s hard. Even when you’re not sure you deserve it. Because you do. I promise you that you do.
It’s International Day of the Girl, and I want you to know this: I love you. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to realize that.