1. To give it the fuel it needs, not just because society tells her she needs to shovel down greens that have the texture of sadness to stay trendy or thin, but because all those nutrients help her body regenerate and grow from the inside out.
2. But also, to have something delicious because she can — and not berate herself, justify her choices, or even call it “an indulgence” afterward. Dessert, donuts, and that extra-fatty cut of steak are nothing more than delicious. That is all they need to be.
3. To not be afraid of cellulite. Almost everyone has some, and it shouldn’t be feared like the second coming of Freddy Kreuger.
4. To only wear clothes that don’t just flatter her body in any societal definitions of what “flattering” means, but make her feel like her true self is being expressed as she wants to express it.
5. To stop defining her body as a type. Your body is not a piece of fruit, nor is it a geometric shape. It is a body. That is the type of body it is. Define it as the nearly-perfect, self-sustaining creation it is.
6. To ask for what she wants in bed — anything from a condom, to how she wants someone to touch her, to saying “no, actually, not tonight” — and choose to be with the kind of people with whom those desires will be respected.
7. To remember that anyone who sees her body naked is lucky, and she is not to beat herself up mentally, either in that moment or later. I can almost guarantee you that the person who deserves to see your naked form (let alone touch it or get close to it) does not care about that one freckle or those five-or-so pounds that only seem insurmountably obvious to you.
8. To try to navigate the fine line that is being happy with the way she looks, but not feeling guilty if she doesn’t want to be complacent. It seems contradictory, I know, but with so much focus on finding beauty in everyone (which is great) it’s important to not take it as a free pass to be unhealthy. It’s not about a certain size or having certain curves or leading a certain lifestyle, it’s about doing what’s right for your body and taking care of it.
9. To move it in the way she wants to – not because her best friend bullies her into a certain class or workout, or because she feels the need to punish herself for something she ate (she doesn’t) but because it helps clear her mind, wakes her up, helps her let go of stress, or she just likes doing it. (Ideally, it’s all of these things and more.)
10. To dance — which might also be the way she wants to move it – but also because she hears music, and doesn’t care about dancing badly or being off rhythm. That she dances in her underwear in the morning if she wants to, that she dances to the one song nobody else wants to admit they like, that she is the first one on the dance floor, that she dances in the rain and when there’s no music at all, but that’s the only way she can express herself in that one moment.
11. To wear heels if she wants to wear heels. To wear flats if she wants to wear flats. To wear sneakers or sandals or wedges or $10 shoes or $700 shoes if she feels so inclined, and to stop justifying what or why she’s putting such and such a thing on her foot.
12. To jump off cliffs into the ocean water below, to pose for the leaping photos in fields, to cartwheel in the park – even (and maybe even especially) if it’s a bad cartwheel — to skip down the sidewalk if she wants to, no matter who is looking. You deserve to express your joy, and your body is often the best tool with which you can.
13. To use her arms to give as many hugs — good, real, genuine hugs — as she can and wants to.
14. To raise her hand whenever she has a thought she believes wholeheartedly in and wants to express.
15. To keep routine doctor’s appointments, and to find a doctor whom she trusts, but who also respects that she has the right to seek a second opinion just in case.
16. To keep a friend, a family member, or a therapist’s number close at hand for those moments when she feels like she’s going to have a breakdown. Sometimes, all you need to turn that breakdown into a breakthrough is someone to talk it out with you — even if all they wind up doing is listening. Your mental health is a part of your body, too, and needs as much TLC as anything else.
17. To decide if she wants to shave or not shave any part of her body she pleases. The human body has hair for a reason, and though clothes help a lot in terms of warmth and coverage, there’s nothing wrong in wherever grooming lands on your own scale of priorities.
18. To get a massage every once in a while if something feels off, and not view it as an extravagance but rather something that is necessary for all the creaks that come along with just moving through this world. (At the very least, keep a friend around for this, and trade off when their back feels creaky and stagnant.)
19. To know her limit for anything — alcohol, caffeine, hours spent working or without sleep — and to do what she needs to do to keep that equilibrium in check. Peer pressure, work pressure, and societal expectations don’t need to be met if they’re counterintuitive to what you need right here in this moment.
20. To stop putting so much pressure on a season as arbitrary as the “bikini” one. It comes right after Girl Scout cookie season for a reason — and that reason is because you can live your life, eat a sleeve of cookies, and refuse to let a few inches of fabric dictate your entire sense of self-esteem.
21. To always apply sunscreen.
22. To never apologize or allow herself to feel judged for tattoos, piercings, haircuts, makeup… whatever it is that expresses her individuality, even if the reasoning behind the move is as simple as “I just wanted it.”
23. To listen to one of the greatest gauges we’re given in terms of assessing a situation — her gut reaction.
24. To have as many or as few children as she wants, at whatever age she wants to have them — and to pay attention in school and really learn about the ins and outs of her own body and its amazing functions, so that when she comes to the point in her life when she decides which road she wants to take, she can make an informed decision.
25. To find a scent that helps her feel like someone bottled up her essence and put the key to that in her hand – whether that smell is organic deodorant or a really luxe perfume, or anything in between.
26. To make time for even a few minutes a day to: stretch, breathe, decompress, and meditate on her day, her mood, and her life.
27. To use her body as a vehicle to see as much of the world as she can and wants to – and to make memories there, save photographs, and tell stories to friends and family years down the line, about what she saw and who she met and all the ways she fell in love with all the corners of the world.
28. To refuse to let a word — any word — affix itself to her self esteem in any way that does not feel natural and celebratory of who she truly is (and to not accept anyone else’s definition of her as a sentence.)
29. To stop looking for validation or cues in the pages of magazines, or on movie or television screens. Real life exists outside the confines of photoshop and makeup crews, and though the women you find there are not any less women for the work their job entails, it does not make you any more or less a woman if you choose to emulate them or not.
30. To listen to minor aches and pains, and take preventative measures rather than putting them off, if she can.
31. To express herself in whatever feels the most right for her in that moment, on whatever spectrum — be it sexuality, gender, pleasure, anything — that she chooses to act on and identify with, and within the whole spectrum of how she expresses it.
32.To seek out a connection with someone every single day, whether that is physical, emotional, or mental — they all tie into the experience that reminds you that you are where you need to be at this moment in time.
33. To eat cake for breakfast once in a while, because she can. (And because today is a pretty great day to celebrate being alive.)
34. To keep a pair of sweatpants around for the day her body just needs to pause and do absolutely nothing.
35. To get her bra size professionally fitted, because it’s the little things like those that help make a world of difference.
36. To not let anyone else pressure her into however she defines improving her body, and to understand that while some routes really do improve one’s quality of life, there is a lot of internal work that needs to be done on your own, and consider both things before signing up for a quick fix. (And then doing the actual work if she decides that is, in fact, what she wants.)
37. To understand that she was given a mouth near her brain (and vice versa) and that those two instruments can work in tandem to change the world for the better.
38. To always get that body out of situations that feel unsafe or scary, by any means she possibly can — and to use whatever is in her arsenal to pay it forward so that no other body ever feels in danger, either.
39. To never let constructs impede what she wants to do with her life. While you’ll invariably regret a choice or two in your however many years, you can still opt to be proud of the fact that you made that decision for yourself, and formulate your own self-esteem and confidence (which are always attractive attributes) off of that.
40. To remember her heart is a muscle, too, and the best way to exercise is to love until it is fit to burst.