I was lucky enough to grow up in a household that refused to accept the absurdly commonplace notion that young girls are somehow less capable than young boys, with a mother who, having earned her PhD when I was five and my brother was three, continues to prove that you can be an excellent mom while still excelling in your career. However, despite the incredibly nurturing and loving environment in which I was raised, my middle school and early high school years were plagued by insecurities and a constant striving to achieve an unattainable feminine ideal I’d long been socialized to aspire to. The combined forces of hindsight and exposure to the tenets of feminism have allowed me to better pinpoint where exactly I went wrong during those formative years, while also inspiring me to do all I can to prevent other young women from making the same mistakes.
So, here are five things I wish I could tell my 13-year-old self, but will instead share with girls currently struggling to navigate a world that is less than kind to them:
Appreciate all your body does for you.
Everyone’s thighs get little dimples when they sit down. Your lower tummy *should* have a bit of extra fat — there are important organs underneath that need protecting. Acknowledge the fact that as soon as you come to terms with one insecurity, you invent another. The issue isn’t your physical appearance; it’s your mental state.
Do not allow the opinions of others to define you.
When a boy informs you that you look better with your hair down, don’t rush to the bathroom to undo your ponytail. Inform him that the prospect of being in his presence looks infinitely better when he isn’t offering unsolicited advice (or speaking at all, most likely).
Thank your parents.
Take the time to understand all the sacrifices your parents have made for you, and be more conscious of the way in which you treat them. Your problems become their problems, but they too have their own struggles and difficulties.
Start seeing a therapist sooner.
If there’s one thing I can tell you definitively, it’s that your mom is almost always right. So when she pleads with you to see a mental health professional, listen.
Remember that another woman’s success is not your failure.
We can all thrive. We can all be beautiful. We can all be intelligent and witty and engaging, but only if we support one another. Don’t let jealousy persuade you to be anything short of an absolute advocate for other women. You need other women, and other women need you.
Though girlhood might be tough, girls are magical.