For my daughters…

Dear Rudy and Lucy,

You are babies now. You don’t know how to read, but that’s okay.  I don’t want you to read this now anyway. Now, Rudy, you delight in your ability to run, jump and roll. And you, Lucy, are fascinated by the simple existence of your hands and feet. So this won’t make sense to you until you’re at least 10 or 11 years old, hopefully older. You won’t understand this until you look in the mirror and all you see is wrong. I will show this to you then, and I will hope that you will memorize these words and write them on your hearts.

The world is wrong. You are beautiful.

Please know that when I see you I see nothing but beauty. You are perfect and I am constantly amazed that such perfection once grew inside of me. Nothing about you is accidental. God doesn’t make mistakes. You will be who you were meant to be.  You should know that real beauty is multi-faceted and for beauty to exist it must vary. A single rose is not stunning when it is in a bouquet of identical blooms. If everyone had the ideal face and body, ideal would become average. We are all exceptional only in our differences.

I don’t yet know what you will look like as women, but I suspect you will grow to have the same broad shoulders, strong arms, thick legs and wide hips I have. The signs are there already. The world will tell you to hate these things, that they don’t meet the so-called ideal, but I hope that you will enjoy their strength. Where other girls will whimper and have to rest, your muscled legs will carry you with ease. When other girls will quit and lay their burdens down from exhaustion, you will be able to hoist yours — and theirs — back up, and keep on moving. You will be survivors. True, your hips may never look as the fashion designers intended in some styles of jeans, but those hips will guarantee that no one ever sees you from behind and mistakes you for a boy. And one day, when you become a mother, a midwife and your husband may look on you and on those hips and marvel at how perfectly your body has performed that most primal of tasks — just as mine did when each of you joined our family.

The world will tell you that beauty is narrow. I tell you that it is as wide as the ocean and, used wisely, has just as much power and potential.

Form follows function. Remember that. Your body is only as beautiful as it is functional. There is nothing pretty about incompetence. For every so-called flaw, there is also a purpose. Those strong legs, arms and shoulders will serve you well in most any sport. You will be able to shoot, spike, stroke and swing with an ease many women — and some men — will covet. Others may run faster, jump higher and tumble through the air effortlessly. Still others will sashay on display, dance with abandon and sail over hurdles. No one needs to be good at everything — but everyone can be great at something. That is the real trick of life: to find the thing you are great at and put your energies there.

Olympic athletes rarely look like fashion models, and fashion models rarely look like Olympic athletes. Their bodies were made for different things. None has a ‘better’ or a ‘worse’ body; they are simpy suited for separate purposes. All are only as beautiful as the strength of the personalities that carry them. If something about yourself fails to meet a certain standard, you should first reassess the standard to make sure it applies. There may be times when you need to work on yourself, but other times it may simply be that you are applying the wrong standard.

The world is harsh — so be gentle. Be your own port in the storm. Surround yourself only with people who love you. Criticize yourself only when doing so will lead to refinement. There is nothing wrong with being scrutinized or coached, in fact, such judgment is essential for growth. But listen to harsh words only when they come from people who want to make you — Better. Stronger. Faster. More resilient. More beautiful.

More — You.