I was three years old the first time I wondered why I couldn’t be like her. Pajama day at preschool, and my blonde, freckled innocence was contrasted by the notion that he had chosen her. The boy who had been sitting next to me during circle time was starry-eyed on the playground holding her hand. At three years old, I looked down at my Winnie the Pooh pajamas—my brand new pair, that I had been so proud to button up that morning—and wondered, if my pajamas were silky and pink like hers, maybe he would have picked me. I was three years old the first time I favoured self-imposed competition against another girl over my own self-worth; a feeling that myself, along with all other girls of my generation, are socialized to accept silently each and everyday.
Can you remember the last time you opened Instagram without a her? Skinnier. Prettier. Happier. Maybe if you buy that new mascara, that push-up bra advertised at the mall, those diet pills you saw online, tighter jeans, a shorter skirt, lash extensions, hair extensions, nail extensions—maybe then. But she is not real. She is imposed on you by a society that profits from your insecurity, a society that capitalizes on self-hatred. A society in which breaking free means to love yourself now. Not tomorrow when you buy that bra, or next month when you’ve gone to the gym, or next year when you have a boyfriend. Now.
We live in a society where girls who love themselves are vain, and sexual harassment is a compliment. You are taught to strive for sex appeal before you know what those words mean, and then called a slut behind your back for trying to fit in. In a world where headlines are comprised of celebrity weight gain, and the top ten newest products to fix your skin, how can we accept ourselves? How can we reclaim our own minds? The change begins when you choose to love yourself. When you choose to lift yourself up, and to rekindle the light inside you that was dimmed the first time you became enemies with your own body.
We raise our girls to hate the body that exists to protect them. To house souls that are so much more powerful than they are allowed to believe. From within, you radiates the energy of the sun and the strength of the moon, and you have learned to settle for pretty. Your vision has been clouded by the notion that you will never be good enough. But imagine the liberation of realizing that you already are. We have learned to confine ourselves to the shackles of “ladylike,” careful not to step on the feet of boys who believe that we exist at their disposal.
I read a quote recently that asked this: Would you treat your daughter the same way you treat yourself? Try to be kinder to yourself. Self-love is more than just a buzzword. It is the lifelong process of unlearning all the ways that women are told to look and act.