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Letters to My Daughters: Less Than

To My Girls –

Now, you are four and eight and as brave and bold as the length of my reach will let you go.

You see yourselves as strong, courageous, beautiful and brilliant.

You wear what you want.

You say what you want.

You are who you want to be. Loudly or quietly, and without ever looking over your shoulder.

As I type this, you’re flitting back and forth together in this childhood haze of dress-up and imagination. If you stumble across your own reflection, in a shop window, in the side-view mirror on our car, in the warped and upside-down curve of your cereal spoon…you smile. You like what you see, however goofy, however silly, however your hair is mussed or your cheeks are smudged. You push your bellies out and wiggle side to side. You suck your cheeks in and make cross-eyed-kissing-faces at yourself and then burst into giggles.

Or you stand on the stool in the bathroom and lean in close enough to the medicine cabinet mirror, that your nose bumps. You see every tiny pore, every fleck of color in your iris, every ridge and bump on your big-girl teeth.

Nose to mirror.

You see you.

And you smile.

And it’s the most beautiful thing this heart of mine has ever seen.


You see, I am living in a tired and grown-up world where most everyone I know is on a diet, working out to lose pouches, or buying wrinkle creams, dying gray hairs, and almost always, looking at the people around them in stores, on the sidelines at soccer games, at parties, in restaurant booths or sweating in the gym. Who’s skinnier? Who’s prettier? Who’s younger (or just looks it?)

We’re all leaning into bathroom mirrors in early morning light and wondering if that fine line by our eye is a little less fine than it was the day before.

Or, otherwise, it’s deeper than skin and jean sizes. We are nose to the glass, wondering,  who’s more successful? Who has more money? More friends? More happiness? More creativity? More recognition?

Who is better?

Who has more value?

Girls, I need you to hear this now, and to remember it in your heart – no one is more valuable than you.

But, also, hear this – it’s not because you are the best or the most beautiful or the most brilliant.

I love you, fiercely and honestly, and so, I want you to hear this from me: you can’t always be the best. You won’t always be the most beautiful to every eye that sees you, and there will always be someone smarter, more successful or more driven.

Let them inspire you, not crush you.

And then look back in that mirror and remember that, even still, even when you feel less than –  no one is more valuable than you, because you’re the only you that has ever been, that will ever be. No one can offer exactly what you can offer.

You will have pretty friends. You will have smart friends. You will have friends who share your talents, who maybe even succeed beyond you at those talents. You will have people in your life that could make you feel less than, if you choose to let yourself feel that way. But, I hope that you can always embrace and marvel in the wonder that you are.

Another person’s success doesn’t diminish your potential.

Another person’s beauty doesn’t render you ugly.

Sulking over what makes everyone else so wonderful only wastes precious energy. You can’t ever be anything other than the person that you are…but you can lose out on personal satisfaction and happiness by trying.

So, my dear girls, my hope for you both is that you don’t squander this precious life, worrying over things that you need not worry over, or wanting to be things you need not be.

Or, worse yet, I hope that you don’t ever so get lost in feeling less than, that you deprive the world of your own brand of marvelous.

Because, from where I’m sitting, watching you embrace your silly-messy-beautiful-fantastic, dance-like-no-one-is-watching, big-grin-with-buck-teeth-and-don’t-care, selves, the view is nothing short of inspirational.

I think I see what you see.

And. it. is. perfect.


  1. Kathy Bailey

    Nice one, Melanie, and I wish someone had said this to me when I was four and eight. Or that I’d listened.

    • I think I was a little older, maybe twelve or thirteen, but I did have a similar conversation with my dad, actually. And to this day, I go back to it and am reminded of the truth of the matter.

      It’s a good thing to remember.

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