Dear pretty girl. A letter about body image & Eloise.

Dear pretty girl,

    Yes. You. The one looking around wondering if I’m actually talking to someone else. No sweet one, I’m talking to you. I want to talk to you about your body for a few minutes, if you’ll let me. I want to tell you that your body is really nice. I know that might be strange to hear, and maybe your impulse is to shake your head and reject what I’m saying but please, pretty girl, just listen. 

    I have a daughter now. Her name is Eloise Marie and she is almost 5 months old. I have nursed her sweet body 3 times this morning and each time our tender interactions have reminded me how precious the human body really is. Eloise is a little squishy baby. She doesn’t laugh or talk yet, but her squeaks and her smiles make my heart light up in a way that I never knew possible. I treasure her form. I delight in her little legs, and pudgy thighs, I love her sweet tummy and the way she manages to collect fuzz in her neck rolls, and arm crevices and between her tiny toes. I smother her in kisses by the hour. I mean it, full-on smothering. Usually she starts off liking my kisses but by the time it gets to the point where I’m on the verge of eating her face then she lets out a little whimper and I know she needs some space. So I pull back, for a few minutes, until I’m overtaken by love again and begin the whole process over again. 

    Eloise has a body that I am dangerously close to being obsessed with. Her body is everything I could ever want it to be, it is perfect for snuggling and dancing and rolling around on the carpet. I don’t know if there is a standard for how baby bodies should look but to be honest with you, if I found out today that someone thought my baby’s body was not as beautiful as a baby in a magazine, you know what I would feel? Nothing. I couldn’t care less. My dream is for Eloise to have a healthy body that enables her to live life with us. That’s enough. 

    One day, pretty girl, Eloise will be your age and I know she’ll start to do what you’ve been doing. She’ll begin looking around at other girls, comparing herself to the faces and figures she sees, wondering if her body has somehow failed her by being too big or too tall or too small or too ... anything. My heart aches thinking about it. But when that day arrives I am going to tell Eloise what I am about to tell you now. And pretty girl, please listen. Because Eloise is going to listen to me, but she is also going to look to you, as a woman and a friend who has gone before her. She is going to quietly observe the way you treat yourself, and she is going to consider whether or not she should follow your example. Please pretty girl, be a good example.

    So here is what I want you to know pretty girl. Your body is a nice one. A beautiful one. Your body was carefully crafted by the hands of a loving God with such intricate care you can't even begin to comprehend the amount of love and creativity that went into forming you. Your legs, your eyes, your tummy, your smile, all of it together carries a beauty that is beyond anything you’ll see in a photoshopped and filtered magazine ad. Don’t get distracted sweet one. The goal of life isn’t to be skinny and food isn’t the enemy. Food gives us strength and nourishes our minds. Food will also help you to be a good friend. Hungry friends are moody. Nobody wants a moody friend. Don’t fear dessert. Dessert is meant to be enjoyed with people you love in times of celebration. Celebrating is healthy, so dessert, pretty girl, is also healthy in the proper time and place. Don’t skip meals, make sure you eat breakfast and don’t forget your fruits and veggies. You need the vitamins they provide. Exercise most days but don’t overdo it, rest is important too. Your body isn’t simply an object to be judged as beautiful or ugly, your body is so much more than that. Your body is a vessel and if you use it the way it was designed to be used you’ll invite beauty everywhere you go. It won’t matter how old you are or how you compare to the girls in the Express ads, beauty will overwhelm your life, because true beauty reflects God, the Author of beauty. 

    Pretty girl, I know you want to be beautiful. I want to be beautiful too. But beauty isn’t the number on your scale or the size of your clothing. Beauty is something that lives. It is the joy that happens when you spend time laughing with friends and the comfort you bring when you listen to someone in need. Beauty happens when you are generous and kind, considering the people around you as better than yourself. Makeup and fashion are fun but letting your outward appearance consume you is not beautiful, it might make you look nice in a photograph, but photographs aren’t what life is about. If you want to be beautiful, which is ironic pretty girl because I’m the one looking at you and your beauty is blatantly obvious to me, but for your sake I'll say this - if you want to be beautiful sweet one then learn to love who you are. Nourish your body tenderly so that you have the strength to tenderly nourish the world around you. Call out the beauty in others. Reject comparison and the temptation to compete and become a person who celebrates goodness everywhere you go. 

    And when it gets hard pretty girl, and when you feel like you just can’t overcome these thoughts of self-hatred, please will you think of Eloise? Remember that in just a few short years she is going to experience the same kinds struggles you are experiencing now and she’ll need your help. Please pretty girl, embrace the perfection that your body is, and by doing that, please help me to teach precious Eloise that her body is beautiful too. 

Love you my friend. I'm praying for you.

Jess