Monday, May 31, 2010

To My Someday Daughters

(Daughters, granddaughters, daughters-in-law, and all female descendants thereof)

Be kind to yourselves. Do not allow your thoughts to dwell in paths that degrade or diminish who you are.

Take time for yourselves. When life gets too busy, leave something behind. Invest in yourself by learning something new or creating something beautiful.

Your body is not a mannequin. It was not created for drapings and fashion shows, it was created with a much greater purpose than this! You may do amazing things with it! Learn to love how it moves, no matter what your limitations may be, and do not allow self hate to creep in when pounds settle in uncomfortable areas. Love those pounds instead, every inch of them, and with time and exercise, you will find a happy place, but you must first love who you are now. Learn to love how it feels when you exercise your muscles, or build something, or lift something. This is your miraculous, lovely body, and it is your friend, not your enemy to be beaten into submission. Love every ounce of it, care for it, and it will care for you.

Never compare your shape to someone else's body! Each flower is beautiful in its own way, but built very different! Some of us have bigger hips or chests or ankles or chins or shoulders or bellies! Jesus Christ was described as being in the image of God, in his likeness, and he was not described being physically attractive. Still, the media places so much emphasis on our appearance that you may forget that this really is the least of things. You should take good care of yourself and be healthy, but do not try to wish yourself into some cookie-cutter physical build and weight.

Be strong. Not the cruel, unfeeling, brutal kind of strong that others may tell you that you must be in order to be successful, but reach deep and don't be afraid of challenges, even when they may seem impossible. Perhaps they are impossible on your own, but you aren't in this alone. You have God and others around you to help you. You don't have to do it by yourself.

You will be hurt and betrayed sometimes. You must learn that even your closest friends or family members may unwittingly crush your very heart, and you must try to forgive. Not for their sake so much as your own. A bitter heart is poison to the holder of that heart, and to no one else. While you may not need to continue to allow yourself to be hurt, you must let it go as soon as you are able.

Choose a variety of friends, and be wise about confiding information. You may have a hundred friends without ever sharing a single intimate detail. There are so many things to talk about in this world, that you never need to speak ill of another person. Gossip destroys trust between those who gossip. Find positive things to speak about, and do your best to never say anything about someone that you would not say directly to that person's face.

If someone is willing to gossip with you about another person, remember that it will be much easier for them to gossip about you to someone else. Change the conversation and be positive with them, and do not encourage them to say unkind or critical things about others. That being said, we do occasionally need a sounding board to work through difficult problems. Remove names or alluding to specific individuals as much as possible and skew the situation so that trust is maintained. When discussing specific details about individuals, ask yourself, is the person with whom I am speaking able to help with this situation? For example, if your mom told you that you are the favorite child, it will not help anyone to tell your siblings what she said, instead it will hurt everyone. Don't disclose unnecessary information that has no purpose other than some interesting subject to chatter over. Also consider your trust level with that individual. If this is someone who later betrays your trust, you will want to adjust your trust level, which may be different among different friends. You may have one friend that you have lunch with every few weeks, and another friend that you swap recipes with, and another friend that you set weight loss goals with. They don't all need to know every detail of your life, and you may want to center your conversations on things that you have in common.

Be confidential. Confidentiality is one of the most rare commodities available in the world. You will be a rare person indeed if you can keep confidences. If someone chooses to share information with you, don't share it with anyone else, even if it seems like harmless information. Also, don't judge them for what they share. In the rare case that they are sharing something that you feel you must disclose to someone else, such as the law, stop them and explain to them that if they share certain details with you (for example, about a child being abused) that you feel morally obliged to report this thing to the police or to a legal authority. Don't sugar coat what they should do. If a husband is being abusive, encourage and support the woman to report it or to discuss it with someone who may help. If the information being shared with you is gossip or backbiting, don't repeat it, but rather say something nice about the person under attack to change the mood of the conversation.

Some things stay within a family. A spouse telling friends or other family about arguments, or siblings telling friends that a brother still wets the bed betrays trust in a family setting. Ask the family member if they are okay with you sharing specific details about them to others, and if they are not, then keep their confidences. This includes gossiping about your children to friends. The child needs to feel safe while they learn and grow.

If you are angry at a family member, tell your woes to the person who may do something about it, rather than someone who later may continue to hold bad feelings about that family member long after you have forgiven them. This includes discussing details of petty spousal fights with your parents and friends. Of course, if a family member is planning to do something that will hurt themselves or others, seek out a trusted person who has the power to help.

Build bridges rather than burn them. Seek opportunities to repair damaged relationships, whether at work, school, church, or elsewhere. Speak with others when they have hurt you or when you have hurt them rather than letting feelings fester. Try to leave relationships in the best possible condition because you never know when your paths will cross again. We are, after all, all daughters and sons of God and should treat each other with kindness. If someone has been emotionally or physically abusive to you, do your very best to forgive so that you may move forward. Kindness does not mean that you continue to allow them to hurt you or have control over you, and in many situations, this means eliminating or minimizing contact with that person when possible.

Smile and be happy! Find beauty in the worst of situations, and let trials carve out more space in your heart for joyful fountains that will fill it again! Sometimes it seems as if you won't make it through, but seek for the lessons you may learn, even if you feel this trial is unjust and unfair. This can be especially difficult when someone else is the cause of your trial.

You can only change you. Don't marry a man thinking that you can change him, and remember that this applies to family members, friends, and work colleagues. Your greatest power is within, and perhaps that means that you may learn some new skill that will help you adapt to a difficult situation. Look for the things that are going right, and dwell on the positive as much as possible. In marriage, when you have the right person, sometimes the ride is bumpy. Beware that you do not fall into a pit of criticism and discontentment. If you find yourself there, start looking at what he is doing right, and tell him!

We all have ups and downs, and we all respond so much better to positivity and kindness. Sometimes this means holding your tongue about the fact that he leaves his socks in the same place every night, and telling him how much you appreciate that he comes home to you each night. With time, as you build a positive communication, opportunities may arise to discuss serious concerns, but petty ones may drive unnecessary wedges in your relationship. Also, marry someone who you may be honest with. If he angry easily or gets his feelings hurt too often, this may be a red flag to avoid marrying him in the first place. Create an environment where honesty may help each of you become your best selves.

Don't doubt yourself. If someone else has achieved it, you can too! If someone else has NOT achieved it, it doesn't mean you shouldn't try! You may be laying the foundation for someone else to succeed!

Never, ever, ever, think that motherhood is below you. It is the greatest accomplishment of all, and there is nothing more worthy of your time. You may do many wonderful things in this life, but nothing will exceed that one thing, and don't let anyone tell you or make you feel otherwise. This from someone who has already accomplished many things in my life but who has not yet accomplished the greatest of all.

Do not relish in other's flaws. Smile at all women, we don't do it enough. We aren't competing with each other, but should lift and help each other the best we are able. Smile and you are the most beautiful person in the world to the person whose heart is aching. Lift others and you can't help but be lifted as well.

Each day find something beautiful about yourself and write it down. Write down how you were kind to someone, or were extra patient, or how you didn't yell as loud as usual when something bad happen, or how you let someone pull out in front of you while driving, or how you complimented someone else sincerely. Like yourself and love yourself and soon you will have an overflowing well of love to offer others, no matter your situation.

Let yourself feel difficult feelings. It's okay to feel unhappy or uncertain, pain or fear, sorrow or betrayal. Unless you allow yourself to feel these things, it will be hard to resolve it. Feel it, and then try to determine what is causing that feeling. Determine if there is anything you may do or someone you may talk to about that feeling to help find a solution.

Finally, remember that people are most important. Things will always get broken or lost, clothing will get ruined, but there is no price on a person. I have watched families fall apart and stop speaking over land, or even something as small as a photograph. Remembering this will help you prioritize and check your feelings when a difficult choice comes up. I have never regretted spending less time on a school or work project, and more time with family or a friend in need. Somehow the Lord helps make up the difference. I don't know how, but he does. Remember that he loves everyone, even the unlovable, and he doesn't love us for what we DO. He loves us for who we are.

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