I've read dozens of "open letters" to society, to CEOs, to exes, and more. But this is a closed letter, meant only for me. Well, me and all the women out there. Maybe it's an open letter, but I don't want it to be.
See, this letter is meant only for women. Yes, maybe men deserve their own "closed letter" too. But as I began writing this letter only to myself, I realized I wanted other women to hear this too.
You may be raising children on your own, or you may be wondering how you'll make that next payment. From the single woman to the mother of toddlers, this letter is for all who feel the pride and pain of womanhood:
Dear Me (and Women),
You woke up today, tired, messy, and not ready to look at yourself in the mirror. But you did anyway. You did your hair the way you wanted to, which just involved running a brush through it. You put on makeup, not because you were trying to impress anyone and not because you feel ugly without it, but because it wakes you up and gives you a little more confidence to face the day. You picked out something comfortable to wear, and you drove to work.
You pass by a mirror and wonder if you're thin enough. You wonder what other people think when they look at your body-her arms aren't skinny, but her legs are OK. She could lose 15 pounds and be stunning. That's what you think they're saying about you. But you remember that you love who you are, and no number on a shirt or a scale will change that.
You think back to your high school years and shudder at the thought of going back there. Girls were literal targets of bullying, gossip, and sex-crazed teenagers. If you wore shorts because you were finally confident with how you looked, everyone else would think you were dressing for the attention of men.
If you talked too much on a date, men backed away, wishing they had a smaller, quieter, prettier woman seated across from them.
Don't even get me started on dates.
You try your best to look good, but not to look like you were trying too hard. You wanted to be funny but not too flirty, because dozens of men think it's fine to "get to know you better" on a first date. You used to think that because they paid for everything, you owed them something. But you don't. You've given them your time, your energy, and your listening ear. You don't have to give them anything else. Saying "no" doesn't make you rude; it gives you a voice.
I wish you had found your voice sooner and had not been afraid of what people think. You, all of you, are beautiful. You are strong. It doesn't matter that even women disagree-some believe in being stay-at-home mothers forever, while others love to discuss gender issues and be in the office. We are different, and that should not divide us.
You can be a feminist, an environmentalist, a non-feminist-because-you-don't-believe-in-that-label, or anything else that ends in "ist." Or you could be something else: you could be a poet, a dancer, a photographer, a friend, a musician, an accountant, a doctor, a florist, a construction worker, a baker, or a person trying to discover who she is. Know this: you are who you say you are. Only you can define yourself.
I wish you had known that you are really beautiful, and not just because someone tells you that. You know there will always be someone more beautiful, someone who takes better photos, or someone who seems like she has it all together. But know that even she faces incredible pain.
Women experience pain, and it's not just because we're more emotional or because we give birth. Women experience pain because society has given pain to women, and has placed her in the kitchen with off-colored jokes and comments about the way she dresses.
Do what you love. Try something new. Take all those cliché sayings and really apply them into your life. Love the way you want to love, and be the woman you know you are. Don't look down on yourself or fish for compliments. Don't ever brush off a sincere compliment-it's unattractive to make others feel pity for you. Don't speak badly about men online; you'll come across as desperate and jaded. Don't speak badly about anyone online, or in real life-you can use your time to promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.
Be happy instead of hurt. Look at yourself in the mirror, tired and messy, and find what you love instead of what you despise. To myself, and to women everywhere, walk with confidence (not pride), and lift each other instead of pushing each other away.
Jenna Koford is on the content team at FamilyShare. She graduated with a degree in Communications—Journalism and a minor in editing. Jenna enjoys painting and calligraphy, planning a wedding, and Pinterest and Netflix.