For My Daughter
by Reverend Teri Daily
Dear Women and Daughters: When You're Tired of Media Voices Telling You What Beauty and Love Is
"The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.
Also by Teri Daily
Pentecost as Dreams that Linger in the Air GO
Forever Incomplete: Alanis Morissette, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Bats of Austin, Texas GO
The Downward Mobility of God: A Homily for Holy Week GO
Mothers of God GO
What I Learn from Process Theology GO
Embracing Tensions: Relational Power and the Cruciform Life GO
So You Want to be a Doctor: Appreciating a Medical School in India GO
Beyond Theatricality and Open to Novelty GO
The Space to See Things Differently GO
The Space within the Trinity: All Beings Included GO
Bearing Witness to Broken Bodies GO
A New System for Healthcare in America GO
Angels Everywhere: Revelation's Image of the New Jerusalem GO
Love's Oblivion: Mary Anoints Jesus' Feet GO
Holding a Broken Heart GO
May I Try That One Again? The Grace of a Million Second Chances GO
Love Made Gritty GO
Fear of Missing Out: Thinking about the God-Shaped Hole GO
These Kids are Gorgeous GO
Beyond Catfights: A Feminist Critique of the Mary/Martha Story GO
All the Saints: They See The World Just as It Is GO
The Unquenchable Fire GO
The Gentlest of Judges: God's Critique of Perfectionism and Purity GO
The Grace of Being Known: The Woman at the Well GO
Anchoring the Quest for Justice: Learning from Leviticus GO
Grace that Both Disturbs and Delights: Dinner with a Rabbi GO
For My Daughter: On Getting Rid of Media Voices and Putting on a Leopard-patterned Hat
Images of beauty, love, and success surround us. Not just in check-out lines but also in movies, on billboards, and in the words of those around us. Expectations rest on our shoulders as judgments that are ultimately internalized--and I mean deeply internalized. Despite being a physician, wife, priest, mother, and fairly independent woman, somewhere deep inside me remains a child who knows she is the less attractive of two sisters. It is an identity that surfaces when I walk into a room of beautiful people, when I am out with a friend and catch a glimpse of the two of us in a mirror, or when I notice a new wrinkle around my eyes. This child within whispers for me to stand against the wall so that I’ll be inconspicuous, or for me to work hard so that I’ll be worthy of love. Sometimes she says quite simply that I am not enough.
Maybe we all have such a child deep inside, her or his exact identity dependent upon our own particular story. I think Ann Voskamp’s piece is so powerful precisely because it speaks to this part of us that feels insecure, unworthy, and fearful of not being loved. The part that shrinks under the gaze of the figures on glossy magazine covers--the flawless beauty, the bride wearing a $15,000 Pnina Tornai gown, the woman who has a brief case beside her and is holding twin infants, a carefree and beautiful couple enjoying an exotic, romantic getaway. Their eyes issue impossible challenges that land heavily in our heart and mind as testimonies to our own inadequacy.
As I read Ann’s blog, I found myself asking these questions: What do I wish someone had said to me early on about real beauty, love, romance, and success? What do I want to say to my own daughter about these things? Here’s my answer.
1) You are loved--deeply, unconditionally, just as you are.
2) The adjectives “sweet” and “kind” are not synonyms. Be kind. This is an especially important distinction for those of us who live in the southern United States.
3) Life presents us with so many wonderful options, and you will feel pressure to be and do everything all at once. Remember that life unfolds over time, and that it’s impossible to live a whole lifetime in any given moment. Each thing has its season.
4) Life is short. No matter how many years a person lives on this earth, she can’t do everything. Don’t let this fact steal your joy. Trust that there’s an infinite generosity in God. Trust that whatever path we choose, that path will become the means through which God will bless us. Trust that all possibilities, those chosen and those not chosen, are ultimately taken up into God, woven into God’s own life.
5) When you catch yourself trying to earn friendship, love, or merely the right to exist, STOP. This is always a response to the great lie that you are not enough. Remember that, in the words of Brené Brown, worthiness has no prerequisites.
6) Don’t take yourself too seriously. Wear green eye shadow, dance while you cook, laugh until you cry, climb trees as an adult, always take time to see things through the eyes of a child, wear leopard-patterned hats. Remember that play is a way of praising God.
7) As Ann Voskamp writes, Romance is a long sacrifice. Love isn’t a 100 meter dash; it’s a marathon. Real love happens in the midst of ordinary life—showing compassion when one of you is anxious about your job, taking out an overflowing trashcan, emptying the ice tray because although you don’t use ice your spouse does, having the humility to hear the other person’s point of view. Loving someone with consistency, purpose, and devotion, the way that God loves, will change who you are—it will make you more holy, slowing shaping you into the person that God created you to be. It will be hard work; it will take time; and it will be a blessing beyond all your imaginings.
8) You can’t own love; you can only participate in that great Love from which all love flows.
9) Sexiness is about so much more than shape, size, or other facets of appearance. Sexiness is the smell of bleach on your spouse’s hands and clean bathrooms when you come home late from work. It is hearing your partner read Dr. Seuss books while your two year old laughs hysterically, a corny country song written just for you, romantic haikus on Valentine’s Day, and eyes that convey respect, trust, and love. It is authenticity, attention to the moment, and sacrifice. The sharing of bodies arises from the sharing of lives.
10) Beauty lies at the core of your being, deeper than any wrong you can do or any pain you can suffer. It is the image of God within you. Live from that beauty and that truth.
11) Some things you have to learn for yourself, and learn more than once. Examples, how-to lists, and even first pass-throughs can’t teach us all we need to know. That doesn’t, however, mean you have to do everything by yourself or take risks all alone. Let others walk with you.
12) You are loved--deeply, unconditionally, just as you are.