I absolutely adore my niece, Mia. At 3 years-old, she’s already cracking me up and I just can’t wait to meet the hilarious adult who she is bound to become. I’m excited to hear her do bits and watch her make her brother and cousins laugh. The anticipation of how her intelligence will interact with her aptitude for humor is killing me because I just know it’s going to be so perfect. She is the kind of little girl who will meet the needs of the world just by walking out of her front door.
I think about adult Mia all the time. But then I get these pangs in my heart because I know what her future looks like and I end up wanting her to stay little forever. I don’t want her heart to be touched by the darkness that this world brings. I don’t want her spirit to be crushed by the weight of envy, either her own or some one else’s. I don’t want her voice silenced by the loudness of ignorance.
I don’t want her to end up like me. Or my friends. Or any other woman who has ever believed the lies that she has heard about herself. I want more for her! For her, I want the biggest challenge to be how to cure cancer or end world hunger, not how to make her voice heard just because of her gender.
When I think about all of the terrible things I say about myself, it destroys me to imagine that child, so full of adventure and bravery and inspiration, saying those things about herself. She’ll trade her dreams for schoolhouse drama, her confidence for a seat with the cool girls, and her wide-eyed wonder for some guy who has no idea what she was worth.
Unless we break the cycle.
The words that we use? The words that we hear? These are the words that will eventually affect her. The best way for us to raise good women is to be good women. It’s not too late for us! It’s never too late to be good to ourselves and to each other. It’s a matter of choosing honest, kind, gracious words over the ones that we’ve heard our entire lives. We can choose good men to share ourselves with. We can call those around us to live to a higher standard of loving others. We can remember that every one of us was once a child, untainted by the ugliness of the world, and we can call back to that innocence, both in ourselves and each other, through the simple act of choosing a kind word over a hateful one.
I refuse to believe that I have been permanently wrecked. I don’t have to believe that I am worthless. I don’t have to believe that I am dumb. I don’t have to believe that I am incapable.
I know different; I know the truth. I know that I am brave and good and intelligent and able and strong and beautiful. Anyone who says different is blind and is some one who probably needs more love than even I do. Today, I choose to break the cycle because my Mia, and every little girl just like her, will not grow up as a second-class citizen. Our mothers built a world for us to be better, just like theirs built one for them, and now it is our turn to pay it forward.
My Mia will grow to tell jokes and solve problems and be the kind of friend that everyone needs. She will know how to love herself and she’ll know how because we showed her. She’ll know how to better herself, how to admit to flaws, how to come to terms with failure, and how to succeed with grace. She will know all of these things tomorrow because you and I are going to learn them today.
We may never change the whole world but we will certainly change the one around us. I don’t need the lies that I’m told to be quieted; I need the truth about myself to be louder, even if I’m the only one hearing it. I don’t need Mia to be shielded from the ugliness; I need Mia to know that she is strong enough to overcome.
So, right here and right now, you and I are going to break the cycle.
Ready? Set? GO.