To my girl when you look in the mirror,

At two years old, you looked in the mirror full of smiles as you put on blush just like mommy. Today, the mirror was a reflection of happiness and a reflection of how beautiful we both know you to be.

As you grow up, the mirror is going to warp into a funhouse of images and unkind words that are not your own.

The internet and television will make you compare yourself to the women you see. Airbrush and filters and their impossible standards will cause you to question why you can’t look like that in real life. Other girls and even boys will say things about your face or your body that will make you feel ugly and unworthy.

I know those days are coming for you just as they came for me. As much as I will tell you those things are not true, I know a mother’s words are just a whisper among the noise. 

It breaks my heart. But I will whisper and shout all the same.

I see how beautiful you are and that you are more than what you see in the mirror.

You are always worthy, even when you think otherwise.

I see eyes that sparkle with possibility, soaking in the world around you. Eyes that light up, not needing mascara or eye shadow to be considered wonderful. Some day, your eyes will carry bags underneath from years of worry and sleepless nights. Some day, your eyes will have wrinkles from days spent in the sun. But bags and wrinkles will not make you any less beautiful. They will simply show a life of memories and days conquered, both happy and sad.

I see hair that blows in the wind when you run—and a girl who doesn’t care if that hair has fallen flat or frizzy. One day you’ll worry about hair that gets sweaty or hair that falls out of its ponytail. Even if your hair all falls out, it doesn’t detract from the beauty of your heart. I hope you can pull your hair up, wipe sweat from your brow, and get to work for yourself doing something you love. Your actions are far more important than having every hair in place. 

I see a mouth that turns up in laughter and smiles all day, bringing joy to those around you. More than having the brightest smile with perfect teeth, I hope your mouth bring kind words and encouragement to others, building them up. I hope truth and love flow from your tongue instead of gossip and cruelty. A mouth overflowing with sweetness, my dear girl, is much more bright and beautiful.

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I see a tummy that jiggles when you laugh heartily—and a girl who doesn’t care to be bare at the pool or how many calories are in chocolate chip cookies. One day, sweet girl, you likely will pull and prod at that belly, hating your body. You’ll stand on a scale and cry at the number you see, wishing you could be less. But the number on the scale or the size of your jeans won’t show you or anyone else how hard you work, how much you know, or how capable you are. 

I see arms that wrap around others in tight bear hugs. You’re a girl who opens herself up to others and welcomes them into her circle of friendship and play. One day, you might worry about how your arms look in tank tops and you might hide behind sleeves. At a glance, no one will see the shoulder you lend to friends in need or the help your hands lend. The service of your arms is more powerful than how defined your biceps or triceps are.

I see legs that run and jump and play—and a girl who doesn’t care how toned or how fast they are. One day, you might worry about how your legs look in skirts or worry about how much space your thighs take up. But, my dear girl, I hope your legs stand for truth and justice and for those who can’t stand for themselves. I hope your legs run to those in need and carry you beside others working toward a greater purpose.

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There is nothing wrong with wearing makeup and playing dress-up. There is nothing wrong with wanting to play with your appearance and wanting to feel and look your best. But my sweet daughter, your absolute best comes from your soul whether you wear sweat pants or designer labels. Whether you haven’t washed your hair in days or just came from a salon, whether you are bare-faced or made up, you are wonderfully made just as you are.

You won’t always see that in the mirror.

But your mama will, and I will always be there to tell you in case you forget.

Tiffany Reiger

T.S. Reiger is a former teacher with a PhD who is now a stay at home mom to her children and German Shepherd.