Where are you the most beautiful?

Artwork: Laxmi Hussain (details below)

Dear Little One,

As I write this, I’m sitting in the makeup aisle of our local Target store. A friend recently texted me from a different makeup aisle and told me it felt like one of the most oppressive places in the world. I wanted to find out what he meant. And now that I’m sitting here, I’m beginning to agree with him. Words have power, and the words on display in this aisle have a deep power. Words and phrases like:

Affordably gorgeous,

Infallible,

Flawless finish,

Brilliant strength,

Liquid power,

Go nude,

Age defying,

Instant age rewind,

Choose your dream,

Nearly naked, and

Natural beauty.

When you have a daughter you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house—a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence.

But words do have power and maybe, just maybe, the words of a father can begin to compete with the words of the world. Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame and into a deep, unshakeable sense of her own worthiness and beauty.

A father’s words aren’t different words, but they are words with a radically different meaning:

Brilliant strength. May your strength be not in your fingernails but in your heart. May you discern in your center who you are, and then may you fearfully but tenaciously live it out in the world.

Choose your dream. But not from a department store shelf. Find the still-quiet place within you. A real dream has been planted there. Discover what you want to do in the world. And when you have chosen, may you faithfully pursue it, with integrity and with hope.

Naked. The world wants you to take your clothes off. Please keep them on. But take your gloves off. Pull no punches. Say what is in your heart. Be vulnerable. Embrace risk. Love a world that barely knows what it means to love itself. Do so nakedly. Openly. With abandon.

Infallible. May you be constantly, infallibly aware that infallibility doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion created by people interested in your wallet. If you choose to seek perfection, may it be in an infallible grace—for yourself, and for everyone around you.

Age defying. Your skin will wrinkle and your youth will fade, but your soul is ageless. It will always know how to play and how to enjoy and how to revel in this one-chance life. May you always defiantly resist the aging of your spirit.

Flawless finish. Your finish has nothing to do with how your face looks today and everything to do with how your life looks on your last day. May your years be a preparation for that day. May you be aged by grace, may you grow in wisdom, and may your love become big enough to embrace all people. May your flawless finish be a peaceful embrace of the end and the unknown that follows, and may it thus be a gift to everyone who cherishes you.

Little One, you love everything pink and frilly and I will surely understand if someday makeup is important to you. But I pray three words will remain more important to you—the last three words you say every night, when I ask the question: “Where are you the most beautiful?” Three words so bright no concealer can cover them.

Where are you the most beautiful?

On the inside.

From my heart to yours,

Daddy

Photo: Dr Kelly Flanagan

 

Written by clinical psychologist and writer Dr. Kelly Flanagan for his daughter. This letter originally appeared on his blog at drkellyflanagan.com and will be included in his book, Loveable: Embracing What Is Truest About You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life. You can find out more about the book by clicking here.

 

Laxmi Hussain

Featured artwork by Laxmi Hussain is available to buy through her website.

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How to keep him interested

Artwork: Laxmi Hussain

Dear Cutie-Pie,

Recently, your mother and I were searching for an answer on Google. Halfway through entering the question, Google returned a list of the most popular searches in the world. Perched at the top of the list was “How to keep him interested.”

It startled me. I scanned several of the countless articles about how to be sexy and sexual, when to bring him a beer versus a sandwich, and the ways to make him feel smart and superior.

And I got angry.

Little One, it is not, has never been, and never will be your job to “keep him interested.”

Little One, your only task is to know deeply in your soul — in that unshakeable place that isn’t rattled by rejection and loss and ego — that you are worthy of interest. (If you can remember that everyone else is worthy of interest also, the battle of your life will be mostly won. But that is a letter for another day.)

If you can trust your worth in this way, you will be attractive in the most important sense of the word: you will attract a boy who is both capable of interest and who wants to spend his one life investing all of his interest in you.

Little One, I want to tell you about the boy who doesn’t need to be kept interested, because he knows you are interesting:

I don’t care if he puts his elbows on the dinner table — as long as he puts his eyes on the way your nose scrunches when you smile. And then can’t stop looking.

I don’t care if he can’t play a bit of golf with me — as long as he can play with the children you give him and revel in all the glorious and frustrating ways they are just like you.

I don’t care if he doesn’t follow his wallet — as long as he follows his heart and it always leads him back to you.

I don’t care if he is strong — as long as he gives you the space to exercise the strength that is in your heart.

I couldn’t care less how he votes — as long as he wakes up every morning and daily elects you to a place of honor in your home and a place of reverence in his heart.

I don’t care about the color of his skin — as long as he paints the canvas of your lives with brushstrokes of patience, and sacrifice, and vulnerability, and tenderness.

I don’t care if he was raised in this religion or that religion or no religion — as long as he was raised to value the sacred and to know every moment of life, and every moment of life with you, is deeply sacred.

In the end, Little One, if you stumble across a man like that and he and I have nothing else in common, we will have the most important thing in common:

You.

Because in the end, Little One, the only thing you should have to do to “keep him interested” is to be you.

Your eternally interested guy,

Daddy

 

Written by clinical psychologist and writer Dr. Kelly Flanagan for his daughter. This letter originally appeared on his blog at drkellyflanagan.com and will be included in his book, Loveable: Embracing What Is Truest About You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life. You can find out more about the book by clicking here.

 

Featured artwork by Laxmi Hussain is available to buy through her website.

 

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