An Open Letter To My Daughter: You Do Not Owe It To The World To Be Skinny

by Bethany Neumeyer
Bethany is a teacher turned stay-at-home mom who is currently using her writing degree to answer the question, why.

My precious little girl:

Right now, you are two and a half years old and growing by the minute. As far as you are concerned, getting bigger is something to look forward to and delight in. You can’t wait to be as big as your older brother so that you can play soccer and as big as the girl next door so you can roller skate.

Because I’ve told you that you grew in my belly when you were a tiny baby, you’ve decided that my belly must be the place that all growing takes place, and you’ve asked repeatedly if you can grow on my belly, which for you means lying down on top of me and then pulling a blanket over your head, hoping that you’ll get bigger.

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I love that you get so excited about being big and growing stronger. But I also can’t help but think that much too soon, you will get the message that women should take up as little space as possible.

Social media, beauty websites and magazines are full of tips for how to help women be (or at least look) smaller. Diet drinks and weight-loss supplements are sold everywhere alongside wraps designed to shrink our stomachs. There are makeup tips for slimming your face and advice articles on how to stand at the most flattering angle so that you appear smaller in photos.

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Women who might be taller than the men they are dating are advised to wear flats instead of heels so as not to look too much taller than their men.

Whatever the delivery, the message to women is the same: Be small. Look small. Don’t take up too much space.

I’ll admit that I’ve bought into this to some extent. I’ve bought body-shaping undergarments and tried exercises intended to make my stomach smaller. But then I look at you, and I know that I don’t want you to think this way, to buy into the idea that you need to constantly worry about your size and that, at age 34 and after having two children, your body should look the same as it did when you were in your teens.

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I hope that you are healthy, that you always delight (as you do now) in your own strength and ability. But you do not owe it to the world to be tiny. To fit into a size zero. To refrain from ever wearing heels if you’re tall so as not to make any man you might date look shorter. You have every bit as much right to be tall as they do.

I hope that you find activities that you enjoy, and that if you play sports or run or dance or do yoga, you do so for the sheer joy of it and not because someone has convinced you that it will make your body look better, that your worth is tied up in making your stomach flatter and your thighs smaller. I hope that you make healthy choices because of how they make you feel. But I also hope that you indulge now and then.

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You do not owe it to the world to be skinny. You do not owe it to anyone to eat a salad when what you really want is some pizza. There does not need to be a gap between your thighs. There is nothing so interesting behind you that anyone needs to be able to literally see through you.

You will never be more valuable, more significant, more loved by the people who actually matter if you take up less space. Your worth does not go up as the number on the scale goes down.

I want you to always believe these things.

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And so I promise to try my hardest to set a good example for you. To not stare at myself critically in the full-length mirror. To stop sucking my stomach in for every photo. To teach you that kindness and character are more important than the body they come in.

I’m excited to see just who you’ll be as a teenager and an adult, but I’m in no rush to have you grow up too quickly. I’m not ready to let go of you sitting on my lap or lying down on my belly just yet. But no matter how old you are, what size you wear, or if the top of your head fits just below my chin or towers above me, I promise you this: I will always love every inch of you with all of my heart. And I will always be thankful for the space that you fill.

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Take up space, little girl, the world is lucky to have you in it.


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