In honor of International Women’s Day, YouTube launched the global initiative #DearMe, a compilation of women on YouTube sharing words of wisdom with their younger selves. So, in honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, I have been inspired to write a love letter to my younger self.
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Let me start by saying, You are enough. I know that you are constantly struggling with that notion, and that you always feel like you aren’t meeting society’s standard of excellence, but you are exceeding above and beyond. You have always been enough, and you will always be enough.
On that note, your body is enough. I know you have so many insecurities, but there is nothing wrong with you or your body. You are fat, and that’s okay, and you’re normal. Your beauty is not contingent upon the number on a scale. You are not pretty in spite of your fatness; you are beautiful and fat. And those are just facts of your existence.
You should eat more. You can’t live off snacks for eight hours every day. You don’t have to avoid breakfast and lunch. Food is not your enemy. Your internalized fatphobia is the enemy. (Side note: You don’t know what internalized fatphobia means just yet, but you’re smart, so I’m sure you’ll figure it out.)
Clothes are also not the enemy. You’re restricted in what you can wear by your mom’s rules and school rules, but one day, you will be able to wear whatever you want. I’m sure you can’t even fathom a day when you can just do that, but believe me, it’s coming soon. Plus-size clothing can be really cute and fashionable; you don’t have to live in denim and t-shirts. One day, you won’t even own a pair of jeans. Quita in the future hates pants, especially blue jeans, because they’re too restricting on her fat thighs.
And you don’t have to pretend that you love wearing black because you think it makes you look slim and completes your punk rock look. First of all, you don’t have to hide your body. And secondly, you are not a punk rock, emo kid. You can like a style of music without it being your lifestyle or identity. In the future, you will figure out that you can have pastel hair, piercings, tattoos, floral dresses, and long pink fingernails.
You don’t have to try so hard to find a label that fits you. There isn’t one. You’re just a unique person.
Also, this emo kid business. You’re not emo. You’re just depressed. You don’t have the words or the community to hold you through this time in your life, but just know that you’re going to be okay. And there’s nothing wrong with the way you’re feeling.
Life can be very hard for you. Some days, you don’t want to get out of bed. And some days, you’re just going through the motions of life. And it’s okay. Prayer won’t always be the answer or give you the solace you need, because you need other places of refuge. You feel so alone, but you’re not. It’s just that the people who love you aren’t equipped with the skills to help you. They don’t really understand you or what you’re feeling, so they’re just giving you the best that they can. When you move away, you’ll be surrounded by people who understand you better. And you’ll have access to the resources you need. You may not use them, but it will give you some peace knowing that you can.
You also need to talk more about what you’re feeling. You can’t hold everything in because it comes out eventually. And typically, when it does come out after so much repression, it’s not a healthy release. Your feelings are valid, and so are your words. Don’t be afraid of speaking the truth of your lived experiences. In the future, you will essentially make that your job.
You have a lot of feelings about a lot of boys. Your romantic feelings are valid, but you do not need validation from these boys. Your emotional well-being and self-esteem should not be dependent on the way they feel about you. Your sexual identity does not need to be validated by them. You are very aware of who you are and who you like.
You are not confused about your sexuality. And there is nothing wrong with your sexual curiosity. You’re a sexually active, queer teen, not a sexual deviant damned to hell. (Another side note: You don’t know queer means, but one day, you will, and your life will finally make some sense.) If you think what you’ve done now is sending you to hell, just wait until the future.
And speaking of hell, religion is tough for you. You have a tough time reconciling your Black, Southern Baptist faith and your identities. That’s understandable. You spend your Sundays and Tuesdays being told you’re going to hell for being yourself. It’s going to take some time to figure out your relationship with God. Years later, you will still be struggling with it, but know that it’s okay to struggle.
Also, your mother really loves you. I know your relationship with her is tough, and you think she doesn’t understand you. Well, she doesn’t. But she’s only doing what she thinks is best, even if it isn’t what’s best for you. One day, you will start moving past the hurt and repairing your relationship. But first, you will have to stop shutting her out so much. She’s more open to dialogue and conversation than you think. You just have to take the first step and open up to her.
Your mother will never live up to the image of the fairy-tale mom you think that you should have. And that’s largely because your fairy-tale mom is based on inaccurate representations of motherhood, and no one can live up to it. As you get older, and the two of you get closer, these facts will become ever more clear to you. You will begin to realize that your mother raised you to be a strong, independent young woman in the best way that she knew how. Her love for you is unconditional, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to keep you happy and secure.
I want to reiterate to you that you are enough. I have to say that again because I know how hard it is for you to believe that. You feel like you always play the supporting role to the prettiest and smartest girls in school. But you are just in great company. Your fierceness and honesty inspire you to do all that you do. As you get older, you should always trust in yourself because you are your own guiding light.
You don’t have to be so hard on yourself. Believe me, the world is a hard enough place for a dark-skinned black girl without you being so critical of yourself. You are doing amazing things, and you will continue to grow and do even more amazing things. June Jordan says, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” And you are definitely the person you’ve been waiting for. You will actively work to build all the change that you believe needs to happen in the world. And you will actively fight against all the oppressive systems that you recognize.
Frankly speaking, you are a badass. You can’t weigh yourself down with the negative thoughts and standards that tell you that you aren’t. You are beautiful. You are fierce. And you are enough.
[Headline image: The photograph shows a young black woman with dark hair and dark eyes. She is wearing a light blue shirt and she is writing in a book.]