Dear 14-year-old Becky,
I want to share with you a few things I wish I had known when I was your age. You have just gone through puberty, and your body is so different than it was before. I know you don’t want me to notice that you have boobs, hips, and hair in new places. I know it feels weird to not look like a little girl anymore, and I know it is also exciting that your body has changed and people look at you differently than before.
I’m sure you have heard everyone say that when it comes to you and your body, ‘no’, means ‘no’. So you may be thinking that if you are ever in a situation where you are uncomfortable, you will be able to just say no to the other person. You think you will be able to tell him or her to stop. But you know what I found really hard? I was able to say no in my head, but I found it really hard to say no with my voice. There were so many times when I didn’t want to go further with a guy, as a teenager and as an adult, but I didn’t use my voice to tell them. I think most, if not all of the boys & men I had been with would have stopped if I had asked.
But I wanted them to like me, and they seemed to want to keep going, so I didn’t tell them to stop. Sometimes we made it all the way to sex, and sometimes we didn’t, but either way, when I felt the words no in my head, I let them keep going. And then I felt bad about myself after. It has taken me a long time to understand why I felt bad after, but now, at the age of 38, I know. It’s because I wasn’t listening to myself. I wasn’t listening to my own voice that was telling me something. So use your voice, my sweet. Don’t ever stop listening to the guiding voice in your mind, and don’t ever stop projecting that voice into the world. Even if it’s just a whisper, get it out. Keeping stuff inside you never feels good. Your voice is the most powerful tool you have as a woman.
I also want you to know that your body is yours. It isn’t here for other people to enjoy. If you decide that you want to share it with someone, fine. But I want you to know it’s supposed to feel good for you. Making out and having sex with someone isn’t about pleasing them, so it feels good for just them. If it doesn’t feel good for you, listen to what your body and your voice are telling you, and act. Your self-esteem, and how you feel about yourself will affect everything you do, every day, for the rest of your life. When we abuse our bodies and allow them to be used by not speaking up for what we want, then we feel bad, and our self-esteem lowers. My dearest, when you are ready to share your body, do it with someone you love, and who loves you back. Even if he or she doesn’t turn out to be your future husband or wife, you will never regret sharing your body with someone you have deep love for.
I also want to set the record straight on something. You may never escape the images of how society portrays a women’s body to look like. As you know, they are everywhere. But you are so much more than a bunch of relentless images. Don’t ever put just your physical body on a pedestal and think it needs to be a certain way. Because the thing about bodies is that they change, and it becomes really hard and exhausting to try and make them stay inside of some version of what you think you’re supposed to look like. Your body is what it is, and if you treat it with love and respect, you will be gifted with a self-confidence that far outweighs any of society’s expectations. Self-confidence and self-esteem will allow you to achieve great and wonderful things. But a perfect body is just that – and it guarantees you NOTHING – it won’t help your dreams come true, in fact, worrying about that will limit you from ever achieving your dreams.
It’s scary to be a teenager. I know, I remember. When you feel lost and alone and confused and unsure, close your eyes, just for a moment. Take a deep breath, and look for me. I’m here. I love you. We’ve got this.
Love, 38-year-old Becky