I looked at a photo of a another girl today, and immediately, I thought, “I wish I was her.”
Her cheek bones jutted out at the perfect angle. My cheeks are chubby. Her hips, her arms, her legs were slim. Mine are much rounder, larger, wider. Her stomach was flat. She didn’t tug on her shirt to cover any rolls or lumps or bumps. Her scale read a smaller number. Her eyes were brighter. Her smile was wide, her teeth whiter, her skin clearer. Wrinkles were non-existent, while mine get more prominent by the day. She didn’t need Spanx or long shirts or to think about the spacing on jeans pockets to make herself look slimmer.
Her outfit looked put together, her hair was shiny and smooth. The eyeliner, the lipstick, the curls–all perfect.
Still, after studying the photo of myself ten years ago, I take a breath and come to the realization I know deep in my heart but forget sometimes: I have things she doesn’t.
I have a confidence she hasn’t yet learned. I have a steadfast willingness to be myself. I don’t worry about what others think. I stand in the petting zoo line. I dance wildly at Taylor Swift and wear the fuzzy socks that people might say look crazy. I go out with my hair in a greasy top knot. I admit unabashedly that I love watching The Bachelor and have going to Disney on my bucket list. I don't apologize for taking up space or expressing my thoughts. I worry about being me and not pleasing others.
I have a tenacity she doesn’t have yet, too. I’ve been knocked down quite a few times. I’ve gotten back up all of those times. I’ve learned the “life is tough” mantra firsthand–and I’ve survived it in ways she can’t imagine. I have a decade of memories, of laughter, of learning, of growing, of knowledge, that she doesn’t have yet.
I have so many things she doesn’t. Still, if I’m not careful, I fall into the trap so many of us do–of wishing I could be her again. Of being afraid of my changing body and aging face. Of wanting to go back because I’ve convinced myself preserving society’s idea of beauty is what outweighs everything. And being rounder, plumper, heavier, or whatever verbiage you want to use is a thing to avoid, to fear, to loathe.
I look at that girl in the photo and wish I could tell her she’s beautiful. Still, I know she wouldn’t believe me anyway. She’s too busy worrying about the girl in the photo from a few years earlier or from the other girl she knows on social media. She’s too busy trying not to be too loud, too bossy, too much in a society that is always telling her she is too something or other. So I put the photo down. It will be okay, anyway. Because I know where her story leads to. I know that yes, she’ll get more wrinkles and frizzy hair and bigger hips. But she’ll also learn to love herself more than she does now. She’ll learn that society doesn’t get the final say on who you are or what your life looks like. She’ll settle in with her bigger arms and less glowy skin–and she’ll have a peace she can’t imagine right now.
I tuck the photo away and smile, knowing that I’m not that girl anymore, but I’m something different. Something more in many ways. And that will be more than enough today.
I hope it’s enough for you today, too. Put the photo down. Let that girl be who she is. Because you are you. Beautiful, wise, experienced you. And no wrinkle cream or diet or makeup product or hair gloss will take that away. You shouldn’t want it to, either.
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books