I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline when I saw Susie Davis’s photo of a young girl along with comments encouraging young women to be kind to themselves. Was it the girl’s innocence? Her ginger smile hidden behind her hand? The more I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t only the girl herself who touched me; it was also the motherly voice of Susie looking out for her.
The next morning, while walking around the lake, I told my husband about the picture and the words that went with it. Then my throat caught.
John said, “This makes you mad.”
I said, “No, it makes me sad.”
I thought back to times in my life when I could have used protection and advice. Times of loss and trauma and times with no one to fill the void of a father who was hard to please and a mother who had died much too young.
I wish when I was younger that I had known how crucial it was to seek protection, for and from myself, and from others.
As we continued our walk, I realized what I wanted to say to Younger Me:
Dear Daughter, you know that hospital where you work nights, in a dangerous part of town in a big city, and that security guard who tries to force you to kiss him when his job is to escort you to your car? You can report him.
Dear Daughter, you know that coworker who tells you to drive thirty miles in a blinding storm, on a freeway at rush hour, when you grew up in a small town and you are terrified? You can tell him no. Tell him you’ll do it another day.
Dear Daughter, when that same coworker blows cigarette smoke in your face and you’re six months pregnant, and you tear up, and he tells you your tolerance for abuse is low? You can get up and walk away.
Dear Daughter, when you’re a newlywed staring at roast beef in the grocery store and you don’t know how to pick a roast, and you’re missing your mom, it’s okay to ask that older lady next to you which one she would choose. And it’s okay if you let her see the moisture in your eyes when tell her you don’t have a mom to teach you this.
Dear Daughter, you may think you’re dumb, but you’re not. You’re traumatized. Someday you’re going to go to grad school and you’ll get A’s. You’re going to be a good counselor because you have deep empathy.
Dear Daughter, you know that friend you’re jealous of now because you’re a stay-at-home mom and she’s winning vacations at her job? You’ll come to understand that you can have it all, just not all at once.
Dear Daughter, the world is full of helpers. Find them. Remember, strong people ask for help.
Dear Daughter, that shield of perfectionism you wear? It keeps people from getting close to you.
Dear Daughter, you are loved, you are beautiful, you are needed.
What advice would you offer to younger women?
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.
She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."