Open letters to children have become a viral sensation this year, capable of permanently cataloguing personal words of wisdom for public inspiration. Yes, there have been some failures, like the letters scolding teens for taking selfies or shaming them wearing certain clothing items. But there have also been those special letters from parent to child, promoting freedoms of self-expression and comfort amidst the pains of growing up. Dr. Kelly Flanagan’s compassionate message to his daughter is one such letter.
Flanagan, a clinical psychologist, recently sat in a make-up aisle at Target; eyeing advertisements and women’s magazine covers, he imagined the future impact of the images and words on his child. He mourned at the possibility that his daughter, whom he describes at “just as strong as everyone else in the house,” might someday read tag lines like “Instant age rewind” or “Flawless finish” and be made to feel inferior or inadequate based on her gender.
So he changed the meaning of the weighted headlines, applying them not to beauty but to inner strength, joy, and compassion. “Brilliant strength,” originally meant by a magazine cover to refer to fingernails, is repurposed to inspire courage: “May you discern in your center who you are, and then may you fearfully but tenaciously live it out in the world,” he writes. He hopes she will choose to lead a live of integrity, always staying true to herself in the face of challenges. He replaces the concept of looking good naked with a more spiritual nakedness: “Be vulnerable. Embrace risk. Love a world that barely knows what it means to love itself. Do so nakedly. Openly. With abandon.”
He closes with the poignant reminder that yes, we all age, but our spirits might be made youthful by imaginative play. Up until the “Flawless finish” of her life, the father hopes that she will believe in the power of her own unforgettable soul. Read the full letter here.
Thanks to Viral Nova
Images via Viral Nova and The Blue Closet
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