To the Young Women Unhappy With Their Looks



I’ve noticed a trend lately.


More and more often, I see women posting old photos of themselves, wondering aloud, “why did I think I was fat? unattractive? chubby? unappealing? ugly? etc?” Many times, these rhetorical questions are followed by pleas to today’s young girls and women to not be so self-critical. To embrace their youth and beauty. To cherish the gorgeousness they no doubt have because, as some point out, it won’t last. One day, they’ll look back and WISH they looked like that.


It’s not a bad message. I get it. And I am all onboard for encouraging young women to have more self-confidence and spend less time giving into self-deprecating speech and thoughts. Anything that might help young girls and women feel a little better? Is good.


With that in mind, here’s another thing I’d like young women who are feeling insecure to know:


You may like the way you look more in 20 years than you do now.


Sound crazy?


It’s not.


I’m one of those women.

There was not really anything wrong with how I looked at 17. But the truth is that I’m more confident at 37 than I was then. I also truly believe that there are parts of me in better shape now than they were then.


Do I have fine little lines on my forehead and by my eyes now? Sure. But I also have better legs. I’m not kidding. I don’t know what exactly happened, but I loathed my legs in my younger years and they seem better to me now. They’re not the greatest in the world; they’re also nothing to be ashamed of.


I wasn’t actually trying to show off my legs here; I was soliciting shoe opinions on Facebook.


My “big, teal eyes” that have always been my most noticeable feature? They’re still there. But there’s some wisdom and experience in them now.


My short arms are still short. But the narrow shoulders that top them? Are toned with the strength of schlepping babies, hauling sports gear, and attempting far too few trips to get the groceries in.


The golden tan I get every summer? Not the result of vain teenage attempts to brown this Northern European skin. No, it’s just what happens when hours are spent cheering at baseball games and encouraging new swimmers.


I wore more makeup twenty years ago than I do now. Not because I’ve “given up.” No, not at all. It’s because I actually like myself enough to play around with enhancements but not feel like a slave to them.


My waist was smaller way back then but, to be honest, I wore the same size. Maybe my breasts were higher and firmer? I don’t actually know, but I have no real complaints about what I’m dealing with now.


I don’t write this to imply that I think I’m all that and a bag of chips. (<– you see how I dated myself there??)


I still have my insecurities and those days when I face the mirror with the horribly self-critical eye. There are flaws there– I see them. I don’t deny them.


But when I look back at photos from twenty years ago, I don’t envy that girl. I don’t wish I had what she had.


I wish she could know who she’d become. And know that the best was yet to come.

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9 comments to To the Young Women Unhappy With Their Looks

  • mlearley

    I have to agree in both spectrums. Those women posting the pictures are trying to encourage girls to embrace their youth and to be happy with the body they have. However, with you I am much happier with how I’ve matured. Looking back at pictures from 15 yrs ago (can’t quite go back 20 yrs yet) I’m not that geeky looking teenager who thought boys would never like her. Now I’m a mature mom with a much more mature look about her.

  • I am semi guilty of posting one of these pictures lately. But I think my sentiment was, oh sweet teen girls, worry less about your appearance and way more about your hearts!

    I am nowhere near the same size that I was as a teen, but I can say at 31 I worry about my looks much less. I’m SO much happier with who I am in general. Behold the power of maturity!

    • Oh, I got the sentiment, I think– and I totally agree! I just know that it would have been a HUGE encouragement to me if, instead of “older” women saying things like, “Enjoy! These are the best years of your life!”, they’d been quicker to acknowledge– “I know it’s hard right now, but– trust me– it’s gonna get better.”

  • I would love to tell my 16 yr old self, to embrace her size 14 self. I was 5’11, wore a size 11 shoe and had big hips that would not squeeze into a smaller pant size. I played tennis and practiced yoga and my body just wouldn’t fit into a smaller size. Oddly enough, the thing I hated most about my body is one of the things my husband finds most attractive.

    Now when I look in the mirror, I see the beauty in what God has blessed me with. I don’t miss high school for a second, way too much drama. I much prefer the secure, happy person that i am now.

    • I don’t miss high school, either, Nora! I am SO much happier and more secure now than I was then. I can remember thinking I had the most hideous big thighs in the world– honestly, I just had really strong legs from being a dancer for years. But no one could have convinced me of that at the time.

  • I totally did NOT appreciate my small size as a teen. I just had no idea. After birthing 5 babies, though, I get it. (And I’m enjoying it while it lasts, because 1) I’ll be weaning a baby in the next few months, and 2) *40* and a tanking metabolism is right around the corner. Ha!)

    Also? I *think* I’ve finally learned how to use the makeup brush. That’s been a plus.

    • I appreciate it more, now, too– not even so much because I can wear smaller sizes, but because I don’t really need to do much to stay the same size. I FEEL better when I eat well and exercise but, if I don’t? My weight doesn’t really show it. I, too, know that won’t last. ;)

  • I love this. I’m totally guilty of wishing I could tell the younger me to appreciate it more. But as I get older I’m starting to be ok with just being me -that younger girl was not, at all.

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