Girl power (or something like that)

We should be thankful for women like Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Florence Nightingale, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa, Billie Jean King, Oprah and so many more.

But we should also be thankful for the women whose names we don’t know.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, a celebration that I didn’t really know existed. Apparently it’s been around since the beginning of the 1900s, though. While it is more of a recognition of the achievements women have made socially, politically and economically, it made me think more about why women should feel special simply for being the individuals they are rather than the things they’ve done over the years.

After all, not to pull the princess card, but we are daughters of the King.

the best
The best

There are two women in my life who have impacted me in more ways than I could ever actually explain: my mom and my sister. My mom is the most genuine and caring person you will ever meet. She is the epitome of what love is. She doesn’t know how to say mean things about people, and she doesn’t even have the desire to. And she’s a fighter. She never gets discouraged when people shoot her down; instead, she just stands right back up and tries again. She never stops trying.

My sister is a complete Godsend to the world. She is always there for me. She will drop everything when I need her–whether it’s to drive with me to Tennessee, sit with me in a hospital room or wake up at a ridiculous time (for her, anyway) to come cheer me on at a race. And that is only a small list of things. She is more selfless than I’ve ever known how to be, and she never changes who she is for anyone or anything. She’s a gem and the one person I can never stay upset with for long at all. I cherish every moment I get with her, because she makes absolutely every moment count.

I think women are so much more than many of them allow themselves to be. I wish I didn’t see so many young women and even adult women trying to change who they are to try to please others. You were uniquely made to be you for a reason–so don’t walk away from that. This is what I would like to say to all women if I were able to speak to all of them at once:

You are valued. Sometimes you will hear about lists that rank people’s net worths–especially when they’re in the billions. Guess what? None of that matters. And you are worth more than that–but not in a financial sense. Don’t ever feel like you have to prove your worth to anyone, and don’t ever settle for anyone or anything. You are too valued, and your heart is too valuable.

You are loved. There might be times in life when you feel all alone and not truly cared for in this world. Please don’t listen to that voice telling you that you aren’t good enough. There is One who loves you like no one ever can or will. Listen to His voice–it will never steer you wrong. And there are people who genuinely love you unconditionally. Your time line of love and what you originally thought would happen might not happen as you planned, and it might not happen at all–and that’s OK. Your sufficiency and who you are cannot be found in other people. And you know what? If you stay single forever, you’ll be fine. Your relationship status doesn’t define you, and it certainly doesn’t determine whether or not you’re loved.

You matter. Every single person in this world has importance and has the ability to make an impact. And you are no exception. You are not frail; you are not the weaker gender; you shouldn’t be used or treated as an object; you shouldn’t be silenced; you don’t deserve discouragement; you don’t deserve abuse; you don’t have to look a certain way or hang with a certain crowd; and you don’t have to try to be anyone else but you. You were created with purpose–don’t be afraid to embrace your uniqueness.

I’m glad women have a day to celebrate some major historical milestones, and I don’t want to diminish any of those achievements, but I hope we don’t forget to celebrate the everyday individuality of one another. No, we don’t need to be egocentric or over-complimentary of each other, but we need to remember that who we are is even more important than what we accomplish.

Because what’s in the heart is more powerful than what’s in the bank.

As you are

You have to be careful with mirrors.

Because they don’t always tell the truth.

Last week, a student walked into my classroom before school for tutorials one morning, and the first thing she said to me was, “Merrill, please don’t look at me. I don’t have any makeup on.” This isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone say something similar to this, and I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why girls and women feel like they have to be wearing makeup in order for their appearances to be presentable.

That belief is completely false.

I’m not going to say that there is anything wrong with makeup. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not fun and useful for other people. But, I do have a problem with women not feeling like they are beautiful enough when they don’t have any on. Looking different doesn’t mean looking ugly.

A few years ago, one of my coworkers was selling Mary Kay products on the side, and she invited me to an event of some sort. I really didn’t want to go, but she asked me about it more than once, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to support her endeavors for one evening. I hadn’t realized that everyone in attendance would be applying makeup and learning various techniques, such as something called “smoky eyes” that I still can’t comprehensively explain. At one point, the woman leading the demonstration came over to me with a concerned look on her face. I let her know that I never wear makeup and don’t even know how to put it on, and she frowned a little and said, “You should probably go wash your face off and come back and start over again.” I went to the restroom, washed my face off, then went home.

Baby, you’re a firework

Prior to when we had actually started trying to make “smoky eyes” and whatnot, I had looked around the room at all of the women there with me. Each one was so different and so unique in her own way. They all looked like they already knew how to put on makeup, because from what I could tell they were all already wearing it, but I’ll bet you anything that they would all look fine without it.

I just wish they all knew that.

One woman who had been sitting next to me was rather shocked when she heard me tell the other woman that I didn’t know how to put on makeup. She told me that she could never be brave enough to go out in public with her face “undone” and that I am lucky that I don’t need it–but I’m not lucky at all, because no one actually needs it. A lot of women don’t realize how pretty they are naturally simply because they are so used to wearing makeup. No makeup doesn’t mean ugly–it means different but still just as lovely. Most guys don’t wear makeup, and we don’t suggest that they need to. So why do women feel like they have to wear it to look their bests?

In the great 2004 movie A Cinderella Story (which somehow got left out of Oscar contention), Sam (Hilary Duff) is afraid to reveal her true identity to Austin (Chad Michael Murray), because he is one of the popular kids, and she is not. Sam is afraid that who she is simply isn’t good enough for Austin. But, at the end of the movie, she finds a new boldness and stands up for herself, and Austin realizes he loves the real Sam. She didn’t need to be wearing her mask and in an extravagant gown to catch his eye again–she was enough as she was. (I apologize if I just ruined the entire movie for you. You should still watch it.)

And you are enough as you are.

I love Colbie Caillat’s song “Try.” If you have a few minutes, you should listen to it and watch the video. It contains such a wonderful message that so many of us, man or woman, need to hear. You don’t have to look a certain way to feel valued. It’s OK if you like to get dressed up or wear makeup, but it’s also just as acceptable to be seen when you aren’t looking like you just stepped out of a magazine ad. The people who matter in your life are going to love you regardless of what you look like, and you should love yourself just the same. I think everyone is beautiful without makeup.

At the end of the day, you have to take makeup off, anyway. There’s nothing wrong with wearing it, but don’t be afraid to be without it. You can feel confident and beautiful with makeup, but you can also feel confident and beautiful without makeup. Either way, it doesn’t change the individual you are.

Because you are enough as you are.