As you say, much of what you describe stems from the crippling effects of parental concern - so let's stop over-concerning ourselves and outline an action plan instead. Here's mine:
TO MY DAUGHTER - RECIPE FOR A SUCCESSFUL LIFE
- 'To thine ownself be true' (Shakespeare, Polonius, Hamlet). Success, like beauty, is very often in the eye of the beholder. It's actually personal. People rarely tell you that being successful is not the same as feeling successful, which is by far the superior achievement, and will make you much happier. So set your own standards and goals, and know what success looks like to you. Then, as you achieve your markers, you will bolster your sense of self-worth, in turn setting yourself up for more success.
- Get over your looks - whatever they are. Fretting over what you look like, spending time and money to change what you look like - these things are a sideline. They take you off on a tangent. You already surpass beautiful to those who know and love you: the trick I wish for you is knowing it yourself. You will save so much time and bring yourself so much more joy if you get to know and love your look, and then forget about it. This in itself will make you outstanding, such is the emphasis on beauty today. (P.S. on this one, I'm not saying don't enjoy the frippery of it all - your mother loves, I mean loves a bit of slap - just be wiser than it is).
- Get over your fear - this is key. Take your fear with you, make it your friend. Never let fear stop you from sticking your head above the parapet; or voicing your thoughts when you are the only woman in the room (or in a room full of women); or sticking up for the wronged guy; or telling your dad and me to take a back seat if we're holding you back; or striking out on your own in whatever way you want to strike, if it means something to you.
- Cherish your friends - the ones who support you, that is. The ones who always respond to your plans optimistically. Good friends should be one of your life's constants.
- Dance! Find what moves you - you'll never feel quite whole unless you find your own way to connect with your body. It'll ground you, and keep you sane in times of strife.
- Connect with your spirit - whatever this means to you. If you are able to do this AND dance, girl, will you be one whole human being. And if you are one whole human being, people will want to know and love you. And at times when those people are thin on the ground, you will be able to know and love yourself.
- Never follow a man's lead unquestionably because he's a man, whether he be teacher, boss or lover. (Unless you're dancing Salsa, of course, when you must learn to follow effortlessly, to get a good dance)
- Make community - build it into your life, give to it, take from it, value it. Help others in whatever is your chosen way. This will give you a deep sense of success, and others will acknowledge your achievement.
- Make friends with money - know that it is just energy, and all you need to do is get the flow right. Resist the temptation to judge your achievements in life by how much money you have in your pocket.
- Know what is important to you - and that your list doesn't have to be the same as your family's. Or your friends'. Be prepared to be out there on a limb sometimes, but if your intuition is shouting 'I'm right about this!', always, always trust it.
My darling girl - Yes, I wish you an extraordinary life, with all the attendant ebbs and flows. And if you equip yourself with the above, you will more than be able to cope with it.
Know that this is, of course, as well as a recipe for you, an open letter to myself.