There are going to be several points in your life when you feel like you do not belong. Embrace these moments. Do not listen to the people who pat you on the head and tell you not to worry. Dismiss the assuring tone when someone says, “You’re just like everyone else.”
It’s not true; you’re not like anyone else. You are Lillian Attebery. You have a heart filled with wildfire. You were born to change the world, one person at a time.
When you are younger, these moments of realization are scary and confusing. The accompanying pressure will make you attempt completely uncharacteristic things just to fit into a crowd. You will do things that you are not proud of, and that’s ok. You learn from these experiences.
The sooner you accept that you are an extraordinary woman, that you have something unique and fascinating to offer this world, the happier you will be.
It took me a long time to accept this myself. Your father was one of the amazing people who helped me understand who I am — little by little, experience by experience.
Lilly, after thirty years, I have come to recognize that the secret of life is loving yourself. It sounds so easy, right? Here is the catch: you have to love your whole self. Every single part of you — your strengths and weaknesses, your successes and your fuck-ups, your truths and your doubts, your heart, your body and your mind. These seemingly antagonistic elements do not compete and pull against each other inside you. They work together to make you beautiful.
As a woman, you will likely struggle most with the dichotomy of vulnerability and strength. Society will push you hard to believe that you have to pick one and that it is impossible to be both sensitive and tenacious at the same time. This is complete bullshit.
If I could tell my younger self one thing, I would say, “Hey Tiff, it’s ok to be vulnerable! It’s ok to raise your hand. It’s ok to ask questions. It’s ok to look stupid. It’s ok to ask for time to think. It’s ok to admit you’re wrong. It’s ok to say you don’t get it. It’s ok to say no.” I wasted too much of my life hiding my weaknesses. I wish I would have realized that they were not weaknesses at all, that they were what made me human. Within the uncertainty and vulnerability is where we make the deepest and most meaningful connections with another person – in the midst of the car crash, crying tears of exhaustion, losing something beloved, accepting a helping hand.
Please be vulnerable, Lilly. I promise that you will find strength there. Don’t be afraid to move toward things that scare you. Go out of your way to put yourself in situations that will make you grow.
I am looking forward to all the joy and curiosity you will bring with you into this world. And I especially cannot wait to see the smile on your father’s face when you’re finally here.
All my love,
This letter was written to my friend’s daughter as part of the Dear Lillian – Finding Voices of Strong Women project.