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August 13, 2015

This is what my Father Would Say Every Time I Criticized my Body.

Flickr/Flavia Brandi

I was 16 and staring at my bikini-clad body in a full length mirror, a disgusted scowl on my face.

“My legs are too short and fat,” I said, squeezing the flesh on the backs of my thighs to make them appear thinner.

My father looked at me and shook his head. “You’re perfect.”

I rolled my eyes.“And my waist isn’t small enough. I look like a square. Like a boy.”

Again, and with the same earnestness, he said, “You’re perfect.”

It went on like this—me picking apart my teenaged, still-growing body. I could always find something.

And still, he said, “You’re perfect.”

“Stop it. I’m not. Don’t you see this fat and these stretch marks?” I was frustrated and angry. Couldn’t he just agree with me? All of it was right there. How could he not see?

My phone buzzed—a text from my friends who were waiting outside. I threw on shorts and a t-shirt and ran along.

From the front door he called out, “You’re perfect!”

Five years later, I see.

I see that without my father, it might have taken me much longer to be where I am, in terms of the love I have for my body.

I see that when he closed that door as I ran off—he might have stood there for a moment and stared at a blank spot on the wall. Maybe he cried a little. But he didn’t give up on me. He refused to leave me there—in that corner of my mind, where I viewed myself in such a distorted manner.

I imagine it was tough. It would have been easy for him to shrug his shoulders and leave me be. He could have told himself that it was a phase—that I would grow out of it. But he didn’t, and it made all the difference.

When I look in the mirror now, as a 21-year-old young woman, I tell myself that I am perfect.

I also think of my father and smile.

If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that if someone tells you that you’re beautiful or lovable or worthy—it is probably true.

And how scary is it to see the good in ourselves? Imagine all of the things we could do if we just realized our own beauty.

The next time someone pays you a compliment, I challenge you to say: “Thank you.”

Stand in front of a mirror and repeat it. Believe it.

Take the plunge.

Chances are, someone has been waiting for you to do this for a long time.

Thanks, Dad.

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Relephant:

For the Sake of your Daughter, Love your Armpit Fat.

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Author: Jenna Meyer

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Flavia Brandi

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Jenna Meyer