I struggled to feel worthy of love. I hope my daughter will not

Galya Matkovska - The Honest Talk

When I was a teenager, I was told I should never wear shorts or short dresses because my legs were not beautiful enough.

I am 25 years old now, and this summer I wore shorts for the first time in a decade. In fact,  this was the first pair of shorts I had ever bought myself. 

During those 10 years, I won several national prizes, received grants, graduated, built a career in marketing and governmental communications, got married, became a mom, moved to Canada because of the Russian war, found a job, and am leading a startup. But I’ve just bought my first pair of shorts ever. 

This could be a funny story from my childhood, but it’s not funny. And now that I am a mother, I see this story from a new angle. 

I have been in a relationship for four years. I have a wonderful husband. And he was the first person ever who told me I have beautiful legs. His words drove me mad for a while because I clearly remembered that my parents had told me my legs were bowed. I “knew” he was wrong.

Going against that voice in my head took me four years in a happy relationship and regular reminders that I am beautiful. It took me four years of almost-weekly therapy. And only after I became a mom did I let myself wear shorts. 

My body managed to deliver a baby. It got back to normal in less than six months, and it has been producing milk for 18 months to keep my baby healthy. Why on earth should I be ashamed of it?

When I was a teenager, I was told my character was too strong and that no man would want to deal with me.

They said I was too smart, and boys don’t like a girl who’s smarter than they are. Between these ‘flaws’ and my imperfect legs, it was clear I’d never find a man. 

Can you imagine parents telling this to their son?

I am now 25. I’ve had a career in Ukraine and in Canada, and I have been working directly with executives and heads of departments for most of my career. But I still needed proof that someone could finally love me – that I was worthy of love..  

Oh my gosh, being a mom, I just can’t believe anyone could say the things to their daughters that my parents said to me. Because, again, no one talks to their sons this way. 

But I have heard the same story from a Ukrainian woman who has been the CEO of multiple companies. She is an influencer in the best sense of the word, a speaker, and an author. When she was a girl, she was told the same bullshit — that she wasn’t pretty enough, so she should work hard to be successful. It’s absolutely true: you should work hard to be successful but that has nothing to do with your face or your legs. 

Read about: I am a mom-refugee. Here is what it feels like

It’s our duty as mothers of girls to convince them that they are perfect as they are. We should tell them every day they are beautiful and they are loved. There will be millions of situations when the world says they are not. But it’s in our hands to help them build a strong personality so they are able to deal with that. And they won’t need to look for confirmation they are good enough to be loved. 

In the modern world, girls can’t be weak. Our goal should be not to be likable but to be ourselves. We should help our daughters grow into confident women, knowing who they are and knowing their strengths and values. 

Every human being, if they want, has a right to be loved. But this never should be in conflict with their personality and their dreams. They should never have to choose between being smart and strong or being loved, between being beautiful and having to work hard. 

Men do not have this conflict. And neither should we. 

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