Dear Beautiful Girl - Girl of Cardigan

Dear Beautiful Girl –

I have watched grown people aim nasty glares at a children in princess dresses, then hurl charming judgements in the direction of their mothers:

“Those stories are everything that is wrong with girls today.”

“You shouldn’t let your daughter watch that garbage.”

“You should teach your girl to value her mind and her potential.”

“You are feeding her lies.”  

Are there bits of truth in these unsolicited accusations?  Certainly.  But, my love, there is also so much more.

In this city, the city that your Daddo and I love and have chosen for you, we have no shortage of soapboxes.  There is a powerful division, here, between the right and the wrong, the healthy and the damaging, the oppressive and the uplifting, and you will be faced again and again with those who want you to believe that there is only one telling of all stories, only one right or wrong way of looking at things, only things that will hurt you or save you and nothing in between.

Sometimes, these people will be right.  Some things are black and white, true or false, real or make-believe.  But most things?  Most things live in a half-way space, a middling ground where they can be transformed by your perception, your abilities, your passions, your heart.  Most stories are only just stories, and how you read them is just as important as the words on the page.

Cinderella, having had so much taken from her, gave what little she had to her tiny friends – used her limited resources to clothe and feed and nurture them, after hours spent scrubbing and serving and being belittled – she gave, and she loved.  She cultivated hope.  She dreamed crazy dreams (attending a royal ball?  Please.) and worked hard, stitching together found-ribbons and discarded beads, taking the time to build something beautiful for herself, to give herself the best chance.  She wasn’t too proud to accept help when it was needed and offered.  She had the guts to go to a party where she didn’t know anybody, all by herself, and when a prince asked her to dance, she had the confidence to say yes.  And sure, she married that prince and therefore got out of her dingy attic digs and into a castle to live happily ever after, but she’d never have met him – he’d never have known she was there to “save” – if she hadn’t been brave, and strong, and worked hard, and been kind, and held hope.  The prince didn’t save Cinderella – she knew what she wanted and she did everything she could to get it.  That girl got herself out of that attic, and she did it in adorable shoes.

Don’t get me wrong – stories are not perfect.  We are imperfect people who write imperfect tales full of imperfect characters.  There are some stories I’d rather you didn’t fall in love with, some lessons I’m not sure I’m keen for you to learn.  But I don’t care a lick if you want to grow up to be an explorer, scouring the world for new discoveries and cultivating your independence, or a scientist who juggles raising a family while pouring over gene sequences and patterns and hope, or a princess who rocks incredible dresses and desires little more than falling in love and finding someone gallant with whom to share her life – be any of those girls, be all of them, be brilliant and beautiful and stylish and smart and nerdy and fantastic and athletic and brave and humble and gentle and all of these things at once or whichever of them you choose, but more than ANY of them, be the girl who sees more in the story.

Be the girl who sees more.

Grow up to be the kind of someone who recognizes her power over story and situation.  Be the kind of girl who can see beyond the surface and seek out beauty even when it’s hidden, discover value in the darkest patches, eek out a glimpse of worth where others have overlooked it.  Be the girl with the imagination and creativity to take a story and make it her own, tell it her own way, and choose to see the good and the right and the potential.  Be the girl who doesn’t dismiss another girl as vapid because she loves fashion, or as boring because she loves books, or as bossy because she longs for success and leadership, or as foolish because she longs for love and companionship.  Be the girl who rips people out of their boxes and holds them up to the light.

Snow White, having been kicked out of the only home she’d ever known by a jealous and mean-hearted queen, wasn’t afraid to befriend people who were very different from her.  Not only did she befriend them – she showed them love and hospitality.  She supported and encouraged them, as they did her, and she created a new situation for herself.  She trusted.  She gave people the benefit of the doubt.  And sure, eventually she took an apple from a stranger and fell into a deep dark sleep, and sure, a prince kissed her and carried her off to live happily ever after, but she’d never have met him – he’d never have known she was there to “save” – if she hadn’t been open and accepting and forgiving and resilient and a little bit fierce.  The prince didn’t save Snow White – she valued people, and they in turn valued her.  That girl got herself out of the spooky woods, and she did it with a smile and a song.

It matters, this ability to see more.  It matters, because there will be seasons in your life that aren’t perfect – seasons that seem shallow and stuck and wasted, seasons during which it is hard to see yourself as anything more than victim, than failure, than broken or foolish.  Be the girl who writes down the painful words of the stuck places, reads them aloud to herself, and dreams up new ways to hear them – new ways to shout them so that victory and intention and always, always love echo into all of the irritating plot twists, the unexpected villains, the vain and fading happily ever afters.

We begin with fairytales, but ultimately, we wind up the tellers and believers of our own stories.  Remember Who is writing yours.  Remember that your story is part of a much bigger, beautiful, endless and magical one.  Remember that you can tell it any way you like.

Dear Beautiful Girl - Once Upon a Time - Girl of Cardigan

And when they try to tell you that you must take sides, must be yes or no, must be pretty or smart, must be whole or broken, must all or nothing your way through life in the business of being one or the other – be the girl who tells them a story.  Be the brilliant girl in the ruffly gown who stands in the middle and whispers “We can be both.  We can be all.  We don’t have to be one or the other.”  Grab fast onto hesitant hands and pull them to each other.

Tell them a story, beautiful girl.  Tell them your story.

Girl of Cardigan


  • Bethany March 4, 2014 at 9:41 am

    What a beautiful picture. I love your re-telling of classic stories. 🙂

    • karyn March 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

      Thanks, Bethany. I’m the princess of spin. 😉

  • Kelley Friend March 4, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Seriously… tears. This was beautiful. Just beautiful. “Be the girl who tells THEM a story.” We CAN be all- very wise words sweetheart.

    • karyn March 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

      love. <3

  • Judy Serface March 4, 2014 at 10:05 am


    • karyn March 5, 2014 at 8:04 am

      I learned a lot from my mom. 🙂

  • Cindy Baldwin March 4, 2014 at 10:34 am

    This is beautiful! As a writer and a long-time lover of fairytales this is something I’ve spent quite a long time thinking about (I even did my own blog post about it a few years back - Fairytales are filled with such powerful archetypes, and ultimately I always end up feeling like they teach the kinds of things I want to teach: that kindness is important. That wet can see past differences. That difficult circumstances are not an excuse to become bitter or entitled. That good people do ultimately come out on top.

    And the irony is not lost on me that I write this comment while watching Tangled with my sick and cranky 11-month-old!

    • karyn March 4, 2014 at 10:40 am

      Thanks so much, Cindy, and thanks for sharing your post! I can’t wait to go read it… as soon as nap time comes back around. 🙂

  • Laura Gagliasso March 4, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    These words are incredible. Having worked with young and older girls for years…this is something to be shared.

    • karyn March 5, 2014 at 8:03 am

      Wow, thank you Laura. I appreciate that very much.

  • Laura Thurston March 4, 2014 at 9:22 pm


    • karyn March 5, 2014 at 8:03 am

      love back.

  • Rob March 5, 2014 at 12:31 am

    Lovely. Just lovely.

    An an incipient father to a daughter I can’t wait to meet, I’m wrestling with the pinkification of toy world and trying to work out where I stand on princessdom. Few things are as pleasurable as finding a new way to look at an issue. Your words always lift me and I have a whole load more joy looking forward to the disney moments I am bound to share with D-minor when she appears.

    Thank you.

    • karyn March 5, 2014 at 8:02 am

      Rob, thank you so much. I hope you and D-minor (my goodness – could there be a more adorable nickname) enjoy all the most wonderful bits of pinkdom together. Wishing you the wisdom to navigate crazy girl world – I suspect you’ll be fantastic. 🙂 Congratulations!!

  • Cori @ Let's Eat Grandpa March 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    I really didn’t want to like this post, but of course, you got me. As we prepare to start a family in the next year or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about daughters. About how to raise daughters who are grace-filled advocates. Who love deeply and see the hurting and lost. Who care more about else than about self.

    Before I just wanted to stop all of the pinkification and never let my future daughters get caught up in the fairy tales (find a man, be happy!). It all felt so selfish. But I like the idea of turning the tales into a STORY. One that matters. One that can be told.

    Man, raising daughters isn’t going to be easy.

    • karyn March 5, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      Word. So much word.

  • Katie March 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    I love this even more because I have not a daughter, but a son. I want him to see this, to see the brave and strong side of Cinderella, the forgiving and fierceness of Snow White, for him to learn to look at a woman in his life some day (far, far, far off in the future!) and really look to see all of the sides, to really listen and hear the whole story. Thank you for this beautiful perspective. Love!

  • Selena March 5, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    My 25 year old daughter shared this and I am so impressed with your version of our beloved Fairytales! It is amazing how you showed us their true value! Made so many years ago in a time when ,yes this was the ultimate fantasy! To meet your Prince Charming and live happily ever after! Pretty sure when these films were made they had no idea as to their true meaning and the strength portrayed by these woman! Needing to be rescued was the basic message but so untrue! It really is all about ‘ones’ attitude and perspective in this wonderful, crazy, life and world we all share!i have a whole new way of looking at these movies now and will enjoy them even more! I will try to teach others not to be cynical and call them sexist! They have’ Girl Power’ written all throughout them and cant wait to watch them with my grandsons and my future grandchildren! They don’t call them ‘Classics and Timeless for nothing!!

  • J.Lee March 9, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    Wise, beautiful, compassionate, daring…..thank you for this piece. You’re brilliant and so is your message!

    • karyn March 10, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Wow, those are generous words – thank you, and thank you for being here!

  • Candi G March 12, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    This is so, gah… Tears, tears, tears. This is so precious. I see this in another light as well as we are raising our son in this world where it is seen as unacceptable(to most) to allow him to enjoy the princesses(women and girls in dresses) and treat them as such. It seems fine if we let him behave violently or aggressively with everything in sight kicking and punching and pretend killing. He is such a kind hearted compassionate, tender little old soul. He loves fairy tales and it amazes me that he gets(even at this tender age of almost 4) the deeper themes and morals within those fairy tales. There is so much of this that I want for him as well. To seek justice, courage, integrity, find his true love, be compassionate, not to give up on his dreams, dream big, and so on… Thank you for reminding me the power of fairy tales for people of all ages.

    • karyn March 13, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      Oh Candi, thank you! I love your spirit and willingness to let your son love what he loves – the heart wants what the heart wants, they say. 🙂 Sounds like he has a wonderful mama to guide him. love!

  • Allison March 16, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful letter. I am posting it into my baby girls newborn picture album. It captures everything I want for my baby girl. Thank you thank you for taking your gift of words and sharing your (and my) thoughts. It is so hard to describe all of this to our kids. Hope she finds this inspiring one day.


    • karyn March 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      Oh, Allison, I hope so too! Thank you so much for this note – it made my day. Wishing you and your new lovely tons of snuggles and peace and rest. Love.