“Hi! I can’t give you my name, number or address because my father is a killer and he will continue to kill.”
I am sure you remember that line as well as I do. You made me recite it every time I left the house. As my father, growing up, you had a strong instinct to protect me from the dangers of the world.
We had a fancy alarm system. Your phone was never off. And if anyone messed with me, you turned on the intimidation. While you consciously focused on my safety, unknowingly, you also guarded me against an invisible danger hurting young women, a lack of self-esteem.
According to Dove Self-Esteem Fund, seven in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with family and friends.
Dad, I was the three in 10. I have and had high self-esteem and I know exactly why.
Every single day of my childhood, you repeatedly told me I was the best. But you offered more than just compliments.
We have had a special relationship for as long as I can remember. According to you, it started day one.
One of your favorite stories to tell is about the day I was born. You claim that I wasn’t crying and screaming like most babies. Instead, when I entered the world, I looked up at you and smiled. That’s the moment you say you knew you were in trouble.
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As a toddler, instead of calling me your princess, you told everyone I was your pit bull. That’s because I would bite if I didn’t get my way.
When I was six years old, you bought my brother season tickets to New York Rangers’ games. I got so mad.
I said to you, “Just because I am a girl that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go.”
The very next game I was front and center in my oversized Messier jersey, screaming at the top of my lungs, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” the entire game.
Charming. I know.
I wasn’t the quiet and graceful little girl you and mom probably once pictured. Instead, I was outspoken, opinionated and aggressive.
You often teased me about my toughness.
However, I knew it gave you tremendous pride because you would have this smirk on your face when you would tell everyone, “In my career as a lawyer I have stood in front of some of the meanest judges but the only person that scares me is my daughter.”
You encouraged me to continue to advocate for myself, except, of course, when I disagreed with you. Without realizing it at the time, you were the first and most important feminist in my life, giving me the resources, support and opportunities needed to chase my dreams.
However, as I got older I was exposed to more influences, more messages and more people. For women, there is a long list of social pressures and standards – some more troubling than others.
We are told to be skinny without losing our curves.
We are told our appeal is in our appearance.
We are told if we are outspoken, we are bossy.
We are told if we are smart, we are know-it-alls.
We are told if we aren’t perfect, we aren’t worthy.
We are told we are better as followers than leaders.
We are told to become wives, not businesswomen.
Dad, there is a whole bunch of BS out there that you couldn’t and can’t stop me from hearing, witnessing or experiencing. While boasting about my boldness made me smile as a child, what has made me tough in life is your time.
There is no dramatic story or life-changing moment that illustrates your impact on my life or the significance of our relationship. It has always been the little moments, or maybe simply the fact that we have so many moments, that’s mattered most.
You never missed a soccer game, as you screamed on the sidelines at the refs even though I was always the dirtiest player on the field. When I needed new clothes, or even when I didn’t need new clothes, you took me shopping. You didn’t just pay the bill, you helped me choose my outfits.
When I was a TV sportscaster, my shows were often embargoed but you would tune in to every single one, even if all you could hear me say was, “And that’s a look at sports tonight.”
After my shows, you would immediately text me, “Great job.”
To this day, you always answer my calls, even when you can’t talk.
The attention you have given me has made me feel important, loved, valued, competent and worthy.
From my assault, which I once thought would kill you if you ever found out, to the naysayers who focused on my body and dismissed my brain, life has tried to rattle me more times than I can count. But I have remained resistant to other people’s opinions of me and resilient against all the roadblocks aimed to hold me back.
You convinced me that my abilities have no limitations.
Now, as I embark on this new journey of entrepreneurship as the founder of The Unsealed, I am met with puzzles that need to be solved and a future with no guarantees. But instead of being fearful, I am optimistic and excited.
I believe in myself, Dad. And that is all because of you.
See, your goal as my father may have been to protect me from the world, but by making me a priority in your life, you did one better. You instilled in me the confidence to conquer it.
Thank you for always telling me that I am the best, but the truth is you are…
I love you more,