Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Loving What is Real....

One of my all time favorite children's books is The Velveteen Rabbit. While it definitely brings back visions of tricycles and My Little Pony, this book was read to me often before bedtime and I had such an affection for this story. I remember one year for Christmas I received the newest edition of this book, along with a stuffed animal that was supposed to be the Velveteen Rabbit. It was one of my favorite gifts. As I have gotten older, and have gained a little bit of life experience since my days drinking out of a sippy cup, I still appreciate this book because I think its message transcends the playground.

The Velveteen Rabbit is more than a story about a boy and his stuffed animal; it is a parable that echoes a desire that we all have in our hearts to be loved and to be accepted as we are. At one point in the book, the Velveteen Rabbit has a discussion with the Skin Horse, another toy, about his fear that he will not be special or loved by the boy. The Velveteen Rabbit longs to be special, and believes that his experience of being accepted and loved will make him Real, which will ultimately give him validation. The following is a short excerpt of one of my favorite parts, in which the Skin Horse is talking to the Velveteen Rabbit about becoming Real:

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
The Velveteen Rabbit

The reason that I love this part so much is because it extends to more than just toys. We get mixed messages today about beauty, and what is required of us to fit in, to be accepted, to be admired, to be loved, to be beautiful. This certainly extends to our bodies, and the expectation that exists for us to be a certain size or shape in order to be perceived as beautiful. At the risk of sounding like a tired cliche, I think what makes us beautiful goes way beyond our appearance. And that is one reason why I love this book so much- it illustrates the idea that our character and experience is what makes us beautiful, and that people love us most when we are being the most authentic versions of ourselves. Our experience, our age, our resilience all make us real and make us beautiful!

As we try to navigate what is real in our culture today, we must decide how we define beauty and choose to base our standard on things that are different from what the media might tell us. One organization that is doing a great job of exploring beauty and educating young girls about self-esteem is Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty. I have mentioned this organization more than once (follow this link, or this one to read more) because I think that the resources that they provide for young girls and women are wonderful. Whether you have body image struggles or not, whether you have an eating disorder or not, I think we can all relate to the message behind the Velveteen Rabbit of wanting to be loved and wanting to be accepted just as we are. I read a quote the other day that has stuck with me, and I will leave you with it.. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."


  1. great post...great memories of the book...and...l-o-v-e the quote by emerson!

  2. What a powerful post and great reminder of what it is to be REAL and what true beauty looks like -- nothing like what society portrays.