The Birthday Letter Every Woman Should Write to Herself

Deputy Editor Margarita Bertsos celebrated her birthday with this powerful body manifesto.

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Dear Birthday Girl,

Happy, happy birthday. You've made another lap around the sun. And what a lap it's been.

So much has happened to you this last year. Actually, let's rephrase that: You've made so much happen. I'm not talking about accolades and external stuff — I'm referring to the life you've leaned into, harder and more courageously than ever before. You made mistakes, but you were never a mistake. You learned how to be a better friend to yourself. You got hurt but you never let it shut your heart down. You disappointed people and learned how to be OK with that when it meant standing in your own truth. And at times when you let people down and wished you hadn't, you learned how to humbly admit that truth.

The writer at her slimmest in 2008.
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In 365 days, you gained so much life. But let's face it — you also gained some weight. When you woke up today, a year older, you stood in front of the mirror naked and saw a reflection of this simple truth: You are not the size you were a year ago. You've been a lot heavier than you are today, sure, but you've also been thinner. And, as with every birthday, you had fantasies of strutting into your 36th year looking like the hot 26-year-old you never got to feel like back then.

You wanted to wake up this morning and find that extra 20 or so pounds you put on since your 35th birthday had disappeared. You're angry that even though you know better, you haven't done better. You're mad at yourself for writing and editing stories in a magazine that tells thousands of women every month that long-term weight-loss success is possible, yet watching your own progress slip away one extra crumb, bite, or plate of food at a time. The reason the weight came on this year is not a mystery: You turn to food the way alcoholics turn to liquor. When you need comfort, love, or stress relief, you run to the fridge.

You're tired of being overweight, but you're also tired of hating yourself for any fluctuation on the scale. Isn't it time to stop making your weight a moral issue?

You are more than a body, and it's time you stopped measuring your worth in inches and pounds.

Let's be clear: It's OK with me if you never, ever give up on trying to match your outsides with your insides — so that your body reflects the aliveness and energy you feel. It's fine if you continue to frequent two gyms and three yoga studios, swimming, spinning, or pretzel-ing yourself into a body that's a little healthier, stronger, and fitter every day. The fact that being able to do a headstand or run a half marathon are your actual life goals doesn't make you vain. Actually, fine: You are a bit vain, but that doesn't invalidate your goals or make you a bad person.

This is all true. Yet when you blow out the candles today, after you thank the Universe for your amazing, messy, wonderful life, I know you will make this one wish: to be able to surrender your delusional ideas that you have to be a certain size to enjoy any aspect of your life. You are more than a body, and it's time you stopped measuring your worth in inches and pounds. You've spent too many birthdays wishing you looked less like a Rembrandt, Botticelli, or Rubens, and more like a Bellucci, Lopez, or Kardashian.

Happy Birthday, dear friend. It's time to finally accept that you're the only body you'll ever need to be: Margarita.

The birthday girl today, December 2016.
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