Lisa Leonard Designs

For Clara.

September 25th | finding beauty

Clara is my niece and oh my goodness she is spunky and fun and adorable. She gave me permission to share this note with you. Although I wrote it with Clara in mind, I could have written it to myself or to you. It applies to all of us, I think. I hope it encourages you too.

Last summer at the lake, you mentioned that you don’t like your teeth. And that got me thinking.

When I was younger, I had a gap between my front teeth, too. Actually, it was a very large gap, and I had until my sophmore year of high school. I was incredibly insecure about it. I tried to smile a forced, awkward smile that didn’t show my teeth. Sometimes I would put a little piece of apple behind my front teeth, look in the mirror and try to image how much more beautiful I would be if my teeth met in the middle.

I clearly remember one of my parents’ friends telling me, “that gap is so large you could drive a semi through it!”. I’m sure he had no idea how sensitive I was about my teeth, but the comment stung. Even typing these words today, it still stings a little. Or I could tell you about the Jr. High boy who asked me if I was missing a tooth. I wanted to crawl under my desk and hide. I was embarrassed. No, it was more than that. I was ashamed of the way I looked. I didn’t want to be me.

Now I’m grown up and I’ve had work done on my teeth. They line up perfectly and there is no gap in the middle. I like my smile now. And I smile big for pictures without thinking about how my smile will look.

But I wish something. I wish that I had known that I was beautiful then. Even with a gap between my teeth, I was lovely and valuable and amazing. Outward beauty isn’t what makes a person beautiful or valuable or lovable.

I have known beautiful people who radiate kindness and love–who by the world’s standards are unattractive. And I’ve known ‘perfect’ and ‘popular’ girls who are unkind, unhappy and when I look at them, I don’t see their shiny hair or perfect skin, all I see is unkindness. Yes, by the world’s standards they may be beautiful, but it’s hard to see past the rude comments and self-centerdness.

Can I tell you something, Clara? As you get older, you’ll probably have your teeth fixed. You’ll probably learn how to apply eye shadow so that it makes your blue eyes look even brighter than they already are. And you’ll probably find the perfect pair of jeans that fit just right. But you will never be more beautiful than you are right now. Because what makes you beautiful is that you are you. You have a sweet and kind heart. You have a sparkle in your eye and a love for others. These things radiate out of you.

You are wonderfully made. Made to be YOU!

Even if you can’t see it yet, you have to believe me. You are amazing and so incredibly special. It’s not your teeth or your hair or how long your legs are that makes you lovely. It’s just you, being you.

You are beautiful.

32 Responses

  1. Wendy says:

    So beautiful – you made me tear up!!! :)

  2. Southern Gal says:

    That’s such a sweet note. You’re an amazing aunt. My mama had a huge gap in her teeth and I had one, too. Mama took me to the orthodontist when I was 11. The orthodontist looked at her and said, “Does she want this corrected or do you?” I did, but I remember my mama’s face when he asked that question. She used to put gum in that space and only slightly smile when anyone had a camera around. About 10 years later Mama had her teeth fixed, too. She has a beautiful smile. I only wish she had someone like you to speak truth to her when she was younger.

  3. Kristi says:

    Very wonderfully said and so very true – thanks for posting!

  4. Andrea says:

    Have you seen this video?
    It’s probably not appropriate for your young beautiful-inside-and-out friend, but important for every woman. We need to know there’s so much more to us than outer beauty that conforms to the standards of Hollywood and fashion magazines.

  5. Jenny says:

    That is such a beautifully kind note, Lisa. I would have LOVED to receive this from my aunt. It made me tear up, b/c all we all want is to know people see beauty in us. And i have this same desire for my daughters, especially Bella June. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Tami says:

    Beautiful! I wish someone would have written a letter to me! You are a very special aunt and you’re correct…she is beautiful…inside and out!

  7. Lisa says:

    How sweet is this! What a lucky niece you have. I can’t believe how cutting people’s comments can be without their even realizing it. Makes you think twice about what comes out of your mouth.

  8. Dan says:

    Lisa, thanks you for your kind and true words. I agree that Clara is a beautiful young lady and that inner beauty is more important than outward appearance.

  9. jenn says:

    what a gift you gave her, and i’m sure it will be pulled out and read and reread and reread over the years. lovely words from a caring auntie.

  10. Amy says:


    What a kind and heartfelt letter. I will be sharing this with my ten year old daughter. Funny, we just had a conversation about this a few weeks ago. I think you said it much more eloquently than I managed to at the time.

    I love your blog. Please keep it coming!
    Amy in Colorado

  11. Paige says:

    Clara is such a pretty girl. One day she will know it and see it, just like you did. I think our unique qualities make us pretty.

  12. Lyn says:

    Oh your niece has such an amazing smile! I hope she never hides it! I never liked my smile growing up. I had straight teeth but always thought that too much of my gums showed! It wasn’t til I met my future husband when I was 19 & he asked why I always covered up my smile with my hand that I even realized I did it. It took me a while to break that habit, But having someone tell me my smile was beautiful helped!!

  13. Kelly says:

    What a sweet & beautiful girl, and she’s lucky to have you as her auntie! My daughter looks to be around the same age as Clara — it’s a rough time, as they grow from little girls into young women, with all the confusion and pressures that come with it. So important to remind them of their innate beauty, but inside and out!

  14. oh, lisa! clara is such a fortunate little girl to have such an awesome and caring aunt. truer words could not have been written to her and i hope that she’ll remember those words for the rest of her life! thank you for sharing =)

  15. Keshet Starr says:

    So very lovely:)

  16. Jennifer Roehl says:

    You are such a beautiful role model for your sweet niece. This post reminded me that I need to relay this message to my daughters as much as I can. Thank you for sharing!

  17. Charly says:

    I grew up as a girl with a gap named Charly. I was teased. I finally talked my parents into braces during high school (they are so expensive!). I had a gapless smile for maybe 3 months…maybe. After a carwreck where I had busted my mouth, I couldn’t wear my retainer. Back came the gap! Even though it bothered me when I was younger…can’t find many pictures with me showing my teeth…I can’t imagine not having it now. My husband fell in love with the girl with the gap, my son knows his momma as the girl with the gap. So what if I am a Charly Girl with a gap…I like it that way. Teasing can hurt but knowing how beautiful you are inside and out makes a world of difference. The people who love you will love you with or without a gap. :)

  18. Tricia says:

    Thank you for sending such a perfect note to our sweet Clara! You couldn’t have said it any better – she is a beauty inside and out.

    This is a post we need to print out and give to all our young girls. What a fabulous thing to learn at 10 (instead of waiting till 30 or 40!!)

    She is so blessed to have the fantastic Flaming family!

    from her aunt on the other side :-)

  19. Mindy says:

    Honestly I didn’t notice the gap until I read the letter. I just saw sparkly beautiful blue eyes and a radiant smile.

  20. Linda says:

    Thank you for taking the time to so sweetly share those uplifting words with your beautiful niece and for also sharing it with us! It makes me want to be a voice of kindness and encouragement to someone else. God bless you!

  21. Kelli says:

    Okay, not just teary, but full-on crying! Clara is so lucky to have you as her auntie.

    We always tell our two girls just what my dad always told me, “You’re beautiful – on the inside AND the outside.”

    Thank you to Clara for letting you share the beautiful letter with us.

  22. Loved this. Like water for my soul today.

  23. Victoria says:

    Dear Clara and Lisa,

    I have a gap in my 2 front teeth too! I used to be so sensitive about it, so I had work done so my teeth would grow together. My dentist told me I could get braces to finish closing the gap, but my teeth were straight. I opted not and there is still a small gap. It makes me….me! I am happy about my decision and I don’t even think about it anymore.

    You are fearfully and wonderfully made!

  24. Clare says:

    What a beautiful letter to write your niece, it brought a tear to my eye

  25. eva maria says:

    Living on the other side of the world I can so relate to this story! I too have a gap between my teeth, I felt horrid about it when I was young, especially as a teenager. I have never had it fixed though, and I can’t say I’m happy with it but I’ve learnt to accept it. I’m forty now, and I tend to smile big when being photographed! I don’t care as much anymore, and as you say : it makes me ME.

  26. Aida says:

    Thank you Lisa for reminding Clara where true beauty comes from!. I think the gap is GREAT!, it makes Clara unique and that’s pretty cool.

  27. connie says:

    tears…I too have a gap…and was given plenty of options for fixing the gap however opted for none of those and am just me, with a gap and I am okay with that…fast forward to adult hood, little did I know that as a grown up I would have to be okay with other parts of my body looking different following a diagnosis of breast cancer…and full removal of the cancer (double mastectomy) and chemotherapy, where I lost my long, curvy hair for a year…but here I am…today, and I am not my teeth or my hair (which has grown back) or my breasts…just a child of God and thanking Him for each day…Lisa and Clara…blessings to you, beautiful girls!~C

  28. Krista says:

    So beautiful and encouraging! I’m sure your niece was immeasurably blessed by it.

  29. My mom has a pretty sizeable gap between her front teeth. Always did, and it is still there. Growing up (and even now as she tells my kids), she always said, “the bigger the gap, the richer you’ll be.” She can fit at least one quarter in the space and wears her gap proudly.

  30. i love how your childhood experience grew you into a compassionate, truth speaking woman. the same will happen with claire, too.

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