Here’s the thing. It’s undeniable. My daughter is absolutely beautiful. Yes, yes, I’m a biased mother. But aside from this fact, she hears it all the time. It’s a rare occasion for us to go out in public and someone doesn’t comment on how cute she is. Sometimes, it even merits her free snacks or gifts (seriously). And all this is fine and dandy, I know she’s beautiful and I want her to know that too. But I want her to know she’s more than just beautiful too.
(photo credit to Laura Vanderzee, the best photographer in OKC!)
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I want my daughter to know she is more than lovely blonde hair, stunning blue eyes and porcelain skin. I want my daughter to understand that the quality of her character adds up to an inherently greater value than the sum of her looks.
Strong. Smart. Independent. Brave. Funny. Kind. Caring. Full of integrity. Honest. Loyal. Powerful. Strong-willed. Capable of thinking on her own. Daring. Adventurous. A world changer.
These are the kinds of descriptors I want her to hear more of. I desire for her to be able to rightfully place integrity above beauty.
This can’t happen if she’s only ever told she’s beautiful.
Just recently people started commenting more frequently on how tall she is. Can you guess what my little mockingjay is walking around the house repeating these days? “I’m tall! I’m a tall girl!” She is affected by the things she hears. We have to acknowledge this truth, and be sure she’s hearing the things that are important.
Aren’t You Being a Little Ridiculous?
Let me address the argument I already hear forming against what I’m saying. You know, the person who is thinking, “goodness can’t you just accept a compliment?” This is for you.
Yes, I can accept a compliment. In fact, I aim to teach my daughter to accept compliments boldly yet also in humility. This is about our culture. This is about the pervasive, underlying cultural standard that values a woman based on her appearance alone. How else do you suggest we battle this very real issue? What good does it do my daughter to hear on repeat that she is so very beautiful? What message does that clearly send to her? “Beauty is all that matters.” That’s the message she’s being inundated with.
I can’t battle this ever-growing problem alone. And listen, I’m GUILTY AS CHARGED TOO. It’s way too easy to comment on how adorable/handsome/cute/pretty a child is. I fully understand! I’ve caught myself changing my method of compliments since becoming a parent. I obviously don’t always know the child well enough to comment on the content of their character, so I’ve adopted a generic phrase, “well aren’t you just the cutest thing! I bet you’re kind too!” It’s a work in progress.
But that’s the goal! Progress! Working toward a culture that sees a person for their true value, not passing judgment based on their outward appearance. How do we get there?
A Practical Solution to Help Battle the Weight of Beauty
I am resolved to battle this head-on. One way that I have decided to attack this issue, is by how I respond when strangers tell my daughter she’s beautiful. I absolutely want to confirm that praise from them and thank them for the compliment. But if they stop there, I will be the one who goes further. “Thank you so much, she is beautiful isn’t she? She’s also an incredibly smart little girl too!” I also believe this is a prime opportunity to take my daughter even deeper. After an exchange, I can also talk to her about what we just experienced. Something along the lines of, “that person sees how pretty you are and that’s great, but mommy knows that you are also a smart, strong, clever little girl!”
What if you practiced this yourself? What if you personally worked to point out people’s character, over their appearance? How do we shift culture without actively engaging in being a part of the change?