I’m an unrepeatable person. So are you if you’re reading this. I think you’re beautiful. I think you’re smart. I think you have the ability to do whatever you set your mind to.
Every little girl is beautiful because yes you are looking at her physical outward appearance but inside of her she’s got a beautiful heart, a beautiful brain, a beautiful soul, etc. I understand that some people put way too much emphasis on the beauty and not enough on the brains but I don’t think it’s right to separate them. And I am a person who thinks that everyone is beautiful. Literally.
My daughter was an exceptionally beautiful child (still is) and was complimented continuously. We taught her to say “Thank you but I am smart too!”
From the age of two that was her reply. Now she is doing her PHD in math (simple explanation) at a an Ivy League university.
I do agree with you that we should not solely focus on little girl’s beauty however, I tell my daughters everyday how beautiful they are. I know my parents did for me and I feel that gave me an abundance of confidence to be told I am pretty. What person doesn’t need that confidence booster along with other types of confidence boosters, intelligence, etc.
As a mother of 3 girls (12,10, and 10) I LOVE this article. I always tell my children they are beautiful and how proud I am of them. We celebrate things they accomplish by themselves and even more if they stood out and thought differently. We have been dealing with kids calling them fat (they are far from it) and stupid for 3 years now and it drives me crazy. When I hear about it then I tell them over and over again how beautiful and great they are and emphasis that everyone has different body types but they are all beautiful. The older they get the harder it gets because of people at school (sadly, adults included). I wish that the type of thinking in the article would be taught at schools.
So if you want to change the world, one little girl at a time, don’t miss the forest for the trees. Rather than making such a big deal about intelligence (which happens to be something you personally value, but who is to say that it is any more important than integrity, which you didn’t mention?) how about you tell the little girls that it’s *their* life, and that starting now they get to be whoever they want to be. Tell them that the world is a treasure trove of fun and valuable attributes that they can have as many as they want of, all they have to do is decide what they desire and go get it.
Did you ever notice how the children of immigrants that grow up in America don’t speak with the same accent that their parents do, even if they grew up speaking another language in the home? The reason is that we spend more time with our peer group than our parents. Culture, values, self image, etc all tend to veer toward the peer group we grow up with more than what our parents taught us. I think that it is important to acknowledge that all of the dichotomies are false. It is not that the media did it to the girls, nor is it that the parents did it to them. It’s not the culture, and it’s not the educational system either. There is an underlying theme in the narrative that women are victims. At some point we have to concede that women do it to themselves. Might they have received some bad advice along the way? Certainly. We all do. But every individual is responsible for their own choices in forming their identity, and the most important thing about accepting responsibility is that with it comes the authority to make changes.
A few thoughts–I appreciate the message of this essay. However, as now-grown child who was never once told she was pretty by her mother (a small flaw among a million blessings), I take every opportunity to tell my daughters how beautiful they are. I wasn’t told I was pretty – although I was – because it wasn’t valued in my family, and I still suffered every last body image pitfall you list above. I think telling girls they are lovely predates the current pop culture fixation on image. That’s not to say that we don’t have a lot of work to do in making our daughters and other young girls build self-esteem, because of course, we do.
Fabulous article, thank you very much. It made me really think and realise we have a long way to go. But we are on the path and that is what counts.
Lynn, I think this is a good point. We shouldn’t overemphasize appearance with young girls, but appearance IS a component of how you influence other people. We shouldn’t teach anyone that their value is solely in their appearance, but I think we definitely should equip them with the tools they need to use appearance to its best advantage. So when my hypothetical future daughter goes out on the field to beat the opposing team, I can tell her that a determined face and stance are good visual weapons to convey dominance. When she goes for a job interview, I can advise her that studies have shown that women wearing a certain amount of makeup are perceived as more competent, and we can shop for sharp, professional working clothes together. And when she’s going out on dates, or places where she might meet single people she’s interested in, I can teach her about how to show off her good looks to pique a potential partner’s interest, so she can then reel him/her in with the rest of her attractive traits (her personality, her brain, her values, etc.). But in all those cases, appearance should be treated as just one more tool that you use in order to achieve your goals, not something that defines you.
Nicole, I am so glad you said this. And disheartened by how many comments I had to read before coming across yours. Similarly, I was a child who was told by pretty much everyone that I was smart, accomplished, clever, witty… every compliment that theoretically counts. But I was never told I was pretty or beautiful. And that is the one that sticks. In my adulthood, I have often been told that I am. Beautiful, that is. But I don’t believe it. Not in my heart of hearts. It sounds cheap and insincere now.
They are not mutually exclusive. Girls can be both clever and pretty. And we want to and should believe that we are both of these things.
I think the problem is with the narrow definition of beauty. Everyone is beautiful, not just on the inside but on the outside physically, too, if we look at them the right way. I try to point out that beauty to my daughter as well as pointing out all of the other great things that she and others bring to the world.