Why I'll Always Tell my Daughter She's Beautiful
This post originally appeared on our old blog Born to be a Bride.
There’s a lot going on in the media these days. But hasn’t that always been the case? There are teenagers posting selfies because they think they are supposed to be “hot.” But haven’t young girls been objectified for centuries? There’s an influx of plastic surgery nipping and tucking and plumping and fluffing. But didn’t women wear corsets in the Victorian era, fainting from the strain? In the 1950s, didn’t they see posters of silver screen goddesses and wish they could whittle away their waists or perk up their breasts to be more like Monroe’s and Garbo’s? Yes, we see a lot of women’s bodies these days. Yes, this puts pressure on young girls. Beauty standards may have shifted and become more accessible to viewing than they were in the past, but they’ve always been around. This won’t stop me from telling my girl she’s beautiful.
Everywhere I click around the Interwebs since having a child, there’s some new cautionary blog post telling us not to. “Don’t talk to your daughter about her body (or her face),” “Strong is the new beautiful,” “Ignore appearances and focus on accomplishments.” You see where I’m going. And I’m not necessarily opposed to following along with this logic. Yes, my daughter will benefit from a focus on her passions, strengths, and determination as a person. Her compassion. Her kindness. Her unique qualities that I haven’t discovered yet because she’s still so young. Yes, yes, yes. But as for not telling her she’s beautiful? No, no, no.
When did beauty stop being a good thing? When did it become a singularly bad idea to make someone realize how their presence, their unique and special glow, lights up a room? When did mothers stop having the right to think their children are the most beautiful ones in the world? The first time I held Willow in my arms, I remember the word pulsing through my body. She was so tiny and perfect and delicious, I just couldn’t muster more in my brain than, beautiful. It only grows every day.
My little girl is the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. She has a special face that reflects a special soul. I know in my bones that most mothers feel this way. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to say it? The world is never going to stop judging women on their appearances. High school is never going to be easy for the ones who don’t fit the standard. Dating is never going to be a low-pressure life stage loaded with nothing but confidence and joy. Let’s face it. Every single one of us needs to hear that we are beautiful. If every time we leave the house, we’re being judged on our appearance, shouldn’t we at least come home to a place that makes us feel beautiful? When my little girl nervously enters seventh grade without needing so much as a training bra, shouldn’t she have her mother’s encouraging voice in her ear? When her heart breaks for the first time, shouldn’t she know that to her parents, there’s no one prettier?
Feeling beautiful is a very lovely thing indeed. I might not have ever been the prettiest girl in any room I entered, but I always knew that to my parents, no other girl’s face was more pleasant to look at. I distinctly remember my mom saying, too: “I am not proud of you for your beauty. I’m proud of how generous and hard-working you are. I’m proud of your grades and how you apply yourself at ballet. But you are beautiful, too.” She nailed it. Willow’s beauty is not the most important thing about her, and it’s not the place to focus. But it’s part of what I believe about her, and she deserves to know it.
At five months old, my little sweetheart hasn’t any clue what lies ahead. She’s blissfully unaware of selfies, competition, or the fact that her eye color is coveted. She doesn’t know what it is to be mocked or bullied for her appearance or to withhold eating like her mama was and did. I pray every day she won’t be affected by the beauty standards of this cruel world. But whether or not she learns the hard way that not everyone will lose their breath looking at her, she’ll always know I do. What we think about ourselves starts at home, and she’ll always know that here, she’s the prettiest girl in the world.