Modeling confidence and self-worth challenges this mother L e a Hans o n
ur society teaches girls from a very young age that beauty and looks are more important than anything else. Even worse, that being told you’re nice looking is the highest praise one can receive. Since my daughter’s birth, two and a half years ago, it seems the only thing people can conjure up to say to a little girl is, “You’re so cute!” or “Don’t you look pretty today?” Ack. Maybe I’m over thinking it. But, I’m not. Ever since my daughter was a wrinkly infant, I’ve been telling her she was sweet and gentle and kind and fun and smart and a nice girl. I’ve paid little to no attention about what she wears save to compliment her on her stellar ability to dress herself. Similarly, I’ve been making a point not to say negative things about myself and the way I look. My daughter will learn soon enough that girls are “supposed” to be negative about themselves. She doesn’t need to learn it from me. Here I am, doing the right thing. Teaching my daughter through my actions that her personality and wit are more valuable than her looks. But then a bomb drops. My friend forwards an article to me and a few other moms with daughters with the subject line, “Ugh, why is it so hard?” It was a link to a Huffington Post article by Amanda King titled, “I am Beautiful, Girls.” King writes, “I don’t want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too… ‘Look at me, girls!’ I say to them. ‘Look at how beautiful I am. I feel really beautiful, today.’” So, evidently just refraining from fat talk and self-hating comments isn’t enough. I can’t just NOT say, “Ugh, I feel fat today,” I have to also say, “I feel beautiful!” Are you already exhausted? I am.
If you can’t see me, I just laid my head on the table. It’s not that I don’t like the way I look. Most days I think I look perfectly fine. I’m tall (an envied trait, I’ve learned), of average weight, and have straight, white teeth. I dress in frugal, reasonably fashionable clothing that fits my body. I realize I’m not ugly. I would also like to look different, as most of us would. So, here I am, trying to teach con-
of appearance, honesty can be a challenge. I’m not comfortable running around, willy-nilly saying, “I look great! Look how great I look!” But, it’s up to me to find a way to compliment myself—out loud—so my daughter learns to be confident in her appearance and confident in herself. See? Exhausting! I just moved from having my head on the table to actually lying on the floor. I’m not getting up. But I have to get up. My daughter
fidence and self-worth to my daughter that doesn’t revolve around looks and clothes. Here’s the deal, appearance matters. We know it does. The way we present ourselves to others can illustrate we are confident (or not) and that we take pride (or not) in the way we look and the way we are. And, dress codes are real; we wear a suit to an interview and a swimming suit to the pool for a reason. But, for me, finding the balance between teaching that appearance matters—but not more than anything—is very difficult. I value authenticity. I strive to be honest while appropriate. On the subject
seeing me lie on the floor in desperation is as bad or worse than hearing me say, “Ugh, look at this big butt!” Even harder, I feel the responsibility to do these things as though they are easy and no big deal when in fact they are extraordinarily difficult. King wrote, “I want [my daughters] to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don’t know what to make of ourselves.” Impossible beauty? Come on, this isn’t me… or is it?