“There are flowers everywhere, for those who bother to look deeper.”
When I gave birth to my daughter I remember being mesmerized by the most beautiful being I’d ever laid eyes on. Her thick natural curls, flawless olive complexion, and gleaming big brown eyes kept me spellbound for years to come. I promised to always remember her as beautiful as she was the first day I held her. Of course I’m biased- she’s my own- the most, cutest, flawless little creation. But I’m sure many other moms feel the same way about their little ones.
Now that she is approaching 6, the concept of beauty is increasingly seeping into our previously very simple conversations about life. Something, I’m not completely ready for. For some reason, with my sons I found this task less perplexing. Ever since an early age and even now as they approach the “awkward” preteen years, they’ve never looked at me for approval or substantiation. One could argue they may be less expressive than their sister, however, I would argue different in our case. I simply think they care less than my little girl.
At such a tender age, I’m perplexed by her questions and inclination towards beauty. For those who know me well, they know I’ve never been fascinated, or occupied by makeup, or high heels. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against dressing up. I’m known to turn it up a notch on occasion, and also love to experiment with daring hair colors. But for the most part, I’m a pretty simple gal, comfortable in my running shoes!
If my daughter decides to wear make up and dress up, I want that choice to be because she is comfortable in her skin and not because she feels the need to live up to the the standards laid out by society. And certainly not because she does not feel “pretty” enough. I want her to to look in the mirror and feel positive and beautiful with her reflection, instead of scrutinizing and figuring out how to alter it.
For a while now, I didn’t think any work was required on my behalf accept being a good role model. However, I’m starting to realize that the key to protecting her from the unrealistic ideals of beauty will require more than role modelling. It will require a whole new way of communication with her.
So I’ve decided to intervene, surprise! Not really. For those who know me, you know, I’m not giving up without a fight. I’m not going to let society paint a picture of beauty in her mind, which may or may not be achievable. I will try my best so that when she looks in the mirror, she is smiling and not disappointed. She will see someone made up of much more than a complexion, or an eye color. After all her appearance is here to stay pre-determined by genetics. And it would be a pretty hard life to spend each day trying to figure out ways to change it.
My Plan of Action
Instead of focusing only on her physical appearance, I’ve decided to focus on her inner qualities. Those that will define her, those that unlike physical beauty will last a life time. I brainstormed on everything my little girl is. Among many adjectives I came up with, I will emphasize these regularly ” creative, smart, intelligent, funny, interesting, kind, loving, and strong.”
Instead of talking to her about hair, skin and clothes all the time. I will ask her what she’s reading, what she likes and dislikes. I will spark up an intelligent conversation with her, that takes into account all her great big answers. I will ask her to comment on my work and enlighten me with her ideas.
I will continue to model all different facets of a woman. We are not only beautiful in what ever color, shape and size we embody. But we are rich because of our love, friendship, relationships, loyalty, intelligence, passion, strength, ambition, empathy, devotion, kindness and ability to forgive.
I will teach her about women from different cultural and ethnic identities that have made a difference in the world.
I will show her beauty represented from different corners of the world, making up a rainbow of beautiful women. So that she is able to appreciate the creation in all its forms.
I will never stop saying “you look beautiful my darling” because it’s an aspect of what makes a woman, but it’s only one. And it’s the one she is going to be comfortable with and love embodying. Her definition of beauty will be a great one, encompassing more than just the physical.
Unless you choose to alter your eye and hair color,wear heals to gain some height, or go through procedures you have to accept that you are born with your beauty without your input. Regardless of how much you try and change yourself, a part of you will always be unsatisfied as you race against time to keep up with the newest concept of beauty. Sometimes it’s having freckles, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s having straight hair, other times it’s having a set of curls, the list is endless. And as you spend your precious years in keeping up with this game, you fail to enjoy and cultivate your real beauty-your kindness, compassion, intelligence, and other qualities that make up a beautiful woman.
Here is the amazing thing if we choose to cultivate these qualities in our girls, they will never feel like failures, they will never feel inferior to an unattainable standard. These qualities will always have the potential to grow and make them better as they age, instead of feel defeated with time. And for us moms, it’s not too late either, we also need to exemplify these qualities and build on them so that unlike those that hold on to physical appearance, our perceptions of beauty will not be shaken as we age.
The most beautiful people I know are wise, confident, compassionate, pious, friendly, loving and experienced. It’s those people I choose to be around, it’s those people that influence my lives in the most positive and genuine manner. And with age, their beauty also seems to grow.
So the next time you say to your daughter “hey beautiful” don’t forget to add some adjectives that will help broaden her concept of beauty.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t know if my strategy will have to change. But for now I’m happy with this approach. And hope that these efforts will allow her to see beauty the way I do.