Beauty. What is it? What is it when it pertains to our daughters, to our nieces, to our grand-daughters? In today’s world beauty is so defined. So rigid and unforgiving. A certain coloring. A certain size. Nothing too big. Nothing too small. Nothing too hairy. Nothing without enough hair…It’s exhausting.
I know this isn’t what we want for them. We throw around phrases like “true beauty is inside” and “beautiful on the inside” BUT, let’s face it, our actions speak louder than our words.
How can we redefine beauty for the next generation if we don’t for ourselves first? This is no easy task. I may as well have just asked us to climb Mount Everest. Each generation unwittingly passes along this narrow description of beauty because they cannot break the cycle for themselves.
I still remember the feeling of sadness when my mother criticized herself and the desire to make her happy and “feel pretty”. While she NEVER said negative things about my sisters or I’s appearance we saw how she treated herself and we in turn treated ourselves the same way. It’s a vicious cycle…hard to watch but harder to break.
I’ve thought a lot on this subject and I have come up with some things we can do to try and change things and reshape beauty in the minds of those we love, of those we hope and dream for. These are no easy tasks…yet sometimes the hardest things we do are the most important.
- Compliment our children on the things they do as we would on the way they look. “wow, I’m amazed and overjoyed at the beauty in the way you ride your bike, hug your sister, read your books, tie your shoes”…help them find the beauty in the everyday. In the mundane.
- Never. I mean never, ever let them hear us criticize ourselves or the way we look. Those old voices in our heads will doubtfully go quietly into the night, but the more we don’t voice “look at he bags under my eyes, look at my pouch, my flabby arms, my imperfections everywhere” the more we take it’s power away. The more we silence it’s negative whispers.
- Compliment ourselves in front of them, and not just on our good hair days. “Wow I love how strong my body looks, how unique I am, how proud I feel of my voice today.” This can be so difficult as we were always taught as young children not to be boastful or proud but we have to squash that feeling in order to teach our children to find the beauty in themselves.
- Give them positive role models. Find people and characters that our children can look up to that break the molds. My daughter has just started to get into Nancy Drew books, and I think it’s wonderful for her to admire a female character who’s role in a story has nothing to do with her physical appearance. I’m not going to criticize princesses (my daughters love them as much as the next) but it’s important to show our children a wide range of role models.
- Let them make decisions about their physical appearance. This is a hard one for me…I love choosing their clothing but I know it’s important for them to make their own choices and develop their own definition of how they like to look. I do insist they wear weather appropriate clothing but I let them choose what they want to wear and how they want their hair. I squash that little voice that says “You cannot be serious” when I see some of their combinations and instead simply say “I love your creativity”.
The thing about beauty is…it’s everywhere, we just have to be open to see it.