Every parent of a daughter will know the feeling – looking at your little girl and thinking: how could anyone be so beautiful? I am certainly guilty of it; I think I experience this every day! My little Emma is just over a year old, and often I can’t help but tell her she’s beautiful and agree wholeheartedly when she gets a compliment from someone else. But then I wonder – should I not? Will I make her obsessed with her looks? Will she think that’s all she has to offer? Will she become self-involved?
Then I read this article: No, I Won’t Stop Telling My Daughter She’s Beautiful. It really spoke to me. In particular, it made me realise these three things:
Girls need to hear it from their dads
The author, a mother, tells the story of her daughter all dressed up and coming to her parents for admiration. While her mum’s compliments were noted, it was her father’s compliments that really made her sparkle. Isn’t it amazing how much a father’s love (or lack thereof) has to do with his daughter’s sense of self-worth; her security; her confidence in the long run? In fact, I think it is so linked that I would encourage all fathers to express to their daughters – often, and whether they are dressed up or covered in their lunch / mud / paint – how beautiful they are. Because somehow and subconsciously, little girls realise that these words from their dad means that they are pretty both on the inside and out. And somehow, this knowledge stays with her and affects her decisions as she grows into a woman.
The desire to be beautiful came long before the media
Sure – the media does propagate the theory that we all need to look a certain (impossible) way, and that how you look is all that counts. A very clever strategy to make us buy all of the products! But the desire to be beautiful came long before the media. Some years back, I worked with an organisation which gave talks to young girls about beauty and valuing themselves from the inside out. The first module we always taught was called The Philosophy of Beauty and I learnt something very important from that: as girls, our deep desire to be beautiful comes from the deep desire to be loved – which everyone wants. Since beauty attracts and we all are keen to attract love, we equate the way we look with how lovable we are. Of course the media uses this against us and our need to be beautiful can overtake us. But the key is this: we have this innate desire to be beautiful. Who knows what issues we will avoid later by letting our kids know that they are the most beautiful people in our world!?
Compliment, but be balanced
But even with all of this in mind, we have to be prudent. Our media culture already tells our daughters that all they have to offer are their bodies, and I certainly want no part in reiterating that view. So, as the article says, tell them they’re beautiful but also tell them they’re smart, and funny, and kind. Tell then they’re strong, hardworking and helpful. Tell them all these things and more, so that they grow up to be secure, confident individuals who know they are loved and valued.