She just couldn’t let it go! We were heading to see the biggest movie of the year and all she could think about was her hair. For over thirty minutes she twisted, turned and toyed with it. This was not the first time I had witnessed her cosmetic frustrations. But there was something about this one that…
That made me think that something needs to change. And soon!
Our girls are spending too much time fretting over their appearance. However, they are not to blame! Almost from the day they recognize their own reflection, they are inundated with images of what beautiful is and what beautiful isn’t. After watching my daughter worry about her hair for at least a half hour I began to conduct some mental math. And I figured that by the time girls graduate high school they most likely have spent thousands of hours agonizing over their appearance.
I want to stop for a moment and make it clear that I realize that I am generalizing here. But I don’t think I am that far off. Not only do I worry about lost time, I worry about the effect that this has on our girls’ psyche. It is not fair to them and we need to do something about it.
We owe it to our girls to redefine beautiful so that the generation that’s about to enter prekindergarten has more time and fewer worries. More than anything, I want them to feel good about themselves, instead of constantly thinking that they have to measure up to some mythical standard that doesn’t exist. Below I have suggested five means by which we can make this happen.
Change the Way You Speak
Make every effort to use the word beautiful, differently. Yes, people can be beautiful. But they mustn’t always be a Victoria Secrets Supermodel. A sunset can be beautiful. A kind gesture can be beautiful. A moment for which there are no words can be beautiful. Take the time to point these things out and make sure you use the word beautiful when doing so.
Soon our girls will begin doing the same. They will find beauty where there may have never known it existed. More importantly, they will start to find beauty in themselves. Because they are beautiful!
I love Disney movies as much as the next person, but far too often they have female characters that must be rescued my men. Point out that this does not need to be the case. Disney movies such as Mulan, Princess and the Frog and Brave contain girls that are strong, powerful and capable of making it on their own. Yes, they are visually attractive. But that is not what makes them beautiful. They are beautiful because they are powerful and because they believe in themselves.
Don’t Have a Double Standard
I did! I allow my four-year old son to play video games in which he is fighting and crushing the bad guys. I probably shouldn’t, but I do. And yet, I was hesitant for my daughter to see movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Why? Was I worried she couldn’t handle it? Or was it the fact that she was a girl and I didn’t want her exposed to the violence that I deemed was okay for my four-year old son?
Recently, I made the decision to allow my daughter to watch movies such as Hunger Games and Divergent. We watch them together. Yes, there are some violent scenes. And while the actresses that portray these leads are attractive, they don’t ever stop to fix their hair. They are beautiful because they are powerful and because they care more about others than themselves.
Like many, I find Nicki Minaj’s songs to be infectious and once they get in my head I have a hard time getting them out. Yet, I can’t help but cringe when I begin to pay attention to some of her lyrics. Our girls don’t realize that they are singing songs that are degrading to them. I am not naïve enough to think that our girls will stop listening to songs that sound good. But, I do think it is important to explain what the words mean that are coming out of their mouth. The first time I explained to my daughter what Nicki Minaj was referring to when she used the word anaconda in a song, she cringed. And she should have. She’s ten!
My daughter pays closer attention to the lyrics of songs these days. And I don’t censor what she listens to. I don’t need to. She is now able to discern for herself lyrics that celebrate females and lyrics that don’t. Not surprisingly, she gravitates towards the songs that celebrate powerful, beautiful females of all shapes, colors and sizes.
Surround Them with Beautiful People
Finally, we must make a concerted effort to surround our daughters with beautiful people. Oftentimes, if left unchecked, our girls will gravitate towards the popular and the pretty. It’s human nature. The thing is, these interactions do not leave them feeling better about themselves. In fact, they often come away feeling worse.
It is our job to seek out the beautiful people in our lives and point them out to our girls. We know who they are because we feel better when we are around them. More importantly, they help us to feel better about ourselves. They make us beautiful.
We Can Do This
I feel very passionately about this topic because I witness firsthand the toll it takes on our girls. My girl. Let’s redefine beautiful. And let’s start early. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look nice and there is nothing wrong in taking pride in one’s appearance. It just bothers me when it becomes all-consuming. Because the next time I take my daughter to see a movie I want her hand to be in mine and not in her hair because she doesn’t like the way it looks. That would be beautiful.
“It is the time that you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose important.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince