on beauty… or not

Confession: when I started this post, it was going to be funny. Nothing earth-shattering. You wouldn’t have spit out your lunch. You wouldn’t have peed your pants. You might not even have laughed out loud. But it was to be typical kidlingville fare.

As I was getting ready for work Tuesday morning, the Kidling looked at me and said, “You don’t look very pretty.” I was creating an opening and coming up with the perfect one-liner to close the post when I decided that wasn’t the post I wanted to write today.

You all know that story that has been making the rounds?  The one about mothers telling our daughters we are beautiful? It is every bit as amazing as folks are saying. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, then you can check it out here. Amanda King writes poignantly and with truth that lies in the depths of every mother’s soul.

Even in its general amazingness, I can’t subscribe to her thesis wholesale. Why? It is complicated.

For one thing, I don’t want physical beauty to be a priority for The Kidling. I get that Amanda King wasn’t saying that. I get that she is facing the reality of being female in this world where beauty is prized. And I get that she clearly has her priorities straight with regard to raising strong, thoughtful daughters.

Perhaps her age has something to do with it. She is young enough that I prefer her to use “beautiful” as an adjective to modify sunset, or song, or flower. A beautiful story. A beautiful painting. But not a face. I don’t want her worrying about that at four years old. Not yet.

Another reason? I am beautiful. Not crazy beautiful. Not model beautiful. Not breathtaking. But pretty enough that I don’t spend time worrying about it. And do you know what? It just isn’t that big of a deal. It is a convenience. A free pass. A smile and a held door once a month or so that might not otherwise be held. It might not be fair, but it is reality. Which is why it doesn’t define me.

The “me” I want The Kidling to identify when she thinks of me during her childhood is the one who is strong, loving, and smart. Maybe even sort of funny. An occasional pain in the ass and an irrational stickler when it comes to her dinner table behavior. A mother who would never raise a hand to her, and who apologized when she raised her voice (unless, of course, she totally deserved a grouchy mama due to her general stinkeriness at that given moment). I want her to recall her mother as fun and passionate, if flawed. And a mother who loved the shit out of her.

But beautiful? My soul, I should hope. My shell, I’m less concerned with. And I hope upon hope that she judges herself by that same standard.

About The Mamahttp://kidlingville.comProfessional talker, editor, emailer, problem solver, adjunct lecturer, blogger, and mother to the brilliantly absurd Kidling.

150 thoughts on “on beauty… or not

  1. Wonderful, Christine, and so wise!! What a beautiful gift to give The Kidling. I see trailers for these reality shows like “Honey Boo Boo” (bleck!) and the kiddy beauty pagents and I think “Oh my gosh, but you are setting these children up for a lifetime of heartache!” No matter how lovely you are on the outside, that beauty *will* fade eventually, or at the very least be altered in ways you might not welcome, but inner beauty–a strong sense of self, a belief in one’s own abilities and inherent goodness, THAT is something that will last Alice a lifetime and carry her through many storms. The Mama is very, very wise….

    • Thank you, Lori, for your kind words. It is hard to be a parent, isn’t it? I fancy it the hardest to be a mother parenting a daughter, though I imagine strong arguments could be made for the difficulty of a mother raising her son, a father raising his daughter, a father raising his son… We all have external pressures to which we must choose how to respond, but I find few more insidious than the American fascination with beauty. I simply hope (upon hope, upon hope, upon hope) that The Dada and I are able to model self-love in such a manner that Alice believes it to be the rule, rather than the exception.

    • I thoroughly agree with this post and I feel as if donnaanddiablo said very well what my personal belief is: that inner beauty is far more preferable than outside beauty, which is fleeting. Inner beauty will certainly last a lifetime.

      This is such a wonderfully written post. Great job!

      Adieu, scribbler

      • Bonsoir, Scribbler! Thanks eversomuch for your kind words. I really appreciate it. Lori (donnaanddiablo) is full of wisdom and insight. I couldn’t agree with you (both) more.


  2. You’re right Christine – it is complicated, but you certainly are on the right path for Alice. The beauty that one should prize is certainly not always that which is visible to the eye. And valuing that beauty more than the media and societal pressures suggest comes from values such as yours. And she is well on her way…That said, I remember thinking my mom was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen – and would pretend that she was a princess when my parents would go someplace requiring formal clothes. That ‘pretend’ didn’t skew my value system…for there was so much else to my world than ust physical beauty…And that’s Alice’s world – full of experiences and people who will define beauty in the broad and expansive way it should be…

    • You are so right, Mimi. Of course, admiring and appreciating physical beauty–whether in human form, in art, or in nature–need not come of the expense of admiring the beautiful spirit, or the kind soul. I would be lying if I said my heart wouldn’t swell with joy upon discovering that Alice shared your childhood fantasy. That bit of pertend is such a pure expresison of youthful love. As a child, your awareness of your own mother’s physical beauty surely would not have manifested itself in such a charming bit of pretend play if you did not also so adore her inner person. I only hope (upon hope, the theme of the day) that Alice’s life and world will be the one you describe: of people and experiences that embrace beauty in all its forms.

  3. Dad says bravo, and well done dear.

    >________________________________ > From: the book of alice >To: dmhayes92@yahoo.com >Sent: Monday, November 26, 2012 9:17 AM >Subject: [New post] on beauty… or not > > > WordPress.com >Christine posted: “Confession: when I started this post, it was going to be funny. Nothing earth-shattering. You wouldn’t have spit out your lunch. You wouldn’t have peed your pants. You might not even have laughed out loud. But it was to be typical the book of alice fare. ” >

  4. Very wise and true words that can also be directed at the raising of boys. As you know, I do not have any girls but I still cringe at the princess fluff and plastic pink of the girls toy aisles and the glorification of looking pretty . I hope my boys grow up seeing people as kind, or caring, thoughtful or funny instead of viewing only the external.
    I think you are doing a great job of showing Alice that there is more to people and life than just the beautiful. Beauty is one piece of the whole, and not the most important. Humor and self confidence can take you much further than the beauty that fades over time.

    • Thank you for your kind words. The pink is positively overwhelming at times. I have no problem with a bit of the color, but I do have a problem with categorizing the color. I might have mentioned this, but Alice told me a few weeks ago that she wanted a pair of pink Chuck Taylors (which were bad ass, for what it’s worth) because they were a “girl color.” I feigned ignorance, told Alice I didn’t know anything about girl colors, and asked her to tell me more about it. She proceeded to tell me about “girl” and “boy” colors. I asked for more details, including where she learned about sexed colors and what makes something one or another sex. When I asked for an anatomical response to how on earth pink was a girl color, she got pissed and told me she didn’t want to talk about it any more. So I dropped it.

      Ah, the life of The Mama…

  5. Loved this rumination, Christine:) I can only imagine how prickly the subject of beauty is while raising a daughter to be (self and other) loving, strong and confident. Deepak Chopra advises that we teach our children to repeat into the mirror: “I am beneath no one, I am fearless, I am immune to criticism.” If our children – sons or daughters – believed this mantra, the issue of beauty might be off the table. Instead, we could focus our energy on sharing our hearts, serving others, becoming our own best selves – all sources of true beauty. As Mr. Chopra says, “what others think of me is none of my business.” The problem with beauty is that it asks us to pay attention to how others see us, to compare ourselves to others, to compare others to us, and on and on…all a bad use of our too short and precious time with one another…and all linked to finding differences instead of similarities. Your own ease with knowing you are beautiful is my favorite part of the essay. What a gift that is! (IMO) You ARE very beautiful…and best of all, it’s the kind of beauty that won’t fade, for you sparkle inside out:)

    • Oh, Laura. You are always so wise. I love that Deepak Chopra recommendation, and intend to share it with Alice this evening. She has been quite fearful lately, and I think something like this might be just what she needs to hear. The second bit of Chopra wisdom you share reminds me of a quote attributed to Teddy Roosevelt that I am going to frame for my office at work, both for myself and for those who come to visit with me throughout the day. He says, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I could not agree more strongly.

      Thank you for your kind words, thank you for reading, and thank you for being you. I miss you, friend. Love to you and Jim.

  6. I read that post, and it has been nagging at the edges of my consciousness too. Something I struggle with is, “How do you “own your beauty” without sending the message that it is the most important thing?” An older and wiser friend once shared that she told her daughters something like, “being pretty is nice, but if doesn’t last and there are more important things.” She always involved her daughters in sports and art and community service and they are amazing young women.
    Also, I’ve been wondering how people would have reacted to that post if it was written by a conventionally beautiful woman. Would it have seemed vain instead of empowering?

    • I think your friend hit the nail on the head. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      And I just don’t know about your last question. I love the look Amanda King rocks, but you ask a good question. I want it not to matter. I want every woman (and man) to be able to own her (or his) beauty, regardless of whatever values or assessments others impose. I am, of course, a naive optimist, but that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

      Thanks for being here, Kylie.

  7. Not funny but profound and important. And you’re right, when you comment above, that raising our daughters is, to mothers so much more difficult than raising sons. I didn’t appreciate it until recently: we bring a lot more cultural and historical and personal baggage to our relationships with our daughters than we do with our sons. I did, anyway. On my least stellar parenting days, I never fail I’m failing my sons… but I’ve had that thought an awful lot with my daughter. Because it’s so much tougher to know what the “right” thing–the right message, the right model, the right (or at least not worst) path for her is.

    • I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I won’t ever “know” the right thing. I can only know what feels right at any given moment and make my parenting decisions accordingly. I hope, at the very least, I am not totally screwing her up. My fingers are firmly crossed.

      • Yes on all the comments to Christine on a great post. And, to Nothingbythebook, having watched a number of women raise really terrific daughters, my takeaway is that the best thing you can do is to be totally honest with them that you do make mistakes, and you are still okay. And when they make mistakes they are okay, too, and you love them. Those ‘least stellar parenting days’ might just be the ones your daughters refer to when they are parents, to remind them that parenting is a learned art, not a predictable science.

        • Thanks, Kimberly. And I think you are spot-on in your remarks to NBTB. Unconditional love–both from us as parents and the opportunity to learn unconditional self love–is surely the best gift we can give these munchkins of ours.

  8. I had to ROFL! I live where beauty is the norm. And your blog made my day!

    “But pretty enough that I don’t spend time worrying about it. And do you know what? It just isn’t that big of a deal. It is a convenience. A free pass.”

    Here? Women are proud they are beautiful. They don’t ‘compete.’ And they do NOT need beauty to get a ‘free pass.’ Being beautiful is just a part of who they are. And the average woman has a college degree – most a Master’s Degree.

    It is SO different here than it was there. I am glad I left that rat race behind.

    Keep writing! I enjoyed it, and enjoyed the memory.


    • Thanks for reading. I think, for what it’s worth, that owning my physical appearance–beauty, if you will–has allowed me to spend more effort on my true self. I worry less about how I look and more about how I am: to myself, to others, to the earth.

      Cheers to you, Ghost! Come again.

  9. Reblogged this on thewordpressghost and commented:

    This is a great READ!

    I live in a land of Beautiful Women. I have at least five women friends who are at least 28, mothers, and still wear a size 3 or less …. ‘Normal’ takes on a NEW meaning HERE!.

    It was refreshing to read this blog about what women go through back home.

    I am glad of where I live, and where I come from! But, where I live is free of the rat race – almost.

  10. Beauty is more than skin deep. It’s good you are trying to instill that in your daughter. The beauty that is her soul will make her physical shell illuminate with that beauty. 🙂 Good thoughts.

  11. We try to use a collection of descriptors when praising our little one. It’s important that she has a good self image, but we don’t want her to be obsessed with beauty, at least in the superficial, surface sort of beauty. We tell her she’s so smart, and so brave, and so strong. These are traditionally words people ascribe to their boys, but we feel it’s very important that our daughter know that these things describe girls as well as boys. She should feel comfortable in her own skin, and happy with who she is, and know that beauty is something that can describe character as well as appearance.

    • Exactly! That good self-image we want for our children encompasses their whole selves: not simply their shells, but their hearts, their spirits, and every aspect of their being. We are also incredibly mindful of the things for which we praise Alice. Yes, we tell her she is darling, but also smart, clever, thoughtful, kind, brave, hard-working, and strong. These ARE characteristics we should encourage in all children, regardless of sex or gender.

      We might be parenting kindred spirits, ubergeekitude (which, by the way, is the best name ever). You should stop by again. Cheers!

  12. What a thoughtful and well-written post! I used to work at a daycare, and even the little girls in second grade were carrying around pursefuls of makeup, wearing eyeshadow and trying to be “prettier” than one another. That would make me so very sad, and I’m glad to hear that some mothers are taking some preventative action against that kind of mindset. Your daughter is very lucky to have you, as you already know 🙂

    • Thanks for your kind words. I do feel the need to correct you, though: I am the lucky one to have her. She is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. I just hope I can do right by her.

      Cheers to you, Erica!

    • Also Alice! So glad to have you here! You are, quite possibly, the luckiest woman on the planet to be an adult Alice. Your name alone moves you from “borderline” to “full-fledged” fab. Trust me. I will absolutely check out the hello giggles post. I am positively terrified of having a teenage girl, but know some day I will have to figure out what the hell to do with all those hormones…

    • Huh, that is good feedback. I adore this theme (because my blog is powered by strategically-placed notebooks to catch The Kidling’s musings), so that the lines might be distracting didn’t occur to me. Thanks for letting me know.


  13. That was a great read. I actually wrote two pieces about being a woman (one yesterday: why I hate it, and one today: why I love it). After reading your post I feel so very shallow (with the exception of loving the ability to grow a child inside me). I can’t wait to read more! 🙂

    • Thanks, Undercover! Now I want to go undercover. The power of suggestion…

      I will absolutely check out your posts. There are certainly things I love and hate about being a woman and sometimes they are the same things. Seriously. And for what it’s worth, the ability to grow and feed a human being is the stuff of science fiction. I loved being pregnant, loved giving birth (well, except the brief part that hurt so badly), and loved nursing. The female body is really a force to be reckoned with.

      Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you again soon!

  14. I’m in love with this. In. Love. I have the same hopes and dreams for my kiddos and spend a ton of time thinking about what I model for my Y.

    You. You are awesome. You nailed this one, Alice’s Mama.

    • Sigh. Thank you. Truly.

      I do my damndest, but this parenting stuff is hard. I imagine you model precisely what your Y needs. And if not, then you (like me) are doing your best. And that is enough.

  15. Congratulations, Christine! I read the post earlier today and meant to comment. I guess it’s a bit different with boys, or at least mine don’t seem to be that preoccupied with beauty as yet. 3 year old told me a while ago ‘you look gorgeoused’ but I am pretty sure he meant it as a negative thing. Go figure. Congrats again, well deserved 🙂

  16. Okay, three thoughts.
    1. I just found you through Freshly Pressed (congratulations!). My daughter is nearly the same age as yours and shares the same name. She is so an Alice.

    2. I enjoyed the post about beauty, because I feel the best compliments I can give my daughter are about her sense of humor or her cleverness or her kindness…you get the picture. Of course, she’s wildly cute, but I don’t want her to believe this is the most important measure of any woman. Yet, and I’m not sure where her 4 year old brain picked up this subtle social law, she has recently begun telling me that I am more beautiful when I take my glasses off.

    3. I also have a son and I wonder about how he will regard beauty and women as he becomes older. Even with the best intentions at home, social mores and the media are so pervasive and often undermine what we hope to teach. I think this beauty battle is going to be an uphill one.

    P.S. I enjoyed the Target toy ad post too. When I take something to the trash, my son chases after me to check that it is not something he can recycle or reuse. He is saving a plastic water cup that was melted in the dishwasher. The idea of throwing it in the trash is too much for him.

    • Okay, three responses:

      1. Glad you found me (and thanks)! Do you feel charmed beyond belief to have an amazing little munchkin for whom you just happen to have chosen the perfect name? I know I do!

      2. Thanks for your kind words. I agree that the best compliments are the empowering ones. The things Alice has worked for, or the things that are hard for her, or the things she does that make the world a better place. Yes, she is beautiful too, but that it the least of her positive traits.

      3. A very good question indeed. I imagine you are instilling in him the same values as you are in your Alice. The outside world will always be there to impart its values, but reinforcing and modeling the characteristics you hope to foster is the best a parent can do. Right?

      P.S. Why do they have to be such sticklers about the recycling ?! Seriously, there will be another Target ad, another plastic cup, another sticker…

  17. really loved this post. got ‘big’ kids at home and the sentiment goes the same. i just hope they’ll see beauty in a rather still innocent way 🙂

    • Thanks for your kind words. I sincerely hope your big kids eye the world’s beauty with innocence and wonder, too. It is inspiring to the parents of big-little* kids and their parents when the big kids have their heads screwed on straight.

      * Alice would be ticked if I called her a little kid. I know she can’t read but that girl surprises me sometimes. We’ll stick with big-little, just to be safe.

  18. LOL That face is sooooooooo much more humorous when it isn’t one’s own child being stinkery! But that lip and that glare, amazing, 9.9!!

    I think if we focus on beauty or really hard on not beauty, there will still be a never ending tail chasing in circles focus on it.

    • Ha! I bet it is. The funniest thing about the moment that picture was taken? It was a gorgeous, mild August day, we were eating pizza in our pretty little backyard garden, and she had my undivided attention the entire day. Seriously. What kid gets to be grumpy in those conditions?

      Also? I couldn’t agree with you more. Beauty is lovely, but it is fleeting and only a small part of the whole (and dare I say not even close to the most important part of said whole). If we can embrace the whole person, then we can stop chasing those damn tails. Right?

      Cheers to you!

  19. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the link to Amanda King’s words. The beauty culture is so omnipresent, and like every woman, I have my struggles. But being a parent, especially a the mother of a little girl, has made me stronger and more accepting of my own perceived “flaws.” How can I say I am not beautiful when two little beings think I am? And their definition of beauty is so much deeper, since they are the ones that see me with crazy hair and zero face paint. And even though do not ban specific toys, I actively fight the princess mindset, telling my daughter that looking good/getting all decked out is nice and can be fun, but princesses can do so much more than wait around for a prince.

    • Exactly! Because when your two little creatures call you beautiful, they mean YOU are beautiful. Not just your shell, but your whole you. Kids see everything.

      Regarding princesses, have you read “The Paper Bag Princess” to your kids? It is a phenomenal story of empowerment, and I adore the writing. Check it out the next time you are at the library. I think you (and your munchkins) will love it.

  20. So great and so true. Beauty is wonderful but everyone is beautiful, there is so much more to life than beauty. A person’s soul, heart and personality carry more weight than anything else. Thanks for sharing and congrats on FP!

    • Thank you. I might not have said “everyone is beautiful,” but I would certainly say that there is beauty in everyone. It is one of the reasons I love the traditional Indian greeting “namaste,” loosely translated “the light in me honors the light in you” or “I bow to you.” When we respect and honor the light or beauty within each of us, we are all better people.

  21. As a mother of a 4 year old daughter also, I agree with you whole-heartedly!!! I tell her she’s beautiful but I also make sure I give her an equal dose of “strong, smart, kind, and important” 🙂

  22. I really enjoyed this. A friend and I were just talking about beauty and how the outward really doesn’t count because it fades 🙂

    • Thank you! Beauty is complicated, isn’t it? It counts so much more than I would like for it to. And you are right: traditional beauty is temporary. If we could more consistently view people as a whole and privilege what matters–bravery, compassion, strength, and love–we would all be a lot better off.

  23. This is a great post, and thanks for linking to Amanda King’s article, which I hadn’t yet read, too. I am the mother of 3 daughters – ages 9 and 17. I know exactly what you mean about wanting your daughter to see you as “strong, loving, and smart” (and other stuff!). We have such a big job as role models for our daughters, and we’re essentially little David’s standing alone against the Goliath that is media. The messages that our girls get, everywhere and from the time they are very little, about what girls and women should act and look like sadden me. But I feel encouraged for all our daughters when I hear from people like you and Amanda King.

  24. I feel confident Alice is being prepared very well to make her way in this world. I hope you are successful in shielding her from the misconception that superficial qualities trump all else. Too many “beautiful people” have used this supposed demarcation to step on others or engage in socially unacceptable behavior with their beauty as a shield form righteous persecution by the society that created their monstrosity.

    • Thanks, Joe. I do really appreciate your vote of confidence. For what it’s worth, the people you desdcribe don’t sound like beautfiul people to me. It sounds as though they have objectively beautiful exteriors, but make genuinely awful decisions about how to treat people. That isn’t beauty. It is a pretty shell.

  25. I think this topic is easily worn out yet the outcome never improved. We are constantly trying to convince ourselves as well as our children (rightly so) the importance of inner beauty. There are companies that put forth a goal to teach girls (why are our girls so affected by this?) that they are beautiful regardless of the outside. To focus on their inner beauty. But society still forces the opposite! I am afraid that my daughter will still grow up with the insecurities that all girls (and boys) grow up with no matter how much I try to instill in her the truth behind inner beauty. I become afraid that nothing I say or do will ready her for the “teen low self-esteem” that it seems all adolescents go through!! How is it that we all know (big companies included) the importance of inner beauty over physical–yet it’s the physical that still dominates??! Kudos to you for training your daughter now. Showing her what is most important. I too, do the same. I really hope we prevail in our efforts. Thanks for your post. I love it. 🙂

    • Sigh. I hear you. It is an uphill battle, isn’t it? I think most of our daughters (and many of our sons) will have insecurities growing up. Part of it is learning who THEY are and what THEY care about.

      I don’t know that much a parent can do will truly prepare a child for her teen years. That said, if our kids know we love them unconditionally, that is a start. It has to be.

  26. Well-said. We become what we’re exposed to, and if you put more emphasis on strong, intelligent, well-mannered, she will grow up valuing those traits as well. Of course, no one will ever be completely oblivious to society’s pressure to be beautiful, but perhaps they can become somewhat immune to it.

    • Thanks!

      It is hard to be female and not spend time thinking of feminine beauty. It is everywhere, and its importance in our lives cannot really be overstated. Ultimately, it is how we choose to address it that matters, right? Not just the collective “we” but each of us as individuals.

      I can’t in good conscience tell Alice beauty doesn’t matter because that would be a big, fat lie. It does matter, even when we don’t want it to. For me, the right treatment is as a part of the whole. My shell is fine and good, but my brain, my heart, my strength… they are the parts of me that come to mind when I attempt to describe myself (which, by the way, I never do except in the abstract, though I do love the visual of me sitting at a desk, struggling to find the right adjectives).

      I guarantee I am not finished thinking about the topic. I know my position will become more nuanced over time. But this feels right for now.

      Cheers to you!

  27. I’ve blogged a few times about my efforts at getting in shape and a small weight loss, and even though this post isn’t about exactly that per se, it struck a chord with me nonetheless, because I feel the same way. Well, sort of. I have a two year old daughter and I want her to grow up loving herself the way I love her, not standing in front of a mirror and being critical of a tummy pouch or picking at her face… So despite my vacillating self-esteem, I hope I remember to make a concentrated effort on NOT being overly critical of myself in front of her, because she will learn that behavior. And as you acknowledged, fair or not, pretty people often have it easier in this world. I think she’s beautiful ( and not just in “a face only a mother could love” kind of way) but she will still get enough of that crap when she’s grown up without me having to teach it to her too. Kudos to you for also recognizing that and aiming to arm your girl with self-worth!

    • Yes! I know who I am and am very comfortable with that woman nearly all of the time. But not always. That said, I would never allow Alice to see me frowning at my reflection in the mirror or saying unkind words about my body or my character. Negative self-talk doesn’t serve me, and would actively harm Alice.

      I think you’ve got it right. All we can do is our best, right? This parenting stuff ain’t easy…

  28. This post was beautiful in the exact sense you meant for it to be. I really respected your honest paragraph where you mentioned that you understand you’re attractive and that although that may grant you a few occasional pleasantries (door holding, smiles, etc) you realize that’s an imperfect standard and don’t put stock into it. That’s really interesting to me. Thank you for sharing!

  29. Great post! I hope you can instill those values into your daughter as she grows up. Lord knows the pressure will be on as she gets older to value physical beauty. This has been on my mind lately as I had a recent visit to Korea where young people are taught from day one that being physically beautiful is necessary for success. And it is a very specific kind of beauty — one that drives many young people to get plastic surgery and change many aspects of their face (and body) so they can look more Westernized. Scary stuff, but we aren’t devoid of these pressures in our respective countries either.

    • So do I, Cafe. The pressure will be there regardless of what we say or do as parents. That said, I hope we can start to guide children toward appropriate measures of self-worth.

  30. Kids identify beauty in a different way than adults. I don`t think that she wanted to hurt you or judge your appearance. Perhaps she saw somebody on TV, heard something, etc. It can happen that she identifies beauty by wearing red skirts, or having a wavy hair. Ask her why she thinks that, if you would like to know the causes. And don`t stop telling her that she is beautiful! It`s important for her developing self-esteem and the way she will look at herself in the future – it`s not about acting like a tiny beauty queen, it`s about being stronger and healthier as it comes to her developing body-image.

    • Oh no, Alice definitely wasn’t trying to hurt me. She was just making an observation. Honestly, I think she was sad that I was using boring, neutral eyeshadow rather than this blingy turquoise I use on (very rare) occasions.

      And for what it is worth, I couldn’t stop telling her she was beautiful if I tried (which I would never do). She is beautiful, and her smile warms my heart every single time. I just do my best to be mindful that I tell her all of the reasons she is amazing. Not just the one.

  31. Superb, poignant words.
    As a man, often the “career” defines us. I’ve never really been comfortable with this and your post made me mull it around a bit more …
    Like you stated, I’d rather be defined by the relationships I have with other people. That’s when someone’s real character, quality, and attributes can be truly identified.

    • You are so right. It, of course, affects women as well, but less stereotypically so.

      This is another post–and one that I’ll never post here, because it just doesn’t fit the blog–but I struggled with this once upon a time. I have spent a lot of years in school, and fancy myself pretty smart. I thought I needed a high-prestige analyst job. I loved parts of it–great research opportunities with brilliant colleagues–but it didn’t use my real skills (gabbing) and I missed my daughter desperately.

      So I quit. I struggled with my choice, but I won’t pretend for a moment that the narrative wasn’t drafted for me in part because of my sex. It made it easier to decide to spend some time with Alice. I didn’t have quite as many people to justify myself to.

      How much of this is a workaholic culture? How much of it is sex-based? Hell, how much of it is class-based? And is any of it fair?

      Because what really matters? Compassion. Strength. Wisdom. And love. Always love.

        • What kind words. I am happy, but I hadn’t put much thought into the “true success” part of it. I guess I am “truly” successful because I am happy with where I am right now. I have no idea how the rational (wo)man would view my choices, some of which have been rather unorthodox. That said, things are working for The Family right now.

          I know life ebbs and flows, and I am ready for whetever comes next, too.


  32. how amazing that you have summed up my own personal theory on
    “being beautiful”! One summer, an exquisite little cousin of mine wouldn’t put on her swimming cap in the pool because she said it would make her look funny. So, I replied, “The women in our family are all beautiful, but you do not see us focusing on that, do you?” She shook her little head. I continued, “That’s because our beauty on the outside is not what’s important. Who you are inside, as a person, matters most. So, we all just go ahead and live our lives. Put on your swimming cap.” And, she did.

  33. Reblogged this on smalltownjules and commented:
    As we meander our way through this thing called parenting, we are steadfast on raising strong, independent children. Our daughter, 4, is a typical middle child and only girl, trying to find her footing in the family. She is a beautiful soul. Kind, friendly, outgoing, willing to explore and learn, all that we hope for. She has these killer eyes that melt our heart, but zest for life is her true beauty. Tom boy wear or a dress, it does not matter. Short or long hair, frills or fancy free, it does not matter. What matters is that she feels strong and confident to be her. Beauty radiates from the inside. Not some definition that society has put upon young girls and women. Take a minute and read the two articles.

    • Thank you, Jules, for the reblog and for the beautiful introduction. Your four-year-old daughter sounds pretty fantastic herself. I bet she and The Kidling would have a grand time together.

  34. Your post brings to mind one of my favorite quotes – “You are a soul, you have a body.”
    I like the way you think about this subject – I also have a four-year old daughter and it gives me great pride when she is proud of her abilities and accomplishments at this tender age, rather than how beautiful she is or what she is wearing. Thanks for sharing.

    • I adore that quote. And I couldn’t agree more about raising a daughter. I love that Alice is proud of her speed, her wit, her brain. Not her shell. But we will deal with that when the time comes.

  35. Reality check: People who are NOT comely, whether they be male or female, SUFFER. They’re stigmatized, rejected, and sometimes verbally tormented. They’re unwelcome. They don’t go to the prom, don’t get the job, or even common courtesy. They don’t get attention and they don’t get smiled at. Many women and men who aren’t physically attractive develop an inner strength and learn to ignore the injustice.

    But many become accustomed to failure, learn counterproductive withdrawal skills, develop emotional scars. In my 30s, I had to be instructed by a caring colleague in how to accept a compliment on my work. I had no experience with compliments at home or in school, so I rudely turned aside all compliments, believing I didn’t deserve them. My lack of socialization was becoming an embarrassment to the company.

    I realize I’m being insensitive to the feelings of beautiful people. Sorry for the intrusion.

    • John, I don’t interpret any part of your comment as insensitive. In fact, I agree with you on virtually all points.

      Your comment goes along with with my thesis that the privilege afforded to physically beautiful people simply isn’t fair. That’s why I don’t give much weight to it in my own self-assessment, or in conversations with my daughter. I know the world will do that part whether I like it or not, so I am responsible for ensuring she understands the multi-faceted nature of beauty. Namely, that she recognizes her self-worth as strength, compassion, kindness, empathy, wit, and bravery. That she knows her shell simply allows those characteristics a vehicle to shine light into the world.


  36. “But beautiful? My soul, I should hope. My shell, I’m less concerned with. And I hope upon hope that she judges herself by that same standard.”
    I feel that’s how we should try to judge people, not by their “shell”, but by their soul.

  37. Pingback: inner beauty | kidlingville

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