This morning when one of our reporters was trying to find a topic for the 9am convo, she suggested a mother who said she won’t call her daughter beautiful. This comment unexpectedly triggered me. The mother’s reason behind this is her sons are told they are strong, intelligent, and adventurous, and any compliments given to her daughter have been focused on her physical appearance. The mother believes attention to her looks will give her a complex to only focus on her appearance.
I call bullshit.
I grew up in the ’90s, where if a woman was portrayed as powerful, she was always dressed in a masculine way, and her weak dimwitted counterpart was feminine. This, this right here, gave me a complex. I didn’t want to wear dresses or frilly skirts because I wanted to be strong. Frilly dresses and skirts weren’t strong; they were weak.
It has taken me half a lifetime to figure out that I can be strong AND beautiful. We should not run away from these words that describe appearances. We should embrace them.
A stranger’s first impression of you is your appearance. Are you dressed nicely? Is your hair brushed? Are you holding yourself with pride, or are your shoulders slouched? Do you spend most of the time staring at the ground? There are more ways to present yourself as a strong female other than having muscles and looking as large as a man.
If you have ever taken a theater class, one of the first things you are taught is your audition starts the moment you walk into the building, not when you step on stage. Hell, it might begin in the parking lot because you don’t know who may be parked next to you. The casting director and the rest of the crew are watching you from the moment that door opens because they care how you carry and present yourself when you may think no one is watching.
And the only difference between life and an audition is you don’t get paid to live.
Instead of avoiding the words pretty and beautiful, empower your daughter with those words. Let her be confident with herself and her femininity, and her appearance. Teach children how to hold their heads high and keep eye contact in a conversation. Make sure that they know that it’s not just the words that come out of their mouths that people listen to. Body language is just as important, if not more important, because not everyone will see you lift a rock over your head or ace that test you spent weeks studying for. The only thing a stranger will ever see is the person before them. And if your child looks like an unkempt, hot mess, it won’t matter how smart they are because people might not give them the chance to show it.
Not complimenting your daughter WILL make her desperate for approval from others. People who have been raised without this kind of attention tend to end up with a spouse who mirrors their parents. Their spouses will never be able to give them the approval that they so desperately seek, leaving them forever unfulfilled.
So when your seven-year-old daughter is getting ready for her first dance and asks you, “How do I look?” your answer should not be, “You look like you’re ready for dancing.” By doing this, you are actually causing the problem you are trying to avoid. If she looks nice, tell her so. If your son asks your opinion on his appearance, give it to him. Every time you avoid giving the child a compliment, they will notice, and they will start to wonder, “Does my mom think I’m ugly? Am I not pretty?”
Keep the compliments coming.
If your daughter does something creative, compliment her. If she solves a complex math problem, praise her.
It’s YOUR job to build up your child in every aspect of their life because the world will tear them down. That’s precisely what happened to me. My hang-up on strength and femininity had nothing to do with my parents. Society and the time I grew up in took care of creating that issue all on their own. So tell your kids they are pretty and handsome because children don’t need any help creating complexes about themselves. They’ll do just fine on their own without your heartless psychoanalyzation.
*** I’m not the only one who feels this way. Check out the segment we had with Therapist Shannon Thompson Jones and her response to the mother not calling her daughter beautiful.***