Today I read an article by Lisa Bloom entitled “How to talk to little girls”.
My initial response was one of agreement, that we should indeed encourage young girls to base their sense of self worth on so much more than their looks. But as I digested Lisa’s words, I knew that something didn’t quite ring true for me.
The statistics that Lisa quotes are horrifying. As parents we should all be conscious of the messages we are sending to our children. I agree that it is vital we talk to little girls about books, and to bigger girls about how they feel about their world. I think we should talk to little boys about these things too. But as a mother to a young baby girl, I also feel it is important to tell her how beautiful she is, and I do so every day. I would do the same if I had a son.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t also tell her how clever she is. Each time she manages a new task, like grabbing a toy, or rolling over, she gets heaps of praise from my husband and I, and wider family and friends if they are present. At the moment she has no idea what we’re saying to her, but our positive messages will, I’m sure, sink in. And so I wonder, why do we have to encourage them to feel clever instead of beautiful? Why not as well as?
I don’t want my daughter to grow up to be obsessed with her looks, or god forbid, the looks of other people and how unattainable they are. I certainly don’t want her to feel that her looks are the only asset she has. But I do want her to have a sense of the beauty she has in her natural self. For a young person to grow up never hearing how beautiful they are, just as they are, would surely be crippling for their self esteem?
Growing up completely unconcerned with looks is unrealistic, both due to the media savvy and celebrity driven world we live in, but also, because of our human nature – physical attraction plays a part in our social lives. But it plays a part, not the only part. If you peel away the initial attraction, you need to have something besides that to sustain a meaningful relationship. That could be intelligence, but it could also be kindness, or a sense of humour.
We are multifaceted as a race. We are shallow as a society. I don’t want my daughter or any other little girl to grow up thinking she has to change her looks to achieve anything. I don’t want any little boy to grow up feeling like that either. The pressure on our youth, of either gender, is immense.
I will take Lisa’s advice on how to talk to little girls, and ask them about the books they are reading. I will tell them about my ideas and accomplishments. But I wont stop telling mine she’s gorgeous. I’ll just be much more conscious of the order and the emphasis of what I say.
I hope my daughter grows up to believe she can do anything and be anyone. It is my intention to help her believe that. But I also intend to make sure knows how beautiful she is, just as she is, with the hope she feels happy in her own skin.