It’s taken me some time and some thinking to be able to come around to addressing this topic properly, and I’m still not entirely sure that I can. I first read the article on Facebook about parents who refuse to praise their children on their outward appearance a few weeks ago, and I was stunned. It truly set me on my ear to try and wrap my mind around any parent who wouldn’t nurture the budding self-esteem that is present in all children.
I could sort of see the author’s point if I tilted my head WAAAY sideways and closed one eye. I do understand that in a society that places so very much on one’s outward appearance children should be raised to value and be proud of what is INSIDE. That being said, however, I still cannot get on board with the idea that any parent wouldn’t tell their child, male or female, that they are beautiful in some way.
I don’t care if a child has the face of an angel or one only a mother could love… you are the beginning of that child’s journey through life and as such you give them the tools to build a self-esteem based not only on achievement or intelligence, but also on appearance. “Pretty” isn’t and shouldn’t be based on what society deems acceptable. Beauty in our children should be that sweet little dimple your daughter gets when she smiles just that way or the mischievous sparkle a little boy has in his eyes when he tells his favorite joke again. Beauty should be celebrated in all of the unique and amazing things that make our kids the gorgeous little people they are. It doesn’t matter if they fit a standard “mold” for beauty; they are all beautiful and they need to know they are.
Each child, from the time they are old enough to understand what beauty is should be told they are pretty. All of the brains and good grades and Ivy League acceptance letters mean exactly zero if you have raised an individual who has no self esteem when they walk into a room. Like it or not, this is how society happens to work: An individual is first sized up by their appearance and carriage. If you have hindered your child by refusing to give them the ability to hold their head high as they enter a room, to command the attention of a few or of many, then what good is it if they have pretty thoughts or brains?
Before I get dragged out before the hipster mama firing squad, let me explain myself a little bit.
I happen to have two very beautiful children, and you can bet your ass they’re going to understand they are beautiful, on the inside and out, their whole lives. My son and his amazingly engaging smile, his handsome face, his gorgeous chocolate eyes; my daughter and her lovely long limbed grace, her amazingly spun, silk blonde hair, or her lovely bee-stung lips… all of these things are a part of who these little people are just as their intelligence, kindness, sense of humor, enthusiasm, and grace are. I cannot understand a parent who is unwilling to celebrate every beautiful thing that makes a child such a rare gem.[/nextpage]
Reading the comments on the post made me so very sad. There were so many adult men and women voicing how much they wished THEY had been told they were “pretty” (I’m using pretty here to blanket both genders as I think that it’s perfect for men and women alike in this instance). The numbers of sad comments compared to those who said something along the lines of, “Yeah, I’m really glad my parents never told me how attractive I was” were horribly skewed. These are adults who are still battling self-esteem issues: professionals, housewives, scholars, and the list goes on. They may have been told what was in their brains was attractive, but each and every one lamented that they were handicapped by their lack of self-esteem at some time in their lives. It wasn’t a group of whiny “poor me” people whose mamas didn’t hug them enough; by and large, they seemed to come from relatively normal and stable families.
You can try and argue the case that the societal “norms” and pressures to be ideal are reason enough to not praise a child on their looks. Some may even go so far as to say that doing so only fuels the Hollywood ideal that makes young men and women do so much damage to become the ideal “pretty,” and if we would only stop focusing on the outward appearance and turn our attention toward what is INSIDE a person, then we would all be happier.
That’s a bit naïve and unrealistic in my opinion. Nah, that’s just plain effin stupid. You aren’t going to restructure the world we live in by denying your child a vital tool in their development. You aren’t going to make the whole world change by crippling your own child. What’s wrong with being smart AND pretty? Why is it wrong to tell each child as they are growing that they are beautiful and intelligent? During the years that matter the most, young people need to be told they are beautiful. They need to feel that confidence that allows them to be well rounded. As if puberty isn’t damn hard as it is, why would you deny your child that piece of the puzzle that is going to make them well rounded as an adult?
The FIRST THING that people are going to see is your outward appearance. You can’t change that. Feeling comfortable in your own skin isn’t a bad thing; it’s a crucial part of life. I am fully on board with the idea that each individual should be celebrated for what they have inside them — the small quirks and the huge accomplishments that make them who they are.
Each and every one of us, with almost no exception, will have to march our nervous asses up before a group of people, make eye contact with superiors, attempt to evoke emotion from sympathizers, or just walk into a room of people and feel at ease. All of my life, my dearly departed mom (and of course my awesome daddy) told me that I was pretty. No, that’s a lie. My parents would tell me I was lovely or beautiful or any number of other words that made me feel amazing. They also praised me to the ends of the earth regarding my creativity, my wit, my intelligence, my warmth; it made me feel gorgeous both inside and out.
Because of those people and what they instilled in me, I can walk into a room full of people in formal evening wear and feel like I was born to wear that gown. I feel confident in jeans and a tee or heels and an updo. I do not feel that I would have this confidence if they had praised me solely on my intellect or what happens in my heart. They gave me the tools to be a complete and CONFIDENT woman, not just a smart woman who made good grades.
I will continue to nurture the beauty of my children, both inside and out. I will celebrate their unique and amazing beauty and make sure they know that they are lovely, smart, wonderful people with so much to offer the world. I will raise children who can graciously accept compliments, aren’t afraid to converse with others, and can hold their heads high, secure in the knowledge that they are beautiful in their own unique ways, each precious and treasured.