Do I call my two daughters beautiful too much?
I realise this will come across as yet another instance where a mum is worrying so much she worries she’s worrying too much. But I’ve taken a step back with this issue and wonder if there’s a bigger picture I should be wary about.
Let me explain.
The thought struck me the other day as I was making my baby giggle manically while I was changing her nappy.
I told her: “You’re so beautiful, who’s gorgeous? You’re gorgeous.”
Lovely words for sure, but I suddenly realised that’s probably the word I use most frequently when being affectionate with my kids.
Sometimes I say “you’re so clever” when they’ve learned a new thing or played together without either of them being whacked in the face.
But I don’t think I’m saying it enough. It’s the beautiful compliment that comes out every day, regular like clockwork. Because they are beautiful. To me they are absolute perfection.
But when I say “you’re beautiful”, am I telling them that’s all they are? Am I reinforcing that age-old stereotype that girls are only there to be pretty. They’re easy on the eye, but don’t expect them to contribute anything beyond that.
Growing up I felt that pressure to make an effort with how I look, that beauty was the way to get ahead. Beautiful people have more fun, more friends and more attention.
And the way I see it, nothing good comes from that mentality. The pressure bearing down on teenage girls to be skinny, have flawless skin and pose with the perfect pout is so very heavy these days I’m amazed they can walk.
It comes from every angle. Social media, their peers, magazines, blogs, newspapers. Beauty is celebrated. And not just any beauty. It’s the “Insta-pretty” beauty that conforms to society’s image of perfection. The girl with a perky bum, blue eyes, shiny hair, white teeth and zero spots.
These days I am comfortable as I can be in my own skin. There are plenty of bits of myself that I don’t like. Angles I hate, wobbly bits that I wish I could get rid of.
Yes as a girl I love to dress up, use make-up, paint my nails and make myself look nice. It gives me a confidence boost. But if that were all I cared about, the only thing I placed any importance on, that would be, just, so very sad.
To do nothing but worry about your physical appearance and preening yourself all day with no thought to engaging your brain and trying to do something incredible, something that you feel passionate about, is an awful waste of a life.
And I don’t want that for my girls. I want them to know that their gender has no bearing over what they can achieve in life. They can do whatever they want to do, and they should grasp that with both hands.
Yes dressing up and making yourself look nice is fun. Enjoy that new dress, give us all a twirl. But remember that this isn’t all that you are.
So, should we tell our girls they’re beautiful? Can we tell them that too much?
The conclusion I’ve come to is no, it’s not possible to tell your kids they’re beautiful too often. Because by letting them know that they are beautiful, that beauty isn’t about photoshopping or supermodels, I’m reminding them it’s about how you see yourself.
Reinforcing the idea they are beautiful, which they are, will give them confidence in their appearance.
When you’re confident, when you walk tall and let your smile run free, you are beautiful.
So I think I will continue to tell my children they are beautiful every chance I get. But I will try to remember to tell them they’re clever, funny, talented, kind and so very good as often as I can.
What do you think about the pressure on girls to be beautiful? How can we as parents help our children to have the confidence to see through that impossible image of beauty propagated by the media and social media? I would love to hear your thoughts.