My daughter is blessed with many aunties and each time any of them meet my kiddo, they greet her by complimenting on her looks. Frankly speaking, the seven-year old is adorable; with straight silky hair and a cute face that dons an easy laughter, she could melt anybody’s heart. So whoever meets her for the first time promptly tells “Beautiful girl”. At the same time I know I am not the only mother who has a beautiful daughter. All over the world parents HAVE beautiful girls prancing around the home with all their cuteness.
In my opinion, if there is nothing extraordinary about being beautiful then why we adults go gaga over a girl’s appearance. Is it because we have this pre-conceived notion about “beauty” where we narrow it down outward appearance. Or is it that “Look at you! you are so cute” is the only way to greet when we meet little girls. Hold this thought for a moment and lets first see the repercussions of the comment “You gorgeous thing” on the mind of a young girl. Ok let’s take my daughter only as an example.
Only a few days back while she was getting ready for her basket-ball class, I saw my daughter frantically searching for something. Upon being inquired, she said she was looking for her favorite hairband. I told her she doesn’t need to wear a hairband while playing a sport, instead, should tie her hair back in a pony. Not convinced with my logic, she got really upset and said she wanted her glittery pink hairband only as according to her “I look good if I wear that hairband which matches my t-shirt too.”
To tell you another instance; my daughters’ one of the favorite aunts always greet her by saying, “Welcome my most beautiful one”. So whenever we visit her, my little one makes an extra effort to dress up nicely just to receive her accolades.
As a 4-5 year old it was not uncommon to see her responding to all the endearing adjectives directed at her by just smiling coyly . Slowly as she started getting to know more about beauty and looks; thanks to looking at the beauty ads on television, watching well-groomed actresses in movies and listening to the way people greet little girls(commenting casually about beauty), her growing belief that appearance does matter augmented. And I fear by the time she becomes a young lady, she will be so conditioned on receiving compliments on her looks that if someday , at college, at work or at any social gathering, she won’t receive any flattering remark, she might panic giving a blow to her self-assured spirit.
Don’t get me wrong , it’s not that I don’t like my friends or relatives saying nice things about my daughter’s appearance , after all, who does likes to be complimented; it’s a great confidence booster but it disturbs me when people, on meeting her, instantly label her “a beauty” rather than asking a simple question “how do you do?” Not many know that she is much more than a pretty face; she is an individual who is strong, intelligent, talented and hard-working. She loves to talk about the books she read, the sport she plays, the art/craft work she makes. I just hope people have some intelligent conversation with her rather than telling her how “cute”, “adorable”, “sweet”, “pretty she is.
And for those mothers who share my concern of our social surroundings burdening our little girls with the pressure of good looks and beauty, I suggest since we can’t do much to change our socio-culture (people WILL gush over beauty) , we our self should make a conscious effort to choose our words carefully while complementing our daughters. At least, this will keep them grounded from the beginning by helping them understand that the beauty is not the parameter to bolster their self-esteem and confidence.
In an effort to shake off false sense of beauty from my daughter’s mind I have made some changes in my behaviour, after all kids emulate their parents only: I make it a point to not pass vague remarks regarding anybody’s looks, skin color, height, weight etc., at least in front of my daughter.Whenever I get ready , I never fuss about how I look ( so now complaining about my freckles, my flabby tummy is a strict No) and many a times compliment myself by saying it out loud that I feel so comfortable and confident in this outfit or hair-do (in a veiled manner I teach my girl to feel comfortable in her own skin)
And when it comes to my daughter getting ready, I don’t bother much on what she chooses to wear or how she wants to style her hair. Even if I have to compliment , it goes like this “ I love the way you have done your hair.”, “Nice choice with the dress or the necklace you are wearing.”,”these shoes looks comfortable”. Even if her choice or taste borders on “fashion disaster”, I give her confidence by telling her that she has done a great task by finding her own style; at the same time “suggesting” her some tips to improve , which if she wants can take them or can simply refuse. My intention on saying such politically correct statements is to steer her focus on imagination and creativity rather than fixate her thoughts on outer beauty.
Besides, I keep talking to my daughter about her interests, activities, behaviour etc, just to hint her subtly that these are the thing which matters more (than beauty) to develop a good persona.
Before signing off, here’s my list of alternative label we can address the girls with:
(Any other compliment readers want to add?)