Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Beauty

Beauty

This is a deep one folks.

The other day I was at the gym. From afar I noticed a young man who had filled in a couple of times teaching the swimming lessons A was in. Embarrassingly, I find him to be extremely attractive although he is very likely over ten years younger than I am. It got me thinking though, I bet his parents are very proud of him. And then I thought, proud of him because he's handsome? I mean, I'm sure there are other things they are proud of him for but I bet they are glad that their son is a good looking guy. Proud that they made such an attractive human being.

Seems weird, huh?

And then I got thinking about my niece who is getting married this December. The fact that she's getting married has made me think of her a lot. I've been thinking about her entire life. About what she was like as a baby, a little girl, a teenager and now as a woman about to get married. I can honestly say she is one of the most beautiful women I know. For so many reasons, but also in a purely shallow way. She is the perfect height and weight. She is ridiculously physically fit and has beautiful hair and skin. I know for a fact that my sister and brother in law think she is beautiful. And I know that it fills them with pride. I also know that they have conveyed this to her as she has grown up. Maybe not by repeatedly telling her she was beautiful (although I'm sure they did that as well) but in the things they didn't say. And I also must say that despite her beauty she is a completely humble and grounded individual. Yet she has the confidence of a person who knows they are attractive.

And then I thought about myself. And this is where it gets ugly... no pun intended. I do not now, nor have I ever felt beautiful. There have been times when I think I looked really great (my wedding day comes to mind) but no matter whether I am told I am beautiful or not, I don't think I ever in the core of my being believe it about myself. Thinking back to my niece and the way that I feel her parents raised her and gave her this self confidence from the time she was born, I believe this is what I lacked. Not to bash my own parents but once I was thinking about it I don't think I ever remember my parents ever telling me I was beautiful, or pretty, or even cute. I don't remember ever feeling like they thought that way about me. In fact, if anything I think I can remember trying to prove to them that I was or trying to seek approval about my appearance.

This gets better.

What if my parents had brought me up the same way my sister and her husband have brought up their daughter? Would I feel differently about myself? What if my niece had been raised the way I had, yet looked exactly the same way as she does right now. Would she feel as beautiful?

I know I'm covering really basic stuff here and you are likely all going, “Uh, yeah duh Mama D.” But for me this was a revelation. Thinking of beauty in terms of people I actually know and not in terms of celebrities.

Finally, this all made me think about my daughter. And how beautiful I think she is. How I try not to get carried away talking about how absolutely gorgeous I think she is. Because it feels like I'm bragging. It feels wrong. I have worried about her, because of her looks. I feel so unprepared to bring up a child that is so breathtakingly lovely when I am so... not. But I've decided that it's okay for me to think she's beautiful. And to tell her so. Because then maybe she'll grow up to be a woman who is confident in who she is. Who knows that she can do anything. And no matter what anyone else ever says, she'll know in the core of her being that she is beautiful. And she will succeed.

7 comments:

shoeaddict said...

Very interesting. My mom was very anti-beauty. She didn't like the idea of a girl being all about beauty because she had bad acne growing up and was teased. She told me I was beautiful and so did my father and other family members. My mother constantly pushed brains and talent, too, though. She always pushed the value of education and things like that. She praised my good grades, my stories, poems, acting acomplishments, etc much more.

I agree with that. There is nothing wrong with telling A that she's beautiful. I also think it's important to incourage her to dance and sing and find whatever talents she has. Education and knowledge will give her success, not beauty.

*Sorry for spelling errors. I know that makes me look ignorant!
**I like this picture of her!

JamieS said...

My friend had a similar revelation recently. Somehow she figured out that her daughter (age 3) thought that good people, nice people are pretty people.

The daughter thinks of herself as a beautiful princess. Which is great. But now my friend is making a concerted effort to make sure she also thinks of herself as a smart princess, an active princess, even a tough princess.

My friend is finding it's hard trying to ensure a confident, well rounded, well adjusted human being is a result of her parenting skills. Is it an impossible task? Who knows, but it's certainly one worth consciously working towards.

elizasmom said...

I think telling your kid she is beautiful is totally fine, for many of the reasons you get at in your post here — ours is a visual culture, and poor self-esteem about looks can bounce back onto how you see your whole self (brains, characters, physical ability). I think telling her that, along with praising her for her skills and talents and nice things she does, is all part of what you can give your child, i.e. the knowledge that no matter what, there is always someone out there who thinks you are tops in their book.

Also, cut yourself some slack, lady — all that pretty in your kid had to come from somewhere, right? :-)

bon said...

I remember reading somewhere that Marilyn Monroe said that she was never told she was pretty, growing up. She believed that every girl should be told she was pretty by her parents, and I think I have to agree. I don't recall EVER being told that I was pretty either. Perhaps it was a generational thing, who knows. But I DO know that I too am blown away with the physical beauty of my own little girls. Looking at them, and admiring them, has changed the way that I feel about my OWN physical person. Things that I had perceived as shortcomings? I can see them as beautiful when manifested on my children's faces. It makes me feel differently about MY face. Makes me see my own face in a clearer light.

Sigh, my BUTT on the other hand....

Mama D said...

Thanks for your comments. I was hoping I wasn't going to come across as shallow in this post. I absolutely value all of A's good qualities. I most definitely will encourage her in everything (positive) that she does or tries to do. I like what Elizasmom said "poor self-esteem about looks can bounce back onto how you see your whole self (brains, characters, physical ability)" I totally agree. I can say that for myself feeling insecure about my looks kept me from doing a lot of things I would have otherwise done and I also feel it kept me from doing my best.

I didn't want to make it sound like being beautiful is the most important thing in life. Rather, that knowing that you are beautiful (regardless of whether 'society' thinks you are or not), prevents worrying about your looks to get in the way of everything that you will do in life.

Make sense?

And Bon, "Looking at them, and admiring them, has changed the way that I feel about my OWN physical person."

Yeah!

jen k said...

oh Dawn, you don't sound shallow at all..and you have EVERY right to brag about your gorgeous babe..its the one thing us as parents have complete control over!!
but i feel similar to you, i do not, or have ever felt really beautiful, i think on some days i felt i looked good..but when you have prettier siblings, it makes it extra hard..and i don't really remember hearing any outstanding comments about my beauty from my parents..and its okay..but i am trying not to repeat that with my girls...and I'm with you..i have the most amazing and lovely girls...and i love bragging about them...plus they make me feel beautiful...

Jenn said...

I don't think I could say things any better than you and everyone else has already.
I really liked this post and I think it is a great reminder for people (me included) to focus on all aspects of "beauty" in our children. Kevin always reminds Emily of the beauty inside when a comment is made about looking great or being pretty.