Beauty Really Is For The Youngby Carissa - May 18th, 2015
Now before you get upset with me, it’s not what you think. Dove recently launched another campaign calling for women to accept themselves as beautiful. People are taking sides; and I’m not just talking about the “average" vs. “beautiful" either. While some take the ad campaign at face value to be another encouraging ad geared towards feminism; others view it as a deceptive ploy.
Regardless of your stance, you have to admit it’s got people talking about what it takes for women to consider ourselves beautiful in today’s society. When I think of the statistic that only 3% of women consider themselves to be beautiful (regardless of whether or not Dove’s statistics could be slanted), I think less about convincing women my own age, and more about encouraging young girls before the disillusionment sets in. Sure, we have to be role models and all that, but when it comes right down to it, instilling a sense of what beauty really means is most important at a young age. As a mother, this seems to be an important job.
Thinking back to my own childhood, I wonder if it’s become something of a rite of passage; and not a good one either. Many of us already go through life seeking approval and acceptance because we aren’t getting it at home. So we look elsewhere – to our friends, our classmates, our teachers, whomever. Unfortunately, this outside approval seeking never really satiates us because we haven’t been taught to love the beauty of the whole. We’ve become fixated on the superficial without a pathway to acceptance.
The big question I’ve been thinking about since I first started researching for this article is: How do we change this?
The answer was pretty clear. It has to start young.
The mindset needs to be challenged before it even has the chance to seed in their minds. We, as parents, as mentors, as role models need to flip the script that the idea of beauty is just about looks. Because it’s not.
Some ways we can do that are:
1. Get her input. We should ask our daughters when they are young what it means to be beautiful to them. Then encourage those beautiful aspects throughout the stages of her life. Reminder her what it means to be beautiful in her own words. If you can, recorder her original response and play it back to her as many times as needed.
2. Let her be herself. Encourage her own style, and allow her to experiment for herself. Sure, we may not always see the madness to her methods, but she does. By allowing her to express herself in her own way, we give our daughters the confidence they need to make choices for themselves.
3. Tell her. Telling our daughters that we love them and think they are beautiful will not go to their heads, despite some critics’ belief. Ensuring our daughters have confidence is far more important than beating it down before it’s begun out of fear they may become narcissistic. When combined with praise in other aspects of her personality and life, beauty becomes a well-rounded portion of who she is.
4. Educate her. Teach her about societal pressures by having frank conversations when they are younger – I’m talking as little as seven or eight. They don’t have to be lengthy conversations at first, just something to open up a dialogue later on.
5. Limit exposure. Limit how much time she spends on movies, magazines, or other influences that might put women and girls down or try to sexualize them too much. Be sure to talk to her when images do arise that try to limit the definition of beauty.
6. Love yourself. Sometimes this can be hard for us, but we do need to be the example worthy of their admiration. If we want them to always see the beauty in themselves, we cannot expect them to continue if we can’t see the beauty they see in us.
7. Let her love herself. At a young age, many girls will admire their looks in the mirror. Whether their bodies, their hair, their facial features – allow your daughter to admire what she likes about herself. Encourage her to be happy with who she is rather than trying to deter her. She won’t become vain through your encouragement, trust me. There are enough societal pressures that will lean on her. You don’t have to be one of them.
8. Encourage her to move. Being healthy is far more important than being thin. With the number of girls who have eating disorders, this one is especially important. Encouraging our daughters to join sports, do yoga, try martial arts, or find something of their own that allows them to move their bodies will help them associate strength and health with beauty over just being thin.
9. Show her ageless beauty. By inspiring her to see timeless beauty in our elders, you teach your daughter to recognize the timeless beauty in herself throughout all the stages of her life. You can do this by mentioning the aspects you find beautiful in the more mature women in your lives. For instance, “I love Great-Grandma’s spark. You can see it in her eyes how much she loves life. Isn’t she beautiful?"
10. Show her beauty comes in many forms. If someone has a different body shape, or skin color, hairstyle, or any other way that makes them different than your daughter or yourself, mention something you find beautiful about them. Not only will your daughter begin to associate beauty in all sorts of ways, but she will also see that it’s acceptable to compliment other women for their differences. All too often, women separate themselves or put other women down because they don’t meet their internal dialogue of beautiful. Escape that pattern and dig deep. Beauty exists for every person; you just have to stop judging it.
I hope as my daughter grows up, she’ll know beauty in all manners and forms. I certainly intend to do my best to encourage her own sense of confidence, pride, and help her to see her as the beautiful woman I know she’s going to be. Perhaps by starting young, we can create a new generation of women who love their looks, but more importantly know their beauty.
Carissa Andrews is an passionate author and freelancer from Minnesotan with a focus in creative writing.
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