I’ll Never Stop Telling My Daughter She’s Beautiful

As a woman, I appreciate where Devan McGuiness is coming from in her Babble article, “Please Stop Telling my Daughters They’re Beautiful.”   She’s noticed that while strangers tend to engage her son about school and sports, they’ll focus all their attention on her girls’ looks and clothes.  She wants us, the random people who meet them, to stop objectifying her daughters.

She’s right, of course.  But as a mother, I can’t do it.  I can’t withhold the B word, especially from my own daughter.  I tell her she’s beautiful all the time.

IMG_2077

Partly that’s because she is beautiful, inside and out, and I’m in awe of her.  I was never cut out to be a praise-withholding Tiger Mom.

But my need to comment on her adorableness also comes from a deeper, darker place—specifically, junior high, a truly torturous time for me.   I was a late bloomer, scrawny and flat-chested.  Add to that an ill advised 80s perm (and braces) and I looked like a poodle on a stick.

My actual perm. I can still smell the chemicals.

We didn’t discuss beauty much at home, except in reference to otherworldly icons like Cheryl Tiegs and Bo Derek (not helpful).  All I knew for sure was that my mother was drop dead gorgeous and I looked nothing like her.

My foxy mom

Continued at Families in the Loop.  Please leave your comments there or here.  Thanks!

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10 Comments

  1. Mailisha Chesney
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. This is an important issue and I agree with what you said, as well as where Devan McGuiness is coming from (I actually haven’t read her article yet, but my friends and I have been discussing this issue for many years, and now that I finally have kids the time is here to put it to practice!).

    I grew up being told that I was beautiful- inside and out. Yet I always felt hideous. Sometimes, in one of my higher self-esteem moments, I just felt plain. But mostly I knew that I was exceptionally unattractive. I had crooked teeth, crazy-curly red hair, blemishy-freckley skin, and a weird name. The funny thing is, I always wanted to have creamy skin (that tanned well!), blond, straight hair, and have a regular name- like Amy. Ha!

    I was raised by my mom (it was just the two of us) and while she desperately tried to instill high self-esteem in me, her sweet words did not sink in- at all. My mom was a physically unattractive, emotionally abusive, neurotic, incredibly damaged woman. She had come from a horribly abusive home growing up. Her teeth were all crazy-crooked from the time her mom beat her up and put her through a wall. Because of her childhood she was a mess. I realize that my family dynamic growing up was not at all typical. But my mom tried really hard to do better than she had gotten, and in that she succeeded. However, my childhood was still pretty messed-up. I mention that because maybe that’s why I was never able to internalize the positive messages she tried to instill. Maybe it only works if it’s coming from a reliable source. My mom was NOT and I knew it. Perhaps I can be a reliable source for my girls. That is my goal!

    Thank you for touching on this issue- it’s a BIGGIE for woman and girls everywhere. It’s important to discuss it.

    • Posted February 22, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Mailisha, thanks as always for your deep thoughts! It sounds like you are finally breaking the cycle with your kids, and they are lucky. Serious question: What could your mom have said that would have helped, or seemed authentic to you?

  2. Posted February 22, 2013 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for sharing your point of view on the article I wrote for Babble and sharing the personal story of growing up.

    I totally agree with you and am also very vocal in how I talk to my daughters. I love to tell them they’re beautiful, and smart, and great at sports and amazing artists. I am also very careful and aware of how I talk about myself around them — they hear everything and I strongly believe it all starts at home.

    It sounds like your daughter has an amazing role model! xo
    Devan McGuinness recently posted..Wishing Lots of Love {+Links of Interest}My Profile

    • Posted February 22, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Devan, I’m so honored that you read my post. Your Babble piece gave me much to think about. I’ve also had my share of fertility issues, so your blog & site are very inspiring to me – thanks!

  3. Laura
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Amy I couldn’t agree with you more. Teen years were very awkward for me as well. Without foundation of hearing I was beautiful from mom and dad I probably would have not had strength to find my beauty. Though to this day I still scaugh at my mom when she tells me I’m beautiful (especially since she chooses times when I’m especially gross -just after having a baby and not showering for 4 days gross!). Bit inside I love up hear it!

    I plan to tell my daughter ages beautiful, smart, creative, and everything else I can compliment her on every day!

    And right…. Flowers in the attic? Still haunts me!

    • Posted February 22, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Seriously those VC Andrews books are the most disturbing things I’ve ever read. We used to pass them around at sleepaway camp, so I’m guessing my parents did not realize that instead of doing my summer reading for school, I was studying up on incest/child abuse/torture etc. UGH.

      PS Your mom knows what she’s talking about, beautiful lady.

  4. Posted February 23, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I don’t have daughters so I’m not sure if I would have a different take on it, but a few months ago I wrote a blog post asking the same question about telling my son he’s handsome. He’s pretty cute and gets tons of attention from strangers, namely on his looks, and my fear was that he would grow up thinking that looks were “his thing.”

    I think anything in moderation is fine. I can’t imagine myself never saying he’s handsome, but at the same time it’s also not my focus. I grew up not being told I was beautiful and I still had pretty good self-esteem, probably because my parents focused on the other aspects of my life. So now I wonder whether telling your kids they’re beautiful or not even matters on their self-esteem.

    For me, when I tell my kiddo he’s cute or whatever, it usually comes from the spur of the moment, not a daily plan of action where I make sure he hears it every day. Usually my praise is also more for things he does, not so much things he can’t control or feels like are innate to him, like ‘You’re so smart’ or ‘You’re so athletic’ etc.
    Nina recently posted..How to stay positive when times are toughMy Profile

    • Posted February 24, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Spur of the moment I like, because it’s coming from the heart. It’s when you get advice to squash those natural impulses that it’s frustrating.

  5. Posted March 15, 2013 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    What a very kind mom.. :) Your daughter is so lucky to have a mother you! She will definitely appreciate and cherish your gratitude until she grows up!
    Samantha@TimeForMom recently posted..The Mom Strategist Mia Redrick Kicks Off Time for Mom-Me Support Groups at the Corner Bakery Baltimore, MDMy Profile

    • Posted March 17, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      What a sweet comment. You made my day! Thanks.

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