Please stop telling my daughter she is pretty!
She is pretty; she’s beautiful. She has blonde hair and blue eyes and a dimple that kills. She tans easily. (with sunscreen!) She is small but mighty with muscle from years of gymnastics and other activities. She is the definition of beauty for a six year old girl.
She knows she is pretty, She loves taking selfies. She will strike a pose for me every time I pull up my camera. She loves sparkly things and dresses, painting her fingernails and trying on a little colored chap-stick.
None of those things are bad. I am glad she has confidence in her appearance. BUT, because she has been told how pretty she is her whole life, that seems to be all she is confident in right now. I am NOT okay with that!
What people do not say is: “You’re smart. You’re sweet and considerate. You’re strong and confident.” Human nature naturally focuses on the outward appearance, especially in our over-sexualized, commercialized American society. After much reflection, I sadly find I am guilty myself of focusing on outward appearance, though I do tell my daughter she is smart and strong and brave.
Saying someone is pretty is an easy compliment. It flows off our tongues. But is it damaging our daughters and girls more than we realize?
Sometime between the dreams of your youth and yesterday, something precious has been lost. And that treasure is your heart, your priceless feminine heart. God has set within you a femininity that is powerful and tender fierce and alluring. No doubt it has been misunderstood. Surely it has been assaulted. But it is there, your true heart, and it is worth recovering. You are captivating.Captivating, Authors John & Stasi Eldredge
Of course I want my daughter to know she is beautiful. But even more, I want her to know she is smart and capable and strong and brave. I want her to know outward beauty is fleeting. I want her to focus on the beauty inside.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.Proverbs 31:30
I am really careful about what I say about my own appearance in front of my daughter. I know she is watching.
For example, instead of saying certain foods will make me fat, I try to focus on how foods may or may not make us feel. I try to say things like: Carrots help your brain grow. Spinach makes you strong. Fruit can help prevent sickness. It’s fine to eat treats occasionally, but they can hurt our teeth and make our tummies ache if we eat too much.
In spite of my best conscious efforts, I find we are still battling self-confidence. Recently, my daughter was asked if she thought she was pretty, to which she responded: “Of course!” She was then asked if she thought she was smart, to which she responded, “No.”
What!!??? When did this happen?
She is so smart, guys. I am not saying this because she is my daughter. She is past her reading level of the average kindergarten and in fact is reading at mid quarter 1st grade level.
Hardly any discipline works because she is far too quick at figuring out how to get away with mischievousness. We have no room for grace in our discipline. If we are not 100% consistent, she will push us as far as she can. I often say, “If we give her an inch, she will take three yards.”
She remembers words the next time she sees them, even if it is not til the next day. Math… blows my mind.
She is smart and strong and brave. You should see her at the top of the obstacles at our local climbing gym! She is all those things and more. How did we get to this point where she did not believe she was smart?
As I was reflecting on this shocking realization, I came to a possible conclusion.
She has been told she was pretty more than anything else. Despite my best efforts, I realized I had not been intentional enough. Oh sure, I would compliment non-physical attributes along with being pretty, but our first and main compliments were on outward appearance. Oh, that dress is so pretty. You look so beautiful today, etc…
In fairness and full disclosure, part of my daughter’s struggles comes from the fact that she likes to do things right the first time. She is a perfectionist.
Perfection is not a bad trait; it is just one we need to harness better. The fact of the matter is, you are not going to do everything right the first time. Failure and disappointment are a part of life.
We always need to be working on ways to make us a better person, but not at the expense of self-confidence. There is a difference between having to be perfect and striving to be a better person. We need to give our daughters the tools now to help them be confident.
I never thought we would be struggling with self-confidence at such a young age. My once brave, confident, and fearless little girl is now susceptible to what others say and doubts her own abilities. This breaks my heart.
I don’t have all the answers and never will, but I do plan on implementing the following steps into our daily routines:
- Every day, say something positive that has nothing to do with appearance. For example, “That was so smart how you thought to do that.” “You are so observant of the details in stories.” “I really liked how you shared your candy with your brother. That showed such kindness.”
- Pray every day. I believe in the power of prayer and without God’s grace I would have nothing and be completely overwhelmed and powerless. In addition I often pray out loud over my children or at the very least tell them I said a prayer for them.
- Read stories about confidence. Here are some of my favorites!
- Find a song to listen to together that reminds you of inner strength and beauty.
- Make saying positive affirming things a habit. For instance, we say what we are thankful for most nights at bedtime. A good way to add a habit is to instill it into a routine you already have. So, from this point forward, and feel free to hold me accountable, I plan on saying one positive thing at bedtime that has nothing to do with outward appearance to both my children, but especially my daughter.
I believe building self-confidence in our children,especially our daughters is one of the most important things we can do as parents. Self-confidence is simply defined as a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, quality, and judgement.
Nowhere in the definition does it say anything about appearance. Now I am not saying to dress like a slob everyday. Certainly looking your best plays it role.
It’s not about fancy clothes or popular name brands, it’s about feeling good about yourself and choosing clothing that reflects your personality.Peter Economy
But I’m looking at the big picture and if you don’t have self confidence on the inside, then nothing you wear on the outside is going to help in the long run.
Women who are professors, moms, doctors, nurses, missionaries, dentists, homemakers, therapists, chefs,, artists, poets, rock climbers, triathletes, secretaries,salespeople, and social workers. Beautiful women, all.Captivating, John & Stasi Eldredge
How do you instill self confidence in your children or yourself? Can you add to my lists? Comment below.
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