I remember growing up with my redheaded sister and hearing at least ten times a day how beautiful her hair was. Mine was ash blond and nobody ever told me my hair was beautiful. In fact, once a misguided hairdresser actually looked at my mother and sister's gorgeous red locks and said to me, "What happened to YOU?"
So it's ironic after all those years of craving that compliment that it's started to freak me out how often people say it to my redheaded daughter, whose hair is shiny, thick and long and whose peaches-and-cream complexion always looks photo-ready. At first it was great. But then, after five years, I started to wonder what sort of effect it was having on her.
I'm not the only one. April at Mama's Gotta Vacuum writes:
And I want my kids to have good self esteem. But I would much rather have that self esteem come primarily from behaviors and attributes that they have control over. Not based on something that she/they have no control over. I don't wish for my child to value and grow to need affirmation that she is "beautiful" based on some random and subjective image that a person or society may have.
As women, we know all about this, right? And what happens when you go from super-hot to super-normal? Jenny of Jenny's Blog recently had a baby and struggled with her post-partum body.
She sums up beautifully what worries me when people compliment my daughter too often. I worry she'll think this youthful beauty -- which can't possibly last her whole life -- needs to be maintained.
So I am not mad at myself for caring what I look like, but rather I am upset with myself for being consumed with what I look like. There is a huge difference.
I'm not saying I never want my girl to be complimented. She IS beautiful. If no one else in the world tells her that, her father and I should. We want her to feel attractive and self-confident. We just don't want her to think that's everything. Because it's not.
Patrick Sandora writes at iVillage:
We are seeing a rise in depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem. Most experts agree that it's due to continual negative messages that happiness comes from the outside (being a particular dress size, wearing designer labels, or getting liposuction or breast implants (I kid you not. The increase of plastic surgery among young women is frightening!) Robbed is that great notion that real happiness comes from the inside.
Where's the happy medium?
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